Smiffy’s was founded in 1894 and started life supplying wigs. Ray Peckett took over in the early 70’s and has headed up the business ever since. Since his arrival, Peckett has grown the firm considerably and the portfolio now focuses on fancy dress with a range of generic and licenced products. Smiffy’s now distributes to over 5,000 stockists worldwide.
While many of us would immediately conjure up a picture of a child in the latest Superman or Disney Fairy outfit when thinking of fancy dress, in fact, Peckett explains the market has its foundations in adult apparel: “Fancy dress has been born out of rental and has always been stronger among an adult audience.
“The popularity of children’s fancy dress is a much more recent trend and remains sat mainly within the supermarket and toy store market. Adult fancy dress costumes are widely available from the internet and shops.”
Smiffy’s strongest market is in fact the adult one and regardless of how many new brands enter the market, in general, it tends to be the classic, evergreen properties that are the most popular in this market.
Peckett explains: “Everyone is familiar with timeless classic fancy dress costumes such as Elvis and Marilyn Monroe and these worldwide icons are instantly recognisable. Our target audience realises the longevity of retro licenses and the benefits of offering such a wide range of classic costumes means consumers of all ages can enjoy these great high quality costumes.”
Currently holding around 20 licences, however, many of the costumes can work for both adults and children including Grease, Elvis, Bananaman and DangerMouse. The firm is hoping to invest more into creating great licensed costumes for both children and adults and grow this number to around 50 licences within the next year.
The firm has also recently invested in a new design team of over 20 people who will develop more innovative costumes for its own generic characters and therefore creating even more choice for consumers.
This growth may seem ambitious in the current climate, but Smiffy’s has sailed through the economic downturn and when asked how the firm is faring, Peckett answers: “What credit crunch? 2008 was a record breaking year for us at Smiffy’s and 2009 looks set to be the same with sales and profit up 25 per cent already on last year.”
Peckett goes on to explain the industry as a whole: “In previous recessions we have seen very little affect towards the fancy dress market. Our sales suggest that the party market is growing and becoming more popular than ever. People seem equally happy to dress up and stay at home to have a good time as well as incur the expense of going out.
“Evidence shows they don’t cut back on a night out when times are hard if people do need to save money somewhere they seem to hold back on a holiday or that new car. People will always want new and exciting costumes to wear and that’s why we have continued to invest in our expanding product development department and providing unique, high quality costumes and accessories under the recognised Smiffy’s brand.”