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Q&A with Gavin Cooke, MD, Rebel Safety Gear

Published: 31st May 2021
Author: Tony Dickson - S&V Editor

The NRCS needs to do what it's supposed to do - Sourcing from China hasn't been a problem - Swing to lower priced boots, but demand is good.

Getting stock from China 'hasn't been a problem', Rebel says.

How happy or otherwise is your business with the NRCS? What are the problems, for safety footwear suppliers, with what the NRCS is doing?
We have a few different perspectives about the NRCS.
In terms of regulating non-compliant safety footwear, which should be their most important task, I don't think they're doing their job. There is no regulation. Massive amounts of unregulated product is still coming in. 
We are in favour of them regulating quality, but the fact that it's not being applied is a different matter.
Is every safety footwear supplier paying their levies? We don't know, but as a proper business we do, and it's an extra cost.
The only businesses they're regulating are the compliant ones. People under the radar aren't being regulated.
Getting the approval numbers is a very nit picking process. They evaluate shoes that have already been certified. They accept the ISO certificates we supply, but they still go through all the processes themselves. If you're going to make ISO the standard, then do so. 
Do you have numbers for all your styles?
About 95% of our styles have been approved. There are a couple of new styles awaiting approval, but not a big issue.
What is your opinion about the NRCS wanting to regulate all PPE?
If defaulters were to feel the consequences, great. But I don't believe it would be properly applied. Therefore we don't want it applied to the rest of PPE because it would just put up our costs and make it a less level playing field. Again, it would be the compliant people who suffer.
What have  been the effects of the pandemic on importing safety footwear from China, and what, if anything, are you doing / can you do about that?
We've been relatively unaffected  by production problems in China and shipping issues, and we've been very fortunate to date. 
Our production facilities in China are substantial and they managed to get up and running quickly.
Globally, they ship substantial quantities, so they have the influence to be able to secure berths on vessels. They were battling to get into Europe, but that has been resolved.
How well has the safety footwear market held up over the past 18 months? 
April and May last year were down, but from June on we saw relatively consistent demand.
Are there any noticeable changes in the quantities your customers are buying, in the price points that they're buying, or in the end customers that they're supplying? 
We only supply via distributors. We engage with end users but don't sell to them, so we don't know what they buy.
The economy isn't booming, but the prices of resources have been consistent and that has supported mining. Overall, we're not seeing massive growth, but we're also not seeing massive declines.
There has been a shift to cheaper product. Being a brand we have minimum standards, but there are other suppliers who are have lower standards who have seen growth.
Is local sourcing any sort of option for your business?
We aren't opposed to opportunities of sourcing locally, but they would have to meet all the standards and minimums we require. 
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