Denroy doubles workforce on back of major PPE contract and surge in hairbrush sales

Denroy is now manufacturing three million hairbrushes per year in Bangor.

CO Down plastics firm Denroy has almost doubled its workforce to 400 inside a year on the back of a major facemask contract and a boom in online sales for its Denman hairbrush in North America.

The Bangor precision engineering company said 130 new jobs have been created from a £19.5 million PPE contract with Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland (HSCNI) for the supply of FFP3 masks.

Around one million masks have been produced since last year. Used by frontline health workers, the masks filter 99 per cent of particles from the air including the small respiratory droplets where coronavirus can be found.

Denroy is now working with Queen’s University on a project to potentially repurpose used masks into material for its famed Denman hairbrushes.

Chief executive Kevin McNamee said the surge in online shopping and the closure of hairdressers during the pandemic has driven sales for its hair accessories.

Denroy is now producing a record three million brushes a year in Bangor.

“During the pandemic we’ve had a phenomenal surge in our online business, which is understandable with barbers and salons closed.

Quality technician Lisa McBride (right) demonstrates Denroy products to Economy Minister Diane Dodds (left) and Health Minister Robin Swann (second left). Chief executive of Invest NI, Kevin Holland and chief executive Denroy Group, Kevin McNamee, watch on.

“We’ve had a digital transformation where our internet sales have grown extremely well globally.

“North America has really surged, it’s now our biggest single market.”

The extra demand for the brushes and work linked to the HSCNI contract has led to 50 more jobs being created in Denroy’s core business.

The chief executive said the plastics company initially furloughed 100 workers in the wake of the pandemic last year. Many were employed in the Bangor firm’s aerospace division.

But the company’s response to the huge demand for PPE resulted in all staff being brought back by June 2020.

Most of the new jobs are based in its new £3m ‘clean room’ facility for manufacturing the FFP3 masks. Invest NI has offered the firm £1.5m support for creating the 130 jobs, which includes a repayable loan of £900,000.

“We have one major contract now, but our intention is to growing this business and making it sustainable,” said Mr McNamee.

“The mask was designed by aerospace engineers of ours who were on furlough and brought back in to work on this. What they have come up with is a very high performance FFP3 mask.”

He said Denroy is pursuing contracts in Britain, the Republic and is seeking FDA approval to target the United States market for the product.

Commenting on operations since the end of the Brexit transition period, the chief executive said while transport costs have escalated and some supply lines had changed, he said there had been no significant issues.

“The protocol we’re finding is very workable. We would like some easements for sure, there’s a lot of bureaucracy attached to it, but we haven’t had any supply chain blockages.”

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