It is obvious for everyone that 2019 has been a great challenge for the entire industry. I am certain that both Rawlplug and the other key manufacturers in the fixings and fasteners sector were excellently prepared for the constraints and risks predicted in the previous years and related to the unstable political and economic situation in the individual markets.
However, although we were aware of the consequences of phenomena that were dangerous to us, such as the unclear steel price policy, the disrupted seasonality of sales, the unpredictable Brexit process, the deepening conflicts in the Gulf and the spectre of the trade war between the USA and China, we all had serious doubts as to how stable the achievement of sales forecasts would be in the year which is now coming to an end. Therefore, we are definitely satisfied to sum it up now, thanking ourselves for the steadfastness and consistency of Rawlplug’s strategy, focusing on internal performance, maintaining the pace of innovation, and sales expansion.
We entered 2019 equipped with solutions and tools that allowed us not only to overcome the obstacles appearing on the way to achieving our goals, but above all to further improve brand awareness and its image as an expert, to increase even more the competitiveness of our offering in the individual markets, and consequently – to grow our business among both existing and new customers in Rawlplug’s portfolio.
All this was based among other things on a restructured trade offering, focusing on the one hand on reducing the share of imported products and the so-called “price-driven products”, and on the other hand – on investing in the development of existing products, as well as in launching new, high quality and technologically advanced ones. Supplementing the portfolio of our professional products with constantly developed specialised technical services and with the innovative Rawlplug Academy® educational programme was our response to the actual needs of the market, which was expecting a comprehensive offer from a reliable, tried-and-tested partner.
Combined with the effects of our huge investments in marketing activities, ranging from distinctive advertising campaigns in traditional and online media, to the RawlTruck mobile training centre, revolutionary in its form, and the Rawlplug Academy Training Centre in Reading, to participation in business events important for the sector, such as the French Batimat, the Construction Week in the UK and the Big 5 in Dubai, at the end of 2019 we are capitalising on the optimum efficiency and on the maximum utilisation of the whole Group’s potential which we have achieved. This is all the more important for Rawlplug since this year has been very special due to the celebrations of our brand’s 100th anniversary, which ended with the Grand Gala for all our employees in the National Music Forum, a building of great architectural and cultural significance, in which our fixings were also used. It was a moving experience, full of amazing emotions which complement our achievements of the last 12 months in a beautiful manner.
We will certainly need the motivation and mobilisation resulting from the activities undertaken in 2019 to be able to approach the challenges of 2020 in a methodical and prudent way, but also with panache.
What has been mentioned at the start continues to be important for the condition of the whole industry, but on top of that, there are the increasing labour costs and, especially in Europe, there is the growing need to improve service quality even further and to offer innovative solutions with regard to products and services, as well as to look after sustainable development of the business, inextricably linked with environmental protection and social commitment. This is why our priority will consist primarily in increasing sales intensively on selected markets instead of pursuing the extensive growth that could be seen in our strategy in the previous years. Although cost optimisation seems to be a prerequisite for this, we intend to continue to invest in the automation of manufacturing and logistics processes in our plants and distribution centres around the world, in technical and technological solutions to support sales and manage relationships with our customers, as well as in further product and technical consultancy innovation: in the coming year, we intend to hand over to our customers about a dozen new products in several categories of key importance for the industry, as well as to make available solutions which the market desires within the EasyFix and BIM Rawlplug applications, and invite you to join a partnership programme which is unique on the market. O
ur flagship project on 2020 will involve implementing the Rawlplug Academy® programme among our customers. Its four pillars: the e-learning platform, the mobile and brick-and-mortar educational and training centres, the theoretical and practical training and the extensive knowledge base will provide a solid foundation for further development of the entire sector as well as an integral element of the process of consolidating Rawlplug’s position as an expert in the field of fixings, fasteners and tools. We are certain that education, and thus industry awareness, is essential for developing our business in a sustainable manner and for influencing the environment in which we operate and which it is our duty and responsibility to support.