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Move With the Times

Chelmsford-based Oldeani recently celebrated 30 years in business, a period that has seen the company evolve from its original focus supplying watches and clocks to a wider product position. Founder Malcolm Fritschy admits he almost started the business by accident. Born in Kenya, and a Swiss national, he was working in the watch trade after doing his national service in Switzerland. A contact wanted to get hold of bespoke watches but didn’t know how.

In stepped Fritschy, who soon realised that there was a gap in the market. Oldeani, named after a place near where Fritschy’s father was born in Tanzania, was soon filling this gap. “Atone stage, we were doing around 500,000 watches a year,” he says.“I’ve always had a fascination for design, and this, and our attention to detail became our USP.” However, markets changes, and the internet and mobile technology led to a decline in timepiece sales. It also opened up new opportunities.

Oldeani is now probably best known for its quality gadgets and premium sports bottles. The link has always been with quality and precision, says Fritschy. “We are busier than ever. The launch of our sports bottles range in 2017 has been extremely successful and led to us now importing tens of thousands of bottles at a time. We’ve maintained the same high standards on materials and design as with electronics and watches and it’s worked.” An important element of this drive for quality is the importance of compliance.

Oldeani works closely with audited factories to ensure that clients don’t end up on the wrong side of a‘merchandise gone wrong’story. “Clients want to see that they are dealing with responsible people. The move towards compliance has probably been the biggest change in the 30 years that we’ve been in
business. Generally, people are more responsible,” he says.

Fritschy adds that the BPMA has played an important part in bringing about this change in attitude. Being a member of a professional association which implements strict quality standards and codes of practice increases distributors’ confidence in their supply chain and products they purchase. “One of the key benefits of joining the BPMA is the ability to support the mission of the organisation and possibly influence legislation that affects the industry,” he says. “Being a member of the BPMA means immediate access to any news or developments that affect our industry.”

Like many small teams, Oldeani prides itself on a personal approach.“We work together and all understand the entire business,” says Fritschy.“All of our staff have been with us for years so know our business inside out. Seeing something new and knowing which clients will love it is a great feeling.” In terms of current trends, healthcare promotions are big going into the New Year says Fritschy. Outside influences like the proposed coffee cup levy’have meant many companies are looking at reusable drink ware and clients are demanding transparency in terms of materials compliance and standards.

Other opportunities will arise around specific events such as this year’s Rugby World Cup,and Brexit will play a role, he predicts. “We will obviously have to wait to see the effects of Brexit on the industry and adapt accordingly to both the challenges and potential openings it may bring,” he says. For a company that has shown adaptability over its history,change may not present too much of a problem.

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