From its sizeable base in Dundee, Ultratape supplies the merchant sector with a comprehensive portfolio of self-adhesive tapes for a variety of applications and customer requirements. PBM takes a closer look at the brand’s product range and its emphasis on customer service.
Famously home of the legendary Beano comic, Scotland’s fourth-largest city is also well-known for the close proximity of its two senior football teams with Dundee FC’s Dens Park and United’s Tannadice Park but a mere Maurice Malpas clearance apart from one another. And, appropriately enough, striving for closeness to its customers is a central thread that runs throughout PBM’s conversation with Ultratape.
Founded in 1976, the family-run business lays claim to being the largest adhesive tape supplier in the UK and its broad portfolio of products can be found in a range of outlets from small arts & craft stores and large stationery chains through to DIY multiples and specialist industrial and agricultural distributors. In the construction industry, its solutions for builders, decorators, plasterers, plumbers and electricians are distributed via the major national chains and smaller, independent merchants alike.
Whilst a significant part of the business lies in the provision of ‘own-brand’ tapes, Ultratape has been a regular presence at the annual NMBS Exhibition and supports a number of other events within the merchant sector. Joining the BMF as a Supplier Member last year was the latest step of an ongoing plan to boost the brand’s market visibility, which has additionally seen it take on extra sales staff and encompassed the ramping up of its marketing and social media presence.
Refurbished and expanded over the last decade, Ultratape’s Dundee base boasts over 120,000 sq ft of warehousing space and holds in the region of £5m in stock (enough to cover 3-6 months of forward orders). From here, the business is confident it can be the “reliable and ‘delivery in full and on time’ supply partner you need” with a standard delivery service that can be “augmented with overnight and AM deliveries.”
Its LinkedIn profile asserts that it ships “more than 35 million rolls of tape into the UK market” per year whilst the 117,000 kilometres of cloth tape it sold in 2022 is enough to wrap around the world three times over.
Quality and service are said to be the company’s key watchwords, and for all of its ongoing evolution and the expansion of its product range, its foundations lie on a “rigorous quality control process and adherence to international standards (which) ensure all products that bear the Ultratape name not only meet but exceed our customer expectations.”
Part of this ethos could perhaps be attributed to the fact that the average length of tenure for the company’s 30+ staff is more than 15 years. Darren Coutts may be one of the more recent additions to the team, joining earlier in the year as Sales & Marketing Assistant, but he emphasised: “There’s over 450 years’ experience in the office. We don’t have a high turnover of staff, and that is a real asset — as much as we look to innovate and progress, the knowledge this team has is invaluable.”
Lorraine Muir, Senior Sales Manager, picks up the point: “Our core salespeople have been selling tape for a long time. And people do still buy from people,” she says. “If someone takes a query from a customer and doesn’t know the answer themselves, there’ll be someone here who does.”
This, Lorraine adds, was especially vital during the turbulence of the pandemic — where the company found a new niche in the provision of social distancing markings — whilst throughout the subsequent economic challenges confronting the sector, from supply issues to price inflation, she says the business had enhanced its reputation as a trusted supplier its customers could depend on.
Similarly, the wider utilisation and acceptance of virtual meeting formats such as Teams during Covid has also helped the business reach out to both new and existing customers “which are mostly south of the border”, but Lorraine stresses the importance of maintaining face-to-face contact with merchants and “getting to a trade counter and seeing what they need from us.”
She explained: “Over the last three years especially, it has become evident to our customers the differences between us and our competitors. We can be very flexible. Doors that were previously closed have now been opened. If there’s a problem, customers know we can suggest the right alternatives.”
Indeed, Lorraine notes that the launch of new ranges is further facilitated by these close customer relationships: “Market trends are always customer led. We’re always looking at developing new products and it really helps to get out there, see what they are saying and what their own customers are asking for.”
The latest example is the recently launched Pink Sensitive Masking Tape in the Rhino Edge Tape range for decorators. A premium solution designed to protect wallpapers, painted, lacquered or sensitive surfaces, the tape is low tack to allow for clean removal whilst ensuring sharp edges and a professional finish.
The new tape is available in three sizes (24, 36 and 48mm) on a 25m length roll. Priced accordingly, the length is significant in that it does not require customers to go to the expense of buying a 50m product that may not be needed in all decorating applications and could simply go to waste.
As Commercial Manager Craig Laing says: “Think of the many half-used rolls of masking tape sat in garages, sheds and cupboards where the cost outlaid slowly evaporates or, more literally, absorbs dampness and can no longer be used. The only result is wasted product and wasted cost.”
The expanding product portfolio can be augmented by merchandising and POS support to meet merchant requirements, whilst the distinctive packaging offers additional shelf presence thanks in no small part to brand mascot Ronnie the Rhino.
As with many in the market, the company wanted to feature a character that would convey a sense of the products’ strength and power, and whilst Ronnie’s design has been refined over the years to become rather more personable, we’d like to think the local kids from Bash Street School would approve.