The UK’s Fastest Growing Indies: (Xbite)

As our Indie Retail Month continues, this week we reveal the five top fastest growing indies in the UK.

Starting off the week is a look at online indie (Xbite).

Xbite managing director Nick Whitehead talks to MCV about the challenges in starting up an online independent store and how he transformed a one-man operation into a business employing 60 people

How has Xbite grown in recent years?
Xbite has been very good at concentrating in growth areas that will ultimately make money. We obviously started by focusing on the gaming industry until we reached our saturation point. Significant growth beyond our current position is possible but would cost a lot of investment and there are other opportunities, which we are pursuing, that don’t require a high level of investment. That said we are still outperforming the market for video games. Non-gaming categories have been successfully launched and we are delighted with the rewards. We have spent two to three years investing and building our infrastructure – warehouse IT systems, personnel – to enable us to diversify.

What is the reason for the speed of which Xbite has grown?
IT and systems have played a pivotal role in enabling us to grow from a one-man band to a medium-sized business turning over 23m and employing 60 people. We have invested in our systems for over seven years and have now recently partnered with who will continue our development. We are due delivery of an entirely new cutting edge platform in the next six to nine months. Let me also emphasis that people play the biggest role in our success. We have some very dedicated, long-term employees making this happen.

How do you continue to grow in what is a challenging market for indie retail?
We started the business with some very simple foundations. One of those core elements was to work well with suppliers and that includes simple things like paying bills on time. I know a lot of our suppliers reading this will agree on how easy Xbite is to work with. We had a strong business before the recession hit and that ultimately has enabled us to continue to invest in our business. If you are standing still in the online world, you are effectively going backwards.

What was the biggest challenges you faced when you first started up Xbite?
In the infant years of Xbite it was very difficult to balance the need to put food on the table and pay the bills against maximising opportunities or deals that came along. So funding was a big issue and in 2004/05 personal credit cards were used to give that extra credit line. We always paid them off in full and never borrowed. I recall we had around 50k of limits over five cards. Employing the right people – not just anybody – and delegating responsibilities was so important to ensure smooth running.

Have you got any plans for further growth?
Yes lots. We are acquiring 3.5 acres of prime commercial land and look to invest 4.5m over the next three to five years to develop the site for our needs. We are starting a clothing business which will be focused on our core customer demographic. We have a very exciting and unique video game product we will be launching in June or July which will have mass market appeal. We have just launched an apprentice programme and will be investing in five young people. Over the next six months we will be taking on some top level personnel including managing director, marketing director and commercial director.

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