Unlike most licensees who specialise in a certain category, Ultimate Products’ portfolio spans across 12 categories, each with both licensed and own-brand offerings.
For many, this would signify a sufficient breadth of product, but the ambitious company is constantly researching and reviewing with a view to develop into new categories and develop deeper penetration in the current areas of business.
The firm also works with 450 UK and international retailers as one of the UK’s largest hard goods sourcing and design businesses. Now in its 13th year of business, the firm has seen a rapid growth.
The Oldham-based HQ boasts office and warehouse space for the 200 staff based there. The mill also has a 20,000 sq ft department store on the third floor allowing customers to browse promotional lines, licensed ranges and the company’s own in-house brands.
Ultimate also has a 20,000 sq ft global sourcing office and ‘retail theatre’ in Kowloon’s Harbourfront Landmark development in Hong Kong as well as quality assurances offices in Mainland China.
The company also has a department store showroom servicing Australasia and the USA and further offices in India.
Bernadette Spofforth, brand director explains the strategy to date: “The company advises global retail buyers what their next ‘footfall-driving’ items will be and then brings them to market by designing and supplying them faster and more cost effectively than anyone else - even successfully competing against major retailers’ own in-house international sourcing operations.”
The company was co-founded by Simon Showman (currently CEO) and partner Barry Franks in 1997 and, Spofforth comments: “By investing in the latest technology, the best people, a robust global supply chain and key bases in Hong Kong and Mainland China, the company has forged ahead by securing long term relationships with retailers across the globe.”
Shortly after its foundation, Ultimate Products took on Anthony Worrall Thompson as its first licence almost nine years ago. This has since turned out to be the company’s most successful licence, in part due to its longevity.
Spofforth continues: “Ultimate already had deep retail penetration when it signed the licence but understood that the mass consumer needed to connect with a brand. AWT had and still has mass appeal to the consumer.”
Ultimate then used its retail penetration to open the widest possible distribution and then bought strong fast moving products at competitive pricing, allowing consumers to buy into the brand.
Spofforth offers: “In doing this and in combination with the huge success Antony had, Ultimate created the UK’s most successful celebrity chef product range of the time.”
Other successful licences for the company so far include another celebrity chef and reality TV star, Gino D’Acampo, Disney, boys’ property Ben 10 and health Spa, Henleys.
Despite the recession, 2009 was a strong year for Ultimate Products. Early in the year, the company acquired Intempo Digital.
Spofforth says: “Ultimate Products announced a 40 per cent growth in its order books at the start of 2009 after securing international deals with major European and US Retailers.”
Ultimate also benefited from a dramatic increase in trade with the major supermarket chains in 2009 and in the discount retail sector in the UK, where Ultimate is seen as a major non-food supplier.
Spofforth continues: “The company then continued to buck the trend throughout 2009, thanks to its ability to help retailers around the world to tempt cash-strapped consumers with top quality, promotional product lines.”
Ultimate hopes that in 2010, it will add a range of new properties to its licensed portfolio. Spofforth concludes: “We currently have major expansion plans already underway in Hong Kong and Mainland China which have long been known as the epicenter of global retail.”