BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND — Variety is the name of the game where PVC packaging is concerned for a North Carolina supplier with its sights on making it big in Europe.
Imex Vinyl Packaging of Charlotte, a family-run business that started out in New York in 1974, chose Pakex 98 in Birmingham to launch its range of zip, snap and draw-string, clear and colored PVC bags in Europe.
The company makes bags in a variety of sizes, from full-sized for snowboards and kayaks to tiny, promotional garment packs, said Michael Jeffrey, the firm's chairman and founder.
Pakex was Imex's first international platform for its products, but the company already has supplied some bags to customers in Europe and Latin America.
``We ship to all these places. But it is a hard sell for us as people don't change [packaging] that easily,'' Jeffrey said.
He said there is a good potential market in Britain because retail stores there are behind in the use of vinyl packs.
``We are looking at other countries such as Italy, France and Germany [for new business], but language is a factor in how quickly we go there,'' he said.
The vinyl bags originally were produced under contract in Japan, but Imex later switched to plants in China and Taiwan to meet the growing niche business in North America.
At first, much of the demand came from major North American retail store chains, which used the bags to pack blankets and soft furnishings. But, gradually, the business has branched out to serve manufacturers in the cosmetic and toy industries as well.
Imex, which moved to the Carolinas to settle in the heart of the U.S. textile industry, sells 40 million to 50 million stock and customized packs a year.
The company has doubled sales to more than $10 million since it was established, according to its founder.
In an age of environmental consciousness, the vinyl bags benefit from being hard-wearing and reusable, Jeffrey said.
Today, Jeffrey's son Steve is taking the business forward into new packaging markets along with Neal Ferris, sales vice president. Jeffrey's daughter Catherine is in the Charlotte sales office and his brother Andy represents the firm on the West Coast.
Jeffrey said Pakex, which was held March 30-April 2, was not as busy as U.S. packaging shows, and favored machinery a little too heavily. Even so, Imex did receive interest and now plans to appoint a distributor or sales representative in Britain.