Couch maker gets its teeth into new market

A MEDICAL couch maker is celebrating a major deal with a South American dental chair firm which will open it up to new markets.

Plinth 2000, which makes highly specialist medical couches from its base in Wetheringsett, near Debenham, hopes the deal, with dental chair makers Gnatus, a family firm based in Sao Paulo in Brazil, will be worth more than �0.5million.

Under the agreement, Gnatus will make Plinth 2000 couches under licence to supply into North and South America, while Plinth will market and supply Gnatus dental chairs and accessories to the UK, Ireland, Belgium and Netherlands markets through its newly-formed subsidiary, Plinth Dental.

Plinth 2000, which makes medical-grade treatment couches and chairs, is diversifying into dental chairs and targeting overseas markets after seeing a slump in its UK sales to local authorities and the NHS as public sector finances are cut.

Managing director Niall Dyer said the firm, which employs around 35 staff and has a turnover of about �3.5million, had seen a 10% fall in sales as a result of the budget cuts.

Its UK sales had fallen by 25 to 30%, but it had put considerable effort into building up its overseas markets which had off-set this.

“We are delighted to have secured this commercial tie-up with one of the world’s foremost dental equipment brands,” he said.

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“We have a 20-year track record of supplying and servicing the NHS and independent healthcare sector, with all the energy and commitment that involves, and are now entering the competitive dental sector with a product range that is synonymous with quality, innovation, ergonomics and value for money. Equipped with this world-class technology, we are confident of making inroads into the dental market.”

The dental chairs, which are more complex than the medical couches, retail at an average of around �8,000 to �9,000, but some versions cost up to �15,000. This compares to an average of around �1,000 to �2,000 for medical couches.

Mr Dyer said they had been trying to break into the South American market for about two years, but the duty levied on goods coming into the country made it hard. But they then met up with Gnatus, which was trying to break into the medical couch market.

“We are delighted for sure,” he said. “It’s getting us into a market which is very difficult to get into.”

Gilberto Nomelini, president of Gnatus Equipamentos Medico-Odontologicos, said they were “very impressed” with the Plinth product range, and the quality and durability of the designs, which had been well received in South America.

“We are very excited about and committed to the project and we are sure that it will be a great success,” he said.