Consumers are rebelling against cheap manufactured goods and opting for quality, according to one Gold Coast company, so it’s shining a light on the importance of keeping it local.
Gold Coast-based Aqualuma manufactures marine, commercial, industrial and domestic LED lights, with all products designed and made at its Oxenford headquarters.
The business, which turns over more than $5 million a year, is an advocate for bringing manufacturing back to Australia saying it is now greater value to produce in its hometown for the domestic market.
“What gives us the competitive edge?” asks Aqualuma director Carl Amor, who founded the business with his brother Grant in 2004.
“The fact that we are Australian made – designed and made – is a big thing,” Amor says.
“I firmly believe that the worm has turned in that people are sick of buying stuff from overseas, particularly when it comes to products that they rely on.
“For example, high bay lighting in factories and warehouses – it is very expensive to get up there and replace it, so if you buy a cheap one it is going to cost you twice as much to replace it than it is to buy a decent one in the first place.
“Once again, if you have to pull your boat out of the water or get a scissor lift and two guys to change a light fitting, it is expensive, so you don’t want that stuff to be Chinese made, you want it to be of quality. People want to buy once and they want to buy right,” he says.
According to Amor, the lower Australian dollar is also turning in favour of local manufacturers, and with some products he says it is now cheaper to manufacture domestically.
“The Australian dollar is back where it should be and it has made a huge difference in business – it is the best thing that has happened in Australia in years,” he says.
“But the challenge of being Australian made is that you have to go out there and sell it, because you are not selling it on price you are selling it on quality.
“The challenge is really being able to relay that message to people and getting them to understand it.”
Aqualuma increased staff in the past three years by 30 per cent and is expecting another 30 per cent increase as part of an expansion plan. Over the next 18 months, the company is planning to develop a new production facility in the US where, along with Canada, it has scored a number of big contracts.
The company plans to grow these markets further and continue manufacturing on the Gold Coast for the Australasian market.
The company’s most iconic product is its patent-protected LED Thru-Hull boating range, which is in 126 countries, while its commercial and industrial lighting products are exported a number of international markets.
The business is currently supplying products to an ice skating rink in Canada. Aqualuma is also in negotiations with one of the world’s largest retailers for a deal worth $180 million, although it is unable to disclose further details. They also supplies lighting solutions to West Marine – one of the largest marine retailers in the world, along with Toll, Cummins, Coles, Met Cash and Pak’n Save in New Zealand.
Amor says the ultimate vision for Aqualuma is to continue supplying high-quality, low-energy light fittings to as many customers as they can around the world.