Gavin from The Cuties and Pals sells bespoke children’s luggage sets. Gavin and his wife Susanne started their business after coming up with the idea of making more colourful luggage with pretty designs, and through doing research they found that there was very little in the children’s market for luggage. They have been trading for over 6 years now in various channels.
Some thoughts from the interview
“We started, my wife and I, looking for a business we could do together, we had an apartment in Spain which we fly to quite regularly with hand luggage. We found that hand luggage was really boring and we came up with an idea of making luggage more colourful and pretty designs but also in doing the research we found that there was very little in the children’s market for luggage so that’s where the idea started. From there we bought the brand Cuties and Pals.”
“We developed different styles of bags and luggage for children based on out animal designs.”
“We started with five animal designs and that was along with our adult products. When we first started our first trade show we were invited on Dragons Den. Once we got on there we had a very good reception from the dragons but they advised us that the adult luggage was very easy to be copied but we should concentrate on the kid’s brand. We took their advice and that is what we did and developed different styles. Different designs, different products and it has really grown from a small acorn into a much flourishing tree now.”
“We are lucky we have a very good manufacturer in the far east and an agent that handles the factory to ensure quality control is very strong there.”
“My wife did a lot of research in finding the factory which actually took around 3 to 4 months to actually get a factory that could do what we wanted and have the right quality. Form there they did a sample and then by the time we actually got the first container over we were looking about 14 months from finding the factory to getting the stock over.”
“That’s the beauty of the internet. Most of it was done remotely either by skype or by emails. Once we found a factory and they sent a sample we were happy with that’s when we flew out and spent a couple of weeks with them checking things, going through the factory and looking at production of our first sample.”
“That was our first port of call because obviously control is much easier if we could do it in the UK but Susanne did a lot of that research and it was just too expense.”
“Times have changed a little bit; Chinese prices have gone up but still UK prices are too high unless you can actually afford to run your own factory but of course we have only got only one design.”
“We have our own Amazon shop. For eBay we supply our retail customer so they will market through eBay themselves.”
“We did it universally, when we opened up the website we also went straight on to Amazon and to eBay. All those three channels were right from the beginning but because of supplying direct to retailers we withdrew from eBay to give them a bigger marketplace to encourage them to buy wholesale from us.”
“We have two arms; we have the whole sale which we sell through our UK distributor now. We used to handle it ourselves, myself and Susanne and we had staff, but it became that as the brand grew into different countries worldwide that we needed to concentrate more on developing products and developing distributions so we gave UK distributions to another company. We just handle our website and Amazon then the rest of it is more distribution through wholesale t different parts of the world. I think 35 countries now we distribute to.”
“Distributors will market via Amazon in Germany or Spain, wherever they are based so it spreads the marketing through that as well.”
“We did when we first started and (FBA) was very successful but because we no longer hold stock we do that through our UK distributors.”
“We had been tempted to do other things, as you said the London bus is a little diversion from the characters we have, although the characters are included on the bus as we wanted to keep that identity. I think that the core of our products is the design of the animal so as long as we keep in with bags and travel goods. We have been tempted to look at doing different things going away from travel but it then becomes a new market we don’t know, we have to research, market and that can take away from your core business which for us is bags.”
“Part of the experience with the dragons they said concentrate on the brand, develop you core product and them maybe you can licence it to other companies to make umbrellas or wellington boots and that is what we try to do.”
“We had the confidence in the brand and the product that it would be successful so we just carried on as we did.”
“You control your own destiny and it is a much better way to run your company.”
“I was in property and I had my own estate agent business and property development company. Part of the reason we ventured into something because the property crash in 2006/7 made me sell my business and get out of that and I had a portfolio of properties that I managed myself so I had an income from property. Susanne wanted to do something together, she wasn’t happy in her job hence we started on that journey.”
“I think the key is to do proper, thorough investigation. Make sure the product you have got is going to saleable at the right price. You can come up with a fantastic idea but if it’s too much for people to buy then you will never sell it. so you have to research and make sure that the market you’re going to into will accept the price point you have got and that is very important. It takes a lot of time, a lot of investigation, a lot of research from manufacturing and getting the best possible price but then making sure the quality is good enough. Once you have got that price make sure that the market you are going to sell in will accept it. You can have a fantastic product but people think it’s too expensive and then you’re dead in the water before you have even started.”
“We do the product development and we will research before we actually make anything. We go with the idea and we speak to kids to see what their reaction is. We have a good designer that gives us the art work and we can play with kids and see what they think about it. Then we would do a sample and see what kids think of the sample and if there is anything we can improve on. So that where we concentrate.”
“We have a Facebook page where we put a lot of information and I get ideas from people what they think would be a good idea that we can develop. So it is very much keeping in contact with your customer and really researching what they want and what they like. You might think it is fantastic and you show it to a kid and they’re not interested. Know your market and know the price point are right as well.”
“We have registered our designs in Europe, USA and in China because what we have found especially in the far east is that the factories will see something they think is good and copy it. Unfortunately, not all buyers from Europe will realise that this a brand that is registered so they might buy from a factory direct, import it into Europe and as soon as it hits the shops and we know we’ve not supplied it then we can take action to stop them selling copies. That is actually a big part of my day to day business is getting emails and pictures from our distributors saying that this company has imported a copy. When we do trade shows we go round and check that other stands aren’t selling any copies. My wife is very keen on Amazon and she trawls through Amazon both in the US and the UK to make sure again that there are no copies on there. It is a big problem but as long as you register your designs you will be able to protect yourselves.”
“I knew nothing about ecommerce at all when I started this and got a lot of help from our web designers so I think getting a good web designer is very important. They can structure your website to give you ultimate traffic to your website and can teach you things so I think it is very important to work closely with a good web designer.”
“Amazon I have found very good because if there is a copy you can register your complaint and they will deal with it.”
“We have also gone on to Not On the High Street. They have worker well with us. That is not as big a platform as Amazon but it does a good job especially at Christmas time as they do a lot of TV marketing.”
Best Advice: “Make sure that you have got the right products, the right price and research.”
What do they offer?
The Cutie range has been growing fast over the last two years with many new additions to the gang. Ideal for children’s luggage the Cutie range is a great way for kids to have their own cool cases to take on holiday, round to friends or take to school every day.
How to contact Cuties and Pals!
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