Speaking with Al DiGregorio, owner of Safety Smart Gear, you quickly get the sense that safety is not merely a buzzword, but rather it is paramount to every aspect of our work and our lives.
As June is National Safety Month, DiGregorio wants to ensure that safety is not only recognized and promoted in the workplace, but adopted everywhere. He and his team at Safety Smart Gear are working hard to share knowledge as well as equip individuals and industry professionals with necessary resources and support, along with their dynamic lineup of safety products.
Safety Smart Gear is an e-commerce business serving the industrial safety market with products that are vitally important for workers in both public and private sectors. Customers range all the way from corporate and government purchasing agents with major safety programs, as well as resellers and imprinters, to end users making smaller purchases. They come from any environment which requires safety-compliant work apparel, safety equipment or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Safety Smart Gear is based in Charlton, Massachusetts, though it serves customers across North America and around the world. With a strong, ever-growing network of manufacturers and international shipping partners, Safety Smart Gear offers a sizable variety of safety products at aggressively discounted prices.
In a very short period Safety Smart Gear has come a long way. In 2004, DiGregorio found himself intrigued by the growing world of innovative LED technology and associated safety products. Originally attending trade shows, calling on prospects and traveling extensively to showcase his products, DiGregorio still attends shows, but there is one he never misses – an annual visit to The National Safety Congress – citing the importance of continuing to do so as a master distributor.
Safety and safety related products became paramount to DiGregorio as he encountered a number of intriguing and cutting edge designs throughout his extensive market research and experiences.
“At some point, I realized that the amount of time and effort I was expending was turning out to be probably more work than ultimately the return was worth for a one man operation at that time. I remember family members, including my mother, always offering and willing to help do little things that were time consuming for me, such as putting company branding and re-order decals on the product packaging, and other little helpful tasks as needed.”
Facing this initial challenge, DiGregorio began focusing on a smaller geographic area, new markets and new products. Along the way DiGregorio integrated the idea of fundraising with safety products, offering a unique creative way to raise funds for non-profits that he called, “Safety Smart Fundraising.” According to DiGregorio, “This did very well as the new technology that I was introducing to the market in most all cases had never been seen on the market by most.”
In 2007, Safety Smart Gear naturally transitioned towards industrial safety products, starting its online store and further expanding its vendor network to more than twenty-five carefully screened and selected partners, manufacturers that provide the most technologically advanced products, of the best quality. His significant efforts cold calling in the early years to develop relationships with vendors helped him to establish a rapport, developing very real working relationships with vendors that have certainly carried forward.
One of Safety Smart Gear’s first manufacturing partnerships was with a ‘Made in USA’ company providing customers with a complete line of high visibility apparel and flame resistant clothing, a welcome addition to the company’s forward vision, establishing its role in the safety industry.
“Our goal is to always be cutting edge in every sense of the phrase. SSG’s extensive knowledge base, along with both imported and domestic industry leader partnerships enables us to provide a diverse value-driven product line of the highest quality, together with a friendly customer support experience,” shared DiGregorio.
As a leading safety gear provider, Safety Smart Gear enjoys an extensive e-commerce reach. It offers its manufacturing partners a competitive advantage when it comes to online product promotions, due to SSG’s experience and expertise in the online marketing arena.
“At Safety Smart Gear, we are always looking at ways to improve our customer experience through new technology, innovative processes, creative site design and seamless functionality. Although truly, most important is our relationship with our valued customers – our ultimate reward for our hard work and dedication,” explained DiGregorio. It is that relationship that is the motivation behind Safety Smart Gear’s commitment to continuous improvement.
Safety Smart Gear provides full lines of safety apparel, personal protective equipment and workwear for a number of industries. SSG can satisfy small to large quantity orders, with either domestic or imported products. There is an emphasis on domestic sources, where possible. Customers have the option of custom imprinting or embroidering on almost all products. These products range from economy class to premium quality as well as custom made safety compliant protective gear.
Each month over 21,000 people shop at safetysmartgear.com, accessing not only its array of products, but also its new ‘Safety Standards Directory’. The directory was introduced in January, 2015 and serves as a quick online reference guide. Customers can consult the convenient resource to research and learn more about compliance and safety standards specific to their needs. In addition, a ‘Shop by Standard’ feature will soon allow users to buy based on which safety standard their gear needs to be, which in many cases, is mandated by law. DiGregorio was quick to add a cautionary remark, “It’s a strict policy at SSG that we never suggest or recommend what standards your job might be required to meet. It’s extremely important for an individual to consult your safety manager to know what safety standards your job requires.”
DiGregorio and his team work hard to ensure that safety is accessible and possible for any individual or company, bringing value to end users through their diverse product offerings. “In order to educate and better serve our customers, Safety Smart Gear is continually striving to implement creative ideas to improve our customer experience in an effort to be the ‘go-to’ safety source,” he said.
Though Safety Smart Gear boasts an expansive product and service range, it does so with a comparatively small staff of committed individuals who are all driven to provide the very best overall customer experience. Through efficient operation, these products are brought to market with a relatively low overhead which enables Safety Smart Gear to translate the cost savings to the end user.
In addition to its online platform, the company has a small retail outlet store that is conveniently located at its corporate headquarters in Massachusetts. It will ship products from this location, as well as providing options direct from the manufacturers in order to better satisfy its loyal customer base. This business model offers fast turnaround and cost savings on shipping that customers appreciate. A significant portion of its clientele is repeat business, as Safety Smart Gear has established a reputation for quality.
“Customer service and product knowledge is what our customers have come to expect and is without a doubt one of the key factors directly related to customer retention – along with a high referral rate.”
DiGregorio credits his team as being the strongest component of the business and contributing to the overall growth and success of Safety Smart Gear. Safety Smart Gear places great emphasis on the functionality of their online sales platform. “Our webmasters are extremely knowledgeable, experienced and resourceful in developing, designing and maintaining the online store to be optimal at all times.”
The company is implementing a new customer relations management system (CRM) which will better enable it to serve customers, maintain necessary follow-up communications and track orders. Creating a centralized database for more streamlined operations will lead to more efficient dissemination of customer and product information.
“Before making important safety gear purchases, many of our customers need to gather information about products, materials, and safety standards, as well as our competitive pricing,” DiGregorio said. “With our CRM, we can more effectively track product inquiries and quotations for products with a common database for quick look-up.”
Safety is a concern in every sector of every industry: transportation, warehousing, construction, public safety, electrical, oil and gas, utilities, manufacturing, military, government and more. “With the exception of firefighter turnout gear and aluminized flame-resistant flash suits, most safety gear is designed for comfortable, continuous wear while minimizing injury from accidental exposure to some hazard that is not normally expected.”
Safety Smart Gear wants to help improve safety, whether a job’s principal function is hazardous or has hazardous components. Safety Smart Gear supplies the safety products necessary to support a company’s safety program, from the most fundamental to the most technologically advanced product solutions available on the market.
DiGregorio has plans to continue to expand the company and its custom offerings, streamlining operations where possible. The future will also see continuing developments in the quality and variety of products and services.
Eventually, he would like to see the development of a Safety Smart Gear line of personal protective equipment. He also hints at, “an exciting development in safety gear technology coming in the near future that will be of significant interest to industries across all sectors. We are always keeping our eye out for new technologies and products that offer a unique proposition to our end users.”
DiGregorio believes, “It is a team effort that makes everything come together as seamlessly as possible at Safety Smart Gear.” Paired with strategic decision-making and the conscious decision to grow, the company is poised for continued growth and success into the future.