The Signature Works manufactures printed and embroidered school wear, work wear and sportswear, such as sweatshirts, hoodies, t-shirts and polo shirts for a range of schools, sports teams, clubs and societies. From sites in Bangor and the Castlereagh Road in Belfast it supplies clients across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Having furloughed the majority of its 45 staff and closed down operations while the coronavirus lockdown was in place, the company received word that Health & Social Care in Northern Ireland (HSCNI) required a substantial order of scrubs for frontline medical staff.

The Signature Works identified that some of its European suppliers had substantial stock of scrubs in several warehouse locations and, after getting confirmation from HSC NI, placed an order for 70,000 sets.

Danske Bank speedily authorised a significant extension to the company’s borrowing to ensure the deal was completed promptly. The initial delivery of the scrubs to HSCNI was completed within a week. Subsequent deliveries’ have been completed to several other NHS trusts throughout the UK.

Joint Managing Director of Signature Works Malcolm Ditty said: “Logistically it was extremely difficult, it’s not the way we are used to doing business and we put ourselves financially out on a limb. It is a strange time but we had to do whatever it took to get the job done, to be able to play our part in making sure that the health service got access to the supplies it needed. We do provide products, including hoodies and promotional items to some of the health trusts and individual departments, but on a much smaller scale than this order.

“We were fortunate that everyone in the supply chain was able to react so quickly and Danske Bank were very supportive right through the process. We had the facility in place to significantly extend our borrowing very quickly which enabled us to place the order and get it shipped quickly to the customer for distribution.”

Mr Ditty said the deal provided a welcome distraction for the business while other work is on hold.

“We have a good order book to go back to and while many of our customers are school wear retailers, we are hopeful most of those orders will resume, particularly on the school uniform side. We are also exploring whether there are other opportunities to help meet shortages of scrubs and other equipment for care homes, physios, dentists and other frontline healthcare workers,” he said.

Julie Skelly, Head of Belfast Business Centre at Danske Bank, said: “We were pleased to be able to respond quickly and support The Signature Works as the company used its network of contacts to find and secure the medical supplies needed to meet this urgent order.

“It is testament to the innovation and ingenuity of Northern Ireland’s business community that we are seeing so many companies diversifying and moving outside their comfort zones to respond to the compelling needs and opportunities that have been created because of the coronavirus.”