Australian manufacturer and international wholesaler Gillies has diversified into the lifejacket market with the launch of a new company.
Life Jacket Solutions (LJS) is targeting both domestic and international markets and will have several ranges covering the fishing, boating and watersports categories. The first orders have been received and the stock will begin arriving at the Melbourne company in June and July. Brenden Dines, an experienced executive from the lifejacket market, has been appointed General Manager of Sales.
“The lifejacket market is something that has always interested us,” said Gillies General Manager Billy Parsons. “The driver is being able to control and grow the brand in a growing market. It is very complementary to what we already do, with the same customers and channel management we have in fishing. The lifejacket customer is very much the fishing customer. We see some great opportunities to produce safer, more comfortable and more innovative lifejackets that will appeal to our customers and distributors.”
Parsons and Managing Director Pat Levy kicked the company into operation in July 2020 – a brave and optimistic move right in the middle of the pandemic. Time consuming and complex Australian standards also had to be negotiated. But, convinced of the demand for a product that would raise the bar in the category, the company pressed on.
“The one thing we are most proud of is that we made the choice to licence and certify all our jackets to the latest standards,” added Parsons. “Everything we are doing – from using the latest inflatable mechanisms to being over the required buoyancy – is all about the best possible safety. Australian standards are very high so our compliance and quality, as well as our factory auditing and processes, ensure that we can replicate our ranges worldwide using different requirements and certification for each region.
“It’s been a long process to certify all the jackets to the latest standards and to build in functionality and designs that didn’t previously exist in Australia, but it was always going to be a long game. We are now the only Australian manufacturer to have a full deck of jackets conforming to the latest standards. There are many competitors using older standards that in some ways don’t provide the same levels of safety and functionality and make servicing more difficult.”
The launch is well timed. New mechanisms recently made available by suppliers UML and Halkey Roberts offer a single point indicator for added safety and peace of mind. Early response to the new products has been very encouraging, not least because the wearing of lifejackets is a key issue in a country obsessed with being on or around the water. Fishing, boating, skiing and wakeboarding are among the most popular outdoor activities.
As an example, in Tasmania – where Gillies makes its famous Tassie Devil lures – anglers fishing from a boat for trout are required by law to wear a jacket conforming to the latest standards.