Newmarket: Hygiene firm Tristel wipes clean bad start to year by moving back into black

Paul Swinney, CEO of Tristel

Paul Swinney, CEO of Tristel - Credit: Archant

A hygiene products firm has turned around a loss-making first half year and made a tidy £0.5million in pre-tax profits after diversifying into new areas.

Tristel endoscope products

Tristel endoscope products - Credit: Archant

Disinfectant maker Tristel, based at Snailwell, near Newmarket, faced a tough time after sales of its endoscopy cleaning products “fell off a cliff” following changes in standards issued around the summer of 2012, and a move among manufacturers of endoscopy washing equipment towards own-brand washing products.

Tristel's factory at Snailwell, near Newmarket

Tristel's factory at Snailwell, near Newmarket - Credit: Archant

At the same time, the firm was hit by a commercial dispute with veterinary products firm Medichem which it supplied with a range of disinfectants and cleaning products.

But the firm, which employs 65 staff at its Newmarket headquarters and a further 30 across the UK and worldwide, managed to turn around a pre-tax loss of £0.6m in the first half of its financial year and move back into profitability by its year end on June 30.

However, profits were down on 2012, when they stood at £0.7m, as was turnover, which fell from £10.9m to £10.6m.

Chief exectuive Paul Swinney said the two halves were “starkly contrasting” and there had been “countervailing forces” at play in the business. While it had known the endoscopy products sales would fall over time, it had not expected them to fall with such suddenness, he explained.

However, it was by then investing in other products, and in response to the Medichem dispute, ratcheted up its own marketing operation. It started to sell its veterinary products directly to vets’ practices using its own newly-created brand, Anistel, and believes it is “well-placed” for further growth in the sector.

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The firm shed about 10 jobs in the course of the year, mainly in its overseas operations, as part of a restructuring, but chairman Christopher Samler said the firm was “cautiously optimistic” for the medium term.

Tristel is doubling the size of its Snailwell premises to 50,000sq ft after taking over a neighbouring warehouse and is spending “a few hundreds of thousands” of pounds on the build-out, said Mr Swinney.

“The story of the second half is at the very least what we hope will continue through the current year,” he said.