An innovative design is setting Mahurangi East resident Greig Brebner apart from the competition in the global umbrella market.
Greig first conceived the idea for Blunt umbrellas while living in London in 1999, after being disappointed in the quality of what the market had to offer. He took a punt and started to develop his own design, and last year sold 200,000 umbrellas.
The feature that sets the Blunt umbrella apart is a patented component, the blunt tip, that keeps the umbrella canopy taut to make it strong.
“At the time I wasn’t sure whether to patent the idea or not, as it was a big cost for a little operation.
“You also can’t add locations to your patent list at a later date so I picked NZ, Australia, Japan, the United States and Europe.”
In 2004, Greig set-up the company Blunt with marketing specialist Scott Kington. They produced 200 umbrellas in NZ, which sold for $100 each.
“It showed us that there was a market for premium umbrellas.”
Production was moved to a factory in China in 2009 to improve the product and allow the company to ramp up production. Their target this year is to sell around 300,000.
The name has also been trademarked and a process to trademark the shape of the umbrella canopy is underway.
“We are a small team taking on the world,” Greig says.
“One of the challenges has been to help people realise they can invest in a long-lasting umbrella that is more expensive, but better value for money.”
Blunt currently makes up 7 per cent of the NZ umbrella market and is focusing on its overseas sales, with units available in over 30 countries.
“About 120 million umbrellas are sold in Japan every year, so if we could own seven per cent of that market, it would be a huge positive for us.”
Smith & Caughey are the largest retailer of Blunt in NZ and both Urban Industrial and Not Just Hats sell the umbrellas in Warkworth.
Blunt umbrellas will also be available on the Mahu City Express after the company became a sponsor of the transport service last month.
So far, 12 Mahu City Express branded umbrellas have been given to passengers to use while in the city and other contributions like discounts on the purchase price are being organised.
It was Greig’s own experience with the Mahu Express that prompted him to become a sponsor.
“I booked a trip on the bus and something else came up. The owner, Julian, called me up to check if I was still coming. I was so impressed with the service that I decided to support it through Blunt.”
Last year Blunt sold a special edition Dick Frizzell umbrella that raised $80,000 for Oxfam.