Exspect seems to be going through a period of growth in terms of the operation and recruitment – what has prompted the expansion?
It was a combination of some reactionary stuff and planning for the future. Some of the project work we have been doing with key accounts this year has needed some really detailed focus. Our business has gone from shipping around 20k units a month to 120k units a month in the quieter months, and that needs people to just manage the necessary volume of admin and customer support.
In addition to that, developing 100 new products and opening 11 new European distribution partners means you need more product and marketing support staff. In total we've gone from five people to 15 in the past 12 months, and that in itself has been a challenge in terms of recruitment and training – especially when some of the guys are based in Hong Kong and France.
How has Expect's launch into France gone?
It's been really exciting. We adopted a soft launch strategy for 2008 talking to customers in a what if” manner which would allow us to be a little more aggressive in 2009. Our dedicated country manager Philippe Blin has been instrumental in that.
We launched at Medpi in conjunction with Banque Magnetique and the reaction from the French buyers has been really positive. We have now been actively selling in the market for eight weeks and the brand is doing really well through a variety of high profile retailers and e-tailers.
The next stage is to ensure that where we have pan- European customers who have French and UK-based operations, so we join up all the business and leverage in every opportunity available to us.
What's going to be the big story for Exspect in the next 12 months?
More of the same! We're really excited about the potential we have in Europe and the licensing opportunities we have available to us. I also have a sneaking feeling you are also going to see us start creeping into some very credible positions in ChartTrack lists because we have some great results posted.
What sets Exspect and its products apart from rivals?
As a team we like to work in a collaborative way with our customers and suppliers for the longer term, and that seems to be paying dividends.
We have the highest regard for most of our rivals because that's what keeps us on our toes, but we do feel we have a great eye for product and packaging design. One thing that does set us apart is the fact that we're are fully in control of our business right the way through from factory to delivery point, due to the scale being part of Gem gives us.
How successful has the accessories market been this year?
Our business is four times bigger than last year in volume and value terms, so we are definitely experiencing growth. But I assume most accessory companies are in a similar position, so we are certainly not going to be resting on our laurels.
The two markets we focus on, gaming and iPod, have seen so many exciting launches in the past twelve months, so anyone who is operating in that space should be enjoying success. Long may it continue!
Where do you want to be in a year?
Lying on a beach with the family, reflecting on a great season for Liverpool in the Premier league!
Exspect has a huge year ahead and the team is looking forward to it. We're committed to delivering great products, offering high margin for our customers.
I feel strongly about delivering a good result for the charity we're working with, so having our brand and the licensed range distributed across Europe with the right partners is a real target.
The most important thing is to have a solid customer base to work with for 2010 and retaining that special something we have in our team.