Innovative firm cracks niche USA mirror market

Published: Mon 19 Sep 2005 01:44 PM
Innovative Tauranga firm cracks niche mirror market in USA
19 September 2005 -- Of the two million people in prisons throughout the USA, an increasing number are being observed in their cells with a convex mirror from innovative Tauranga firm Bennett Mirror Technologies.
Manufactured from unbreakable polycarbonate, these correctional mirrors have enabled the firm to establish themselves as the market standard in New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) Bay of Plenty Regional Manager, Lionel Crawley says Bennett’s are an excellent example of a small, innovative company winning offshore, using a methodical, sensible and extremely targeted approach.
“One of our goals is to help New Zealand export companies supply well-designed quality niche products that meet client’s needs and Bennett’s are a prime example of this,” says Mr Crawley.
In 2002, Bennett’s set their sights on America, undertaking an 18 month long period of extensive market research. Initial findings indicated they would use their correctional mirrors as their lead product.
Bennett’s Managing Director, Alastair Bennett says they worked closely with the Tauranga NZTE office and NZTE staff based in the USA, who did the leg work and desk research that wouldn’t have been possible for Bennett’s to do.
He says the Corrections industry is very specialised and having NZTE people on the ground, working with them, even down to which trade exhibitions Bennett’s should attend, added a great deal of value. Together, they identified California as the first state to target, given there was money available for upgrading prisons and a greater tolerance towards the safety of prisoners.
This market research led to a US distributor, Norix Group Inc, based out of Chicago which is the American centrepoint for prisons and corrections centers.
At Bennett’s first US tradeshow, participants were given a baseball bat and challenged to hit a correctional mirror, which didn’t break, despite three days of uninterrupted and vigorous bashing.
Although there was a long lead in time involved with market acceptance, Mr. Bennett says they are now used by most correctional institutions in all major areas of America and sales are continuing at a speed that fits with Bennett’s planned growth.
“Essentially, a prison will use them, see the value and then word of mouth really assists the marketing programme,” he says.
Polycarbonate Correctional convex mirrors represent 20% of their market. Bennett’s continue to invest in research and development to ensure they remain leaders in worldwide mirror technology as well as focusing on quality.

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