Blues Clothing already has a solid 30-year+ history in the licensed apparel sector, however a management buy out last year (backed by Penta Capital and Allied Irish Bank) means that it now has the extra clout to push even further into the market.
The firm was set up some 35 years ago by Adrian Nolan, who knew he had a good business model but never expected that, by 2007, Blues Clothing would be a £30 million firm with offices across the world. The new-look, post MBO company has 80 staff in the UK and Hong Kong, with former Copyright Promotions chairman Matthew Wheeler having come on board as non-executive chairman, plus long-time Blues director James Twist as MD. The firm believes it now has in place a strong specialist management structure that is capable of seeing future growth, as well as one that can continue to provide a service to its customers and licensors that is ‘second to none’.
“2008 and beyond is going to be an exciting time for the company,” said Wheeler. “We have expanded steadily to lead the category and now, with Penta’s backing, we are well positioned to continue that growth.”
The firm boasts 35 licences in its current portfolio and works with 25 licensors. The licences cover kids through to tween, teen and ladieswear, with significant adult business being done on such properties as Hello Kitty, Betty Boop, Tweety and Disney.
“Having been in the business some time now, we have developed great long-term relationships with our licensors,” says Suzanne George, licensing director at Blues. “For example, Disney has worked with us for over 20 years and Marvel, Warner and Fox are not far behind. Through these long-term partnerships we have become a key supplier for retailers and Blues product can be found in every major clothing retailer on the High Street including Woolworths, Next, Bhs, New Look and Mothercare. And not forgetting the big grocers like Tesco and Asda.”
As well as its wide ranging portfolio, Blues is also proud of the cutting edge designs it can offer. The team offers unique retailer specific designs, put together by its in-house team of nine designers.
“It’s all too easy to stick any old design on a garment, but we pride ourselves on understanding the brands we work on and delivering compelling product that children just want to wear,” George adds.
The apparel market has certainly changed since Blues was first on the scene. 15 years ago the company worked mainly on licensed product with Disney; now it works with 25 different licensors, while retail has also required increased flexibility in terms of production and reaction to sales. The firm cites product development, lead times, price and quality has all being key to remaining competitive in the marketplace.
“With our own sourcing office in Hong Kong, we are able to competitively find new products, we use fully audited factories in China, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Thailand,” continues Wheeler. “In addition to this we also have factories in Turkey that allow us to remain pro-active in delivering quick repeats and fast response quantities giving retailers that extra flexibility. We want the best for our customers and for the consumers that buy from them and we will continue to push the boundaries to deliver the best.”