American firefighters share a powerful and truly unique culture of brotherhood with an unrivalled dedication to the profession and everything that surrounds it. When it comes to turnout gear, American firefighters can be quite traditional in their preferences; they are also very conscious about their strength and rugged image - and are not necessarily turned on by hi-tech European design fire suits in new, light and breathable materials with improved comfort.
This is the market that Grant Grinstead serves...
Grant has been a firefighter in the state of Colorado for 17 years and is also VIKING's Regional Sales Manager in 14 states in the western United States and Canada. The fire departments in the areas major cities often account for more than 10,000 firefighters, and the market for fire suits is big business!
Winning the heart and minds of the brotherhood
VIKING is still a niche brand in the United States, but empowered by a strong product range and a broad network of dealers, the Colorado firefighter considers it realistic to double sales each year. “VIKING has a small share of the market, yet we offer products that can really make a difference for thousands of firefighters. VIKING works smart and analytically and looks several years ahead. We also have talented employees. What we do is meaningful. It's just that not many people are familiar with our products – yet!
Once firefighters get a closer look and even try on our gear, they instantly notice the difference in both the design, the quality and the way it feels to wear. There is an increasing awareness in the United States that there are alternatives to those fire purchasers would traditionally consider. Whenever we show US crews our gear, we get a great reaction. For instance, firefighters in Albuquerque, where temperatures in the summer can reach 100F, particularly liked the fact they could move to lighter weight and more flexible garments without compromising on thermal protection” Grant says.
A heritage of uncompromising safety
According to Grant, when selling gear to American firefighters, the level personal protection is the absolute deal breaker: “As a global manufacturer, all our gear draws upon know-how and best practices from the USA, Europe and Asia alike - and we are known for an uncompromising attitude to safety. Also, it is no exaggeration to say that VIKING probably knows more than any other single manufacturer when it comes to protective clothing materials and components. That is because we do not just design turnout gear, but also protective clothing, equipment and full-scale solutions for marine, offshore and aviation emergencies where hundreds or even thousands of lives may be at stake in a single incident.”
Fire bloggers ignite interest
FDIC International, the world's largest firefighter training conference and trade show, is an annual event in the state of Indiana, and VIKING was there to present the innovative MACS fire suit and to spread the word about our brand and products. Here, three leading US ‘fire bloggers’ were enlisted to help stimulate awareness and interest before and during the trade show.
“The fire bloggers were really enthusiastic about our gear and helped increase our contact with the audience by more than 100 per cent. They are well known throughout the industry, and their participation at the FDIC was a huge success both professionally and socially. Many people came to meet them at the stand and have their picture taken, and the fire bloggers also hosted a big party, Indy on Fire” Grant says.