A Leominster company that has developed an award-winning construction innovation is aiming for a huge 2024 after launching an online retail outlet.

J-struts, which are a faster, safer, and easier to use alternative to conventional ‘acrow props’, are now being sold exclusively at J-strut.com with first orders dispatched earlier this month.

The firm decided to sell direct to ensure that customers have access to the ‘smarter way of propping’ at the best possible price, with the MSRP set at £39.95 each for 10+ units.

New partnerships with Peartree Logistics and other national carriers have been established to deliver J-struts all over the country, with next-day delivery now available.

The online shop is an important first step in growing market share and this will be followed by the development of a network of hire partners who can offer products to builders and tradespeople on a weekly or monthly basis.

Will Helme, J-strut’s Product Champion, commented: “It has been a significant time for our business, with two milestone moments taking place within a matter of months.

“After all the interest J-strut has received, both from a productivity and safety perspective and all the builder-led development and testing, we are now fulfilling orders via our dedicated online shop.

“The first 1000 units will be exclusively sold through the website, with the opportunity for volumes to be ramped up as demand grows in the UK.”

He continued: “This breakthrough moment comes just a few weeks after we won ‘Product Innovation of the Year’ at the British Construction Industry Awards, jointly run by New Civil Engineer and the Institution of Civil Engineers.

“The award ceremony is a showcase of the very best in UK construction, so for the high-profile judging panel to recognise J-strut as this year’s most innovative construction product is a milestone that propels our brand into a completely different space.”

The brainchild of engineers at Grove Design, the patented J-strut pinion gear fits on a standard half-inch impact wrench – a cordless power tool that is now in common use amongst builders and construction professionals.

By meshing the pinion gear with its counterparts fitted on the J-strut, the operator can adjust the support height and disengage the load at the press of a trigger, even in confined corners where it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, with a conventional acrow.

Automating the adjustment of the collar not only makes the process quicker, but it removes the risk of a repetitive strain injury arising from repeated and often awkward manual adjustments.

It also eliminates reliance on physical strength, since the work required to overcome frictional forces is done by the battery-operated impact wrench, minimising fatigue and reducing the likelihood of fatigue-related injuries occurring.

Other considerations surrounding operator welfare have also been addressed by the design house, such as coating the wire leash in rubber to prevent frayed wires becoming a skin puncture hazard, as well as displaying details of a free chat service run by Mates in Mind, a charity established by the British Safety Council to provide sector-specific mental health support.

Will went on to add: “We had a huge amount of interest from the hire industry when we exhibited at the Executive Hire show in 2022.

“Hire companies liked the concept and could see an opportunity to offer J-struts at a small premium over conventional acrows, as well as the potential for additional revenue through the supply of the pinion, but given the lack of traction at the time, they weren’t prepared to pioneer the product.

“We’re now in a strong position to help hire companies usher in the next generation of props, with sales traction, testimonials from builders, as well as a rapidly growing social media presence and awards to our name.

“By further lowering the barriers to entry through consignment stock and counter-top display units, we expect that our appearance at this year’s event will be the moment the sector embraces the opportunity, both for them and the industry as a whole, and buys into our mission.”

A major focus is on manufacturing key elements of the product in the UK, with Grove Design leveraging its involvement in the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN) to identify two critical suppliers – KimberMills International are forging the pinion gear with Muller Holdings in Redditch completing the broaching and machining.