A WORKWEAR business is about to see record sales for the 13th year in a row – despite losing its biggest customer earlier this year.

MI Supplies, based at Teesside Industrial Estate in Thornaby, was dealt a blow earlier this year after losing a £2.4m contract.

It was told its largest customer was not renewing a three-year deal worth £800,000 annually.

But a surge in online sales means the firm, founded by managing director Alex Ingham in 2005, is still on course for its best year yet, with turnover expected to hit £3m by the end of 2018, up from £2.35m in 2017.

Rather than focusing on the negatives of such a big contract loss, Mr Ingham said it had been a valuable lesson, with MI Supplies now in a stronger position to hit an ambitious target of reaching £10m turnover by 2020.

“At one point a few years ago this contract made up about 70-80 per cent of our business, so we put a lot of plans in place five years ago to get it to under a third of the business,” said Ingham.

“Now we’ve managed to do that, it isn’t as much of an impact and, in fact, I think has worked in our favour. Website sales have already taken up the slack of the loss, and online sales should hit our target of £2m per annum this year.

“It has actually been a really good lesson for a business owner – and a reminder not to never rest on your laurels and think you have a contract for life.”

MI Supplies has in recent months put a new management structure in place, including business manager Russ Lock, accounts manager Sue Blythman, warehouse supervisor Bill Watson, stock manager Gary Devlin, admin manager Sheryl Butters and web manager Neil Shepherd.

The firm is enjoying online year-on-year growth of 110 per cent, and during the recent Black Friday weekend doubled last year’s figures, with 440 orders totalling £34,430 over the three days.

Mr Ingham added: “It almost feels like we’re starting as a new business, with a new lease of life, but with a standing start of £3m-a-year in sales and a good infrastructure in place.

“We have a stronger management structure so we now have people in all the key positions, which means the majority of things don’t need to flow through me now.

“We’ve installed a new bespoke high-speed broadband system which means our internet is now 40 times faster, which will speed things up in terms of processing sales and accommodate a new automated scanning-picking system, which we think will gain us an extra 60 hours a week.

MI Supplies is already one of the UK’s biggest suppliers branded workwear and has more than 250 business customers including the fire brigade, councils, engineering firms and charities.