Wow Stuff was founded in 2001 and underwent a management buy out in April 2006 by serial entrepreneur Richard North. Scientists Dr. Graeme Taylor and Kenny McAndrew joined North on the executive board.
North says: “Major sales growth occurred almost from day one of the original MBO.”
The first product launched in the UK and US was the arse/face towel, designed by Taylor and McAndrew. Sales of the towel reached 250,000 pieces during 2007. The product reached notoriety in the TV series, Shameless and has been exhibited in the Australian Museum of Contemporary Art.
Realising early on that novelty gifts and gadgets had a narrow market opportunity, the firm began to acquire brand licences. This led to a more focused product development programme and the emergence of the company’s mantra, ‘don’t follow, innovate’. The portfolio is now 95 per cent licensed and five per cent own brand.
The Science Museum and the Natural History Museum brands are growing and helping towards an impressive sales forecast of £75 million by 2012 and a projected increase of 140 per cent for 2009. The company’s sales are currently up by 114 per cent for 2008, making it one of the fastest growing companies in the toy and gift industry.
In 2007, the company acquired a video and technology company and created its company positioning statement of ‘Great Brands Bought to Life.’ North continues: “Our initial trials were supported by the team at Debenhams who were and still are, one of our most important partners.”
The most recent initiative launched by Wow! Stuff is the new ‘branded, multi-channel demo artist and large screen video store-in-store’. The new concept was introduced in Harrods in September this year, with more opening in Debenhams, John Lewis, the Science Museum and more throughout this month.
The £2.7 million deal builds on a video demonstration system launched with Debenhams last year and uses large screens with content that can be changed remotely at Wow’s HQ, to suit weather, promotions, stock-outs etc. The new areas are branded and include demonstrators to bring product to life.
So far, the new store concepts have resulted in 800 per cent sales increases per square foot. North says: “It feels like we are spending every waking minute dedicated to achieving more sales per square foot, or square inch for our cataloguers, of retailer space for our retail partners. This relentless focus on creating theatre in-store through people and technology is really exciting.”
Next year, Wow will launch the patented Science Museum Mystery UFO and trials so far have been encouraging. Combined with the in-store screens and demo artists, the company is projecting sales of one million units of the product for next year, making it one of the most successful lines.
This follows the company’s experience of the Science Museum and Natural History Museum brands being particularly successful. North explains: “Having two qualified scientists as company directors has helped us with the relationships and growth we have enjoyed. The creativity my partners bring in the area of new product development has been extraordinary and has been fundamental to the huge sales growth we have achieved with these brands.”
The firm continues to look forward though and is forging new relationships with strong brands. “BBC Worldwide has been a real pleasure to work with and the new range of Top Gear products will be very big. In fact many of the major retailers are already asking for exclusives.”
North concludes: “We’ve been very fortunate to have got the attention of a number of top licensors such as BBC Worldwide and others who cannot yet be named due to embargoed pre-launch dates.”