When did you start up and why?
I registered the business in 1983 – we've just had a glamorous celebration of our 40th anniversary a couple of weeks ago. What prompted you to launch the business? I had small children and wanted something that I could do from home – designing and making with outworkers and selling around London where I live. I always wanted to run a business – defying my father who wanted me to be a respectable lawyer like him.
What challenges have you overcome since the company's launch?
The big problem was always getting credit. Lloyds Bank in those days would almost literally pat me on the head and say: 'A little housewife like you shouldn't be bothering with business.' I had to find out the hard way about overdrafts and Letters of Credit. My problem from the point of view of typical banks was that I was basically trading seasonally – Christmas and Easter – so had unorthodox cashflow. Eventually I found a small German Bank that was sympathetic. However, they went bust and were taken over by Credit Lyonnais, which slashed my facility in mid-season, just when my invoices to the makers were due to be paid. Thank goodness we were saved by a friendly NatWest manager who stepped in and saved us – later, I'm pleased to say, Credit Lyonnais went spectacularly bust itself! How do you keep your designs fresh and current?
Do you follow trends?
I follow trends avidly! Especially in colour. I sort of feel where trends are going. But I also please myself. We never stand still.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
There are very few in Europe, well, in USA too, who actually design ranges of new products in the Christmas and Easter sector, every year, as we do.
How are you finding the current climate in the UK?
We're fairly optimistic. When the lockdown ended it was like a dam bursting, but things have quietened down somewhat since then. But no question – the combination of the Ukraine war, fuel prices, Brexit and the financial climate haven't been helpful. But in our sector business is holding up quite well. However, exports, where we were starting to do well, especially in Europe, have become very difficult – directly, experts say, due to Brexit.
How do you view the future of independent retail?
Once again I'm cautiously optimistic. Gift shops that have survived are doing well, although they have to work very hard. And there's a demand from consumers for 'something different.' That's pushing us suppliers in up our game, which I sense that we are doing. Gift shops are still the mainstay of our business.
Are you active on social media? How is this important for the business?
Having reached the status of a recognised brand we need to maintain a profile with the consumer, so we're quite active on Instagram.
Do you have any advice for new businesses starting out in the world of gifts?
Work hard, and be unsparing with your time and stingy with yourself!
What can we expect in the future from the company?
An endless stream of good and original ideas and outstanding service! But in the near future I'll be launching my 2024 Easter/Spring collection in July, which is pretty wonderful. Easter is a big festival in Germany where I grew up, and people take a lot of trouble decorating the home for it, especially the Easter breakfast table. So I was very surprised when I came over to England that people didn't take it seriously, beyond fluffy chicks and chocolate eggs. So one of my first ventures was to offer typical German-style wooden Easter decorations over here. The idea really caught on and I've carried on from there – designing a new collection each year, of several different co-ordinated ranges.
T: +44 (0)20 7708 4956