Dressing the Balkans for work

There is hardly an industry in Bulgaria that does not know and has not worked with Bultex 99 – a Plovdiv company for workwear and personal protective equipment. With revenue of nearly BGN 62 million in 2019, the company ranked seventh among the largest clothing retailers in the country, leaving behind many of the leading fashion brands represented in the local market.

It was founded 25 years ago by Stefan Bashev and nowadays is fighting for the leading position in the sector of work and protective clothing on the entire Balkan Peninsula. The company imports and manufactures over 5400 items, including masks, helmets, gloves, protective clothing, etc., which have become essential products in the global pandemic. “I dare say that we reacted very adequately to the situation,” commented Stoyan Dimitrov, Marketing manager of Bultex 99.

COVID acceleration

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The company imports and manufactures over 5400 items. Their main customers are companies from all types of industries, healthcare institutions, as well as the HoReCa sector.

“Everyone expected Bultex to provide personal protective equipment at a time when there was a huge hole – not only in Bulgaria, but around the world” Dimitrov said. The company, which works with many Chinese manufacturers, instead of importing, began exporting protective equipment to its partners in China at the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. “After that, we literally kept the prices we could defend to the last. We didn’t speculate, everything was within reason. We didn’t go out on the market for a day, like many others came out, who, based on the current needs of the people, tried to get the most out of it, ”says the manager.

In March, the company launched a donation campaign and provided hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves and protective clothing to 24 hospitals in 15 different cities, a number of institutions, and the elderly in front of supermarkets. “We really were on the front line: all the sales people were engaging with the customers with gloves, masks, disinfectants. From the first to the last moment we worked on shifts in order to be able to cover the quarantine period if a COVID-19 case came up.” points out Dimitrov.

Although the global threat of Coronavirus seems like a gold mine to sellers of masks and protective clothing, this is not the case. “The crisis is a threat. We are here for the business –  for us to work, others have to work too. The fact that an industry is seriously affected, that everyone is worried about next month; we do not know if cities will be open, schools, if everyone will have to stay locked up at home – this ambiguity reflects on us as well”, says Stoyan Dimitrov. “Otherwise, sales have changed a lot in favor of personal protective equipment, they have become a mandatory element in many industries. We produce and continue to import. And now the situation is very difficult, we stock literally week by week,” he added.

The Covid crisis has several positive effects: Bulgarian manufacturers are gaining momentum, and our country is becoming a preferred partner because of the good value for money. “The whole of Europe is stuck and stalled, almost everyone was working on their domestic market because the borders were closed. We rediscovered many Bulgarian manufacturers, which until then were not lucrative when it comes to the prices they could offer,” Dimitrov said. Bultex increased the share of its exports – in 2020 it will be around 25%, which is spectacular and is a step forward for the company to establish itself as a recognizable player in the entire European market.

The new look of Bultex

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In 2020, despite the crisis, the Plovdiv company managed to implement another project – to transform its network of stores, as well as its central office with a showroom and logistics base on Karlovsko Shosse Blvd. in Plovdiv. “We cover the Bulgarian market with 20 sites in all regional cities, including several important cities for the business given the industry there,” Dimitrov said. The company invested BGN 7 million for the renovation.

“The idea was for all sites to have a nice, modern look. We left the logistics center last to fully meet our needs. We are really proud of the sites,” said the manager. The company is considering launching virtual tours of the stores to make them even more accessible. The new interior is in industrial style. “We don’t want to be recognized as a mall, although when it comes to variety, fabrics, design, and color, we are already very close to fashion. Work clothes today are not like they used to be – you remember the blue suits. At the moment, a worker looks much more modern, more functional – much better. But we don’t want to make a fashion line, we want it to be obvious that this is workwear. “

Protection with style

The new vision of the stores, the design of the clothes – everything that Bultex does is in order to be even more accessible to people. The things we sell are important for the business, but they have one message for people – their safety. That’s why we want to be a more “friendly” place to visit. We work hard to make people aware of the importance of safety. The statistics of the national occupational safety centers most often show horrible cases, but everyday life is much more serious. Many people damage their hearing, vision, etc. because they are not provided with safety equipment. They don’t have the appropriate culture to use it – they hang it somewhere on the hangers. In general, our efforts are in this direction – we have many educational centers for safety at work, where we hold seminars and presentations on these topics, “says Dimitrov.

Source: Capital
Photos: Nadezhda Chipeva

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