The Datesand Story – Part 4

Janet Wood

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Just as things were looking up for the company and its hard-working team, another tragedy struck both the family and the business. Janet Wood unfortunately passed away from Breast Cancer in 2010. This was a sudden and tragic loss not only for Jonathon and Nick, but for everyone, colleagues and clients alike, who had got to know and grown to love Janet throughout the years.

Losing another much loved and pivotal member of the family and a key pillar of the business, Jonathon was determined not to let the sadness and deep sense of loss detract from the progress being made. He worked even harder now to attain the level of success and security for which his parents had always worked.

 

The next level, the next challenge

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From 2000 to 2010, Datesand rocketed up from a fairly lowly position in the market to become market leaders in quality animal bedding, nesting and enrichment products and have remained so in the UK and Europe ever since. It’s a great testament to Jonathon’s determination to succeed on behalf of the family and especially his parents. There have always been huge challenges as well as amazing wins along the way for Datesand and this has not changed in more recent times.

As Datesand were already doing well in the American markets, the team decided to exhibit at the massive US meeting AALAS for the first time in 2013. Previously, simply attending the US meetings as delegates had already helped to boost sales and increase awareness of the business in North America as well as providing lots of ideas for new products.

Another of those major challenges came in 2014 after a terrible disaster struck. Part of the plant at Wood Treatment Limited, the sole, dedicated supplier of Datesand bedding, exploded in 2014. Tragically four workers’ lives were lost in the resulting fire. The plant’s Cheshire premises were used to store around 60% of the bedding produced for our customers and as pretty much all of this was lost as a result of the accident, Datesand had to find a new supplier and a lot more storage space…and do so very quickly. Many tonnes of product still had to be supplied every day and thanks to some very helpful colleague companies in Europe and an extremely robust major incident plan, the team were able to rally round together to meet this considerable challenge.

 

New suppliers were contacted, and product was efficiently sourced. The team were filling and hand-stitching sacks and even tote sacks of bedding for hours during this time and through good, strong communication with customers and an enormous effort on the part of the team, nobody was let down, all deliveries went out and all customers were retained!

 

New strings to our bow, new uncertainty, a new home for the team

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Another great win came to Datesand in 2015 when a contract was signed with Envigo to manage their diet logistics and deliveries. This was a great opportunity to grow the business in another new direction and to be able to offer yet more efficient services and great products to our customers.
Datesand has always taken pride in its innovative approach to product design. In 2016, Mark, our Corporate Brand Manager, Chief Designer and all round clever chap came up with a brilliant idea to harness the innovative work already being done by colleagues in our sector to enhance the lives of the precious animals in their care. The Janet Wood Innovation Award was born, named in honour of Jonathon and Nick’s Mum and former company director who was a great champion of animals in general and animal enrichment in particular. An invitation was sent out across the industry for animal care professionals to come up with their ideas for practical new enrichment devices.

 

Submissions had to be fairly detailed (drawings and clear descriptions and a mock-up where possible) and had to be as professional as possible. The basic idea was to take the best of the product designs, make them production and marketing friendly and provide them at reasonable prices for practical use throughout animal facilities here and all over the world. The submissions were judged by experienced professionals from the sector as well as members of the Datesand Marketing and Sales teams and then opened up for final voting and selection by colleagues attending Congress.

 

Some substantial prizes were added to the mix and a veritable avalanche of amazing product designs started to arrive (people will remember and are still ordering great products from that first crop including the mouse swing, tunnel clip and Mouse Mezzanine.) The Awards have now become a global phenomenon and have gone from strength to strength in celebration of the great, innovative spirit which abounds in our sector and in memory of our wonderful Janet.

 

Uncertainty came unexpectedly in the form of Brexit in 2016. From the beginning of the referendum campaigns to the highly surprising result, nobody knew exactly what Brexit would mean for businesses inside or outside the EU. There still is and will likely continue to be lots of uncertainty, but Datesand have worked hard to make efficient preparations such as setting up a company in the Netherlands to ultimately protect all customers, distributors and the business itself no matter what the outcome may be. Datesand have impressively continued to drive sales despite all the unpredictability.

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After almost 10 years in our HQ in East Manchester and with a growing need for a lot more storage and office space, our building was eventually sold to Manchester City Council in May 2017. Datesand were able to remain on site, functioning as normal for a rent-free period while searching for new premises.

 

In 2019, we were officially given the keys to our new, considerably larger site on Horsfield Way in Bredbury, Stockport. This vast new site with freehold warehouse and office space gives the whole team the chance to come together all under one roof instead of working on four completely separate sites. The move allows Datesand to offer an even more efficient service and make improvements in communication and logistics while keeping costs firmly under control.

 

And now, in 2020, Datesand has officially made it to FORTY years in business! It has been quite a ride from day one, but we feel that through our resilience, our determination and the passion to succeed shared by the whole Datesand team, the business will continue to thrive and make a really positive contribution to our vital sector.

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