Rovince’s range of tick-resistant clothing has been sold in Europe for five years and is now available in the UK. Darren Bullock, sole importer to the British market, tells Helena Douglas just how the product works
Ticks pose a significant health hazard to anyone who lives, works or spends time in the British countryside. Around 3,000 people in the UK contract Lyme disease (Borreliosis) from a tick bite each year. But ticks are responsible for a range of different diseases, and gamekeepers and stalkers run an especially high risk of contracting them because of the nature of their job in tick-rich environments.
Darren Bullock, a 43-year-old aerospace engineer, gamekeeper and recreational stalker based in the Midlands, is especially aware of the danger of ticks thanks to his role as sole UK distributor of the Rovince range of tick-resistant clothing. The clothing, which includes jackets, fleeces, shirts, trousers, gloves and socks, is designed for professional use and works thanks to Rovince’s proprietary Zeck-Protec tick-repellent system.
“I first became involved with Rovince, which is based in the Netherlands, three years ago when a German chap I knew wore its clothing on a hunting trip here. I then started wearing it myself as we have a tick problem on some of our ground,” explains Darren. “It worked. I was impressed, so I approached Rovince and said I thought there was a market for the clothing in the UK. We had a couple of meetings and I made them aware of the tick problem here. That led to me taking on the role of sole UK distributor, and we started to bring the clothing in from the beginning of 2013.”
Distribution is currently via a website with a shop facility, with much of the product promotion via web forums and word of mouth from satisfied users, though it’s also kicked off an advertising campaign in selected magazines. Rovince UK has also recently become a sponsor of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation – the clothing is ideal for keepers, who spend most of their working day in places where ticks are found.
“The idea is to test the UK market softly and get the name out there,” Darren says. “The stalking community as a whole is closely connected, so you only need to get a few people wearing it for the word to spread. I’ve just had a professional stalker test a shirt for us. He did a two-week cull, and in the first week wore his own clothing, a high-quality brand, but had ticks on him every day. In the second week he wore our shirt and had no ticks on him at all. He is really pleased, and having proof from someone independent will go a long way to getting the brand and what it does known.
“My plan for the moment is to raise awareness about Rovince, then sign up some retail outlets – and we’ve just been talking to Bushwear about getting the clothing featured in their catalogue. But we don’t want to go too fast. The idea is to approach the UK steadily. If things start to grow seriously then Rovince will need to review their production capability to meet demand – so we want to take a measured approach rather than going mad and finding we can’t sustain it.”
Rovince’s clothing works thanks to the Zeck-Protec system, a permethrin-based treatment where by permethrin is ‘mixed’ with a polymer agent which makes it stick to the fabric. “So it’s not sprayed onto the fabric after the garment is made, it’s actually in the material, which makes it more effective,” says Darren. “Permethrin is a potent chemical but Rovince has carried out all the necessary health and safety tests to make it safe for people to wear. Its potency kills small and larvae ticks, while on adult ticks it produces a thermal barrier that burns their feet so they drop off. So rather than just repelling ticks, the clothing provides full protection to the wearer.”
Rovince was established in the Netherlands in 2007, with the brand created from the names of its two founders Rob Nijhuis and Vincent Jansen, who are keen hunters and shoot roebuck and wild boar in Germany. “There is a big tick problem on their ground, and they came up with the new idea of combining permethrin with a polymer,” Darren explains. “You can buy permethrin sprays to put on clothing, but they’re very strong and there is no regulation on how much you can apply to yourself. With the Rovince clothing it’s there at a safe level – and the best thing is, the clothing doesn’t require any further treatment during a lifetime of wear. Tests have shown Zeck-Protec to be 98 per cent effective in protecting wearers against tick bites.”
Rovince’s patented fabric is made in the Netherlands, with the clothing itself made in Bulgaria. According to Darren, Rovince would rather pay more for production to keep quality high and for ease of communication.
At present the range, which is priced in the middle of the market, is quite small. “We offer the staple products, which have been in production for about five years now,” says Darren. “These work well in Europe but I am also having some positive conversations about bringing in some new products for the UK as well as some new colours – the Europeans’ greens are very dark, for example. The first new product is likely to be a tick-protected gaiter to complement Rovince’s own trousers or for people to wear with their own trousers. We are also in discussion about shooting stockings to wear with plus-fours or breeks, or with estate tweeds, which aren’t seen so much in Europe, as well as a new smock-type jacket. But the main area of sales is the trousers, shirts and socks, which are flying off the shelves.”
In Europe the hunting market makes up about 10 per cent of Rovince’s sales – most of its business comes from forestry workers and people in the outdoor or environmental professions. “While I think the UK hunting market will be big,” adds Darren, “we are also supplying professionals such as the Forestry Commission with items to test. The feedback has been very good. The knock-on from that is we are also looking to develop a chainsaw trouser made of rip-stop fabric. In addition Rovince already supplies a bespoke waterproof trouser to the Belgian forestry department, and as the clothing in the UK is water-resistant, I have asked to see some samples of the fully waterproof as I think that would definitely appeal to UK shooters.”
While he stresses that people must still check themselves for ticks and know how to remove them properly, Darren finds time to mention another advantage of Rovince clothing: “Because the ticks can’t physically stay on the garment, you are not going to transport them into your vehicle or back home either. It’s great fronting something so positive and that allows me to work in the outdoor area that I love. I’m really looking forward to the future, and for Rovince in the UK that looks very positive.”