Making profits glove over fist
Innovation awards finalist KIT Industrial Trading/Manufacturing – the Grippaz work glove
KIT Industrial Trading chief executive Justin Morton wearing the Grippaz glove. Photographs: Conor McCabe
Adding value to a long-established commodity product is difficult but not impossible if the added value meets a major market need. Disposable work gloves might not seem like the most obvious candidate for product innovation but in 2013, acting on feedback from customers, KIT Industrial Trading began developing a new version of the disposable glove that is better to wear, better value for money and comes with the much-needed addition of a built-in grip.
Most disposable gloves are thin and potentially slippery, especially when wet. The Grippaz is still disposable, but it is thicker and more like a household glove in weight and it comes with a grip pattern that traditional disposable gloves don’t have. Since its launch in 2015 the patented Grippaz work glove with its distinctive fish-scale grip, has helped double KIT’s turnover and grow its export sales from around €100,000 in 2014 to over €1m last year.
“We basically took the disposable work glove and redesigned it,” explains company chief executive Justin Morton. “What makes the Grippaz different to other work glove products is that the unique traction grip is embossed on the inside and the outside of the glove. This gives exceptional purchase to the grip but not at the cost of wearer comfort. The glove is made from Nitrile which is like a synthetic latex so it is still easy to put on and it allows for maximum dexterity when holding tools or working with small parts. The ergonomic design ensures wet grip on the outside and reduces hand slippage on the inside. The product is also very cost effective to use.”
The Grippaz is suitable for use across a wide range of industries from medical and healthcare to automotive, food, general industry and manufacturing. The product is ambidextrous and comes with a cuff that has been designed to ensure it does not to slide down or flop over during use. As it’s made from Nitrile, the Grippaz doesn’t cause problems for those with latex allergies and its chemical protection and puncture resistance is better.
“Most people are familiar with the thin gloves worn in medical and other settings and thin is fine where the gloves are only being worn for a few minutes. But in other sectors the thinness is a disadvantage,” Morton says. “When working on a car for example, the traditional disposable glove lacks grip and durability so there is a lot of wastage as the gloves are being replaced all the time. The Grippaz addresses these traditional shortcomings and because it does so very effectively it quickly caught the attention of users. This subsequently led our business into new sectors and new markets. The US automotive aftermarket sector is a case in point. We are selling to Walmart and Home Depot automotive sections and have other potential motor factor customers there in the pipeline. The product is now available in over 30 markets worldwide and in the US alone the size of the industrial safety gloves market is forecast to be worth $2.5 billion (€2.1bn) by 2023.”
Historically, KIT’s business was focused on work gloves for the construction sector. In 2008 when that market crashed, the company had to reinvent itself with new products aimed at new sectors. This saw it diversify into protective masks and laboratory wear. “The Grippaz has allowed us to bring our business forward in a very significant way,” Morton says. “We are now leaders instead of followers and no longer ‘the same as’ our competition. We have a product with distinctive features and benefits including better safety and increased productivity due to better grip. The untapped market potential for disposable gloves is considerable. In the US, for example, annual usage is around 300 gloves per person. In Africa, it’s 10.”
Morton worked with glove sales and sourcing agent John Furlong in the Far East to develop the Grippaz, and a number of prototypes were produced before the fish-scale pattern was finally chosen. The product will be sold under the Grippaz brand name and the company is also working with some of the big glove manufacturers who are keen to add the product to their line-up. “Once you start tapping a niche, you see lots of other applications and the further you get into a niche the more profitable it is,” Morton says.