Case Study – ARE NZ Limited

Why ARENZ reckons Shigematsu respirators are perfect for the NZ asbestos removal industry.

After just half a year of selling the Shigematsu range of full and half-face respirators, ARENZ – New Zealand’s largest supplier of Asbestos Removal Equipment – reckon it’s become the industry’s go-to brand.

So we thought we’d catch up with business manager Gerald Dobson to see why they especially like stocking the revolutionary Breath Responsive PAPR from ph7 International and why he thought the Shigematsu range was receiving such great feedback.


As specialists in the asbestos removal industry, why did you decide to start stocking the Shigematsu face masks and filters?

We have been selling Shigematsu for between four and five months and do the full range of PAPR, full-face and half masks but specialise in the P3 an P3R for asbestos removal. We came on board because we wanted to expand our range to be able to offer our customers three options when it came to respiratory protection and, as the Number One brand in Japan, Shigematsu fitted the bill perfectly.


What have been the main selling points that have made the PAPR so attractive?

Just seeing it on the shelf, you can tell the difference – you don’t have the whole hose contraption and the battery pack because everything is concentrated in the mask. That has been the main selling point for the asbestos guys because there’s nothing to get tangled while they’re working. It’s also very light-weight, it looks completely different from the other masks and it’s clearly very easy to wear.


And in terms of feedback, how have your customers reacted to using the new mask?

The main things that have come from customers is that the speech diaphragm and way it fitted the face made it much more comfortable than masks from other ranges. There were initially comments that the filters didn’t seem to last as long as other brands and there was no prefilter system (although they’re looking at something to fix that), but the battery life was the same as others and the guys were shocked because they were finally able to work without having something big and bulky around their waists.


Given the options, why do you think your customers have been choosing the Shigematsu masks?

We’ve been giving them masks to test for a week so they can see how they perform in their working environment and that has definitely triggered a lot of sales – but even just standing on the shelf next to the other options with their big battery packs you can see the major selling point right there.

But I think the main reason I have standing orders for masks is because customers could try before investing in them – they’re definitely choosing them over the other makes and a couple of big standing orders are phasing out their old masks and replacing them with the Shigematsu range.


New Zealanders can be quite conservative when it comes to change, has it been difficult to get people to consider a new name in the market?

That has been a massive hurdle, certainly, as people are very traditional and so I’ve found it difficult to get them to consider changing from their old styles. But having so many clear and beneficial selling points as well as having the support from ph7 in relation to getting sample masks whenever I wanted them has really helped in getting sales over the line. Shigematsu is a new brand to many of our customers and it can be very difficult to get people to change their minds but at the end of the day it’s a good mask which they’re able to trial and test before they buy and that’s helped convince them.


Have you seen a growth in industry awareness around the use of respiratory protection and how have the new Shigematsu masks played a role in that?

Unfortunately there are still a lot of cowboys who still work with paper masks even in the asbestos removal industry and it can seem like a slow process to get the message across. But there’s definitely a trend to be more receptive to new products and to be more protective on the worksites – even though a mask like the Shigematsu PAPR can be an expensive investment. Because of the price issue, we’re seeing a lot of sales of half and full-face masks, but even that shows that there’s a tendency towards better protecting themselves.

We are also lucky because we have a sister company, Fibresafe Training, which does asbestos awareness and class-A removal courses and all the guys that are going through that are now being exposed to the Shigematsu masks because they are used as part of the practical component of their training when they are actually physically removing theoretical asbestos from a decontamination unit.

There is definitely growth happening both through people being more aware and WorkSafe NZ tightening the screws to enforce compliance so it’s definitely providing us with a good upturn in our business.


So, in conclusion, would you say Shigematsu has been a success story in New Zealand?

Definitely, it’s so good, we want to have sole rights at ARENZ! At the end of the day I think it’s a good mask and a successful roll-out but in many ways that comes down to the support that you get from ph7 as well. You could easily have a supplier that’s very unreceptive but I know that if I’m getting an order for a few masks I can call ph7 and get support and that helps get the brand out there and better known.

ph7 International has a long history of working alongside New Zealand’s asbestos removal industry. For more information about the Shigematsu range – including the revolutionary PAPR – contact us on 0800 323223, or via the website.

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