Middle East demand encourages exports for Bradford business

A leading trade supplier of bespoke sign, display and LED lighting products is planning further international success following skills support from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Through the LEP’s skills service, Applelec’s senior management team undertook high level training designed to engineer change and generate new business for the company, strengthening performance patterns and delivering results that have paved the way for increased levels of revenue, bolstering the company’s ultimate goal of exploring new markets and export.

The LEP skills service helps SMEs invest in training that will address their barriers to growth. The LEP skills advisors work with companies to develop an application for funding that supports their growth needs without any administrative burden. Applelec’s skills advisor, Clair Kerry was responsible for successfully securing a series of funding towards training costs supported by LEP skills service.

Applelec, which employs around 80 full time staff, looks to sustain its success, which saw sales of LED Light Sheet increase by 20 per cent last year. The award-winning LED Light Sheet, a versatile backlighting unit which delivers bright, even illumination, is manufactured and supplied by Bradford-based Applelec to customers including hospitals, museums and retailers, and major brands and organisations such as Molton Brown, Mulberry, Jimmy Choo, The Natural History Museum, Durham Cathedral, The Hammersmith Apollo and Gap.

The company is also seeing export demand continue to grow for its products, particularly its market leading LED Light Sheet. Following additional support and a £47,000 investment from the LEP since 2013, Applelec is targeting the fast growing Middle East market.

Grant funding has been used as part of a total £182,000 investment to support the purchase of Applelec’s Bowling Back Lane site, an industrial unit used to provide additional storage and fabrication capacity.

Mr Drinkwater said: “Over the last five years we have developed strong relationships with many of the UKs leading architects, designers and specifically lighting designers who now specify LED Light Sheet internationally. This approach has seen steady organic growth of the specification and use of LED Light Sheet beyond the UK.

“The idea for targeting the Middle East initially came out of a strategy planning exercise that was funded by the LEP. Our planning resulted in several points for the company to focus on for continued growth, with one of these being export.

“Local knowledge is key and it’s been important to attend events such as The Hotel Show in Dubai to maintain contact with clients and ensure local contractors follow the specifications made by UK based designers, when our product is specified.”

Mr Drinkwater said that as well as the volume of construction work happening in the Middle East, the creativity of projects was also fuelling demand for Applelec’s products.

“Demand is certainly being driven by the design and architecture communities we work with, and through their specification of LED Light Sheet and related products,” he added.

“In addition, the exposure of LED Light Sheet at design exhibitions in the UK and editorial project coverage in international lighting magazines, alongside the work of our business development team, has contributed to a growth in brand awareness of the product at home, across Europe and in the Middle East.”

Eric Hawthorn, MD of Radio Design and Chair of the LEP's Business Innovation and Growth panel said:

“It is currently Export Week, a great opportunity to find out about the wealth of support available to help businesses consider their next move, whether you are a first time exporter or looking to develop new market opportunities.

“I admire Applelec’s ambition to grow by targeting overseas markets, demonstrating the importance of export and am delighted they have made use of a wide range of services the LEP offers growing businesses. I encourage other businesses who are planning new investments in skills and capital to get in touch or visit the LEP website www.the-lep.com/business.”