Among the family business’s successes ‑ collectable categories that range from lacquerware and clocks to trays and placemats, it’s the photo frames backed by a smart service that is the standout, say owners David and Sarah whose business bears their name. Representing lasting memories, the frames are keepsakes and popular as special occasion gifts with some now classed as modern vintage collectables, they explain.
“This category represents 70 percent of our trade and that’s down to the variety, something for every taste. We’ve really captured the colour market, our enamel frames come in more than 25 shades and we also have decorative designs from marquetry to scallop edge.
“Customers can buy directly, load thousands of images to our website, then drop them into any frame ‑ single, double or multi-aperture collage. Then they can edit, zoom, pan around or change colour as desired.
“Our latest software includes our growing range of wall hanging frames and the technology allows the creation of multi-app collages printed on to acrylic. We can print, fit and send back in the frame beautifully packaged. It’s a game-changer for them and us.”
The fitting service is free and comes with a personally worded card, gift box and delivery that’s next day in the UK and 48 hours to the US.
“The free element and the customisation have proved irresistible, it’s our unique selling point,” adds David, who ran a picture framing business from a warehouse HQ in Northumberland, prior to starting today’s company, supplying affordable luxury frames in the 1990s with wife Sarah, a designer.
Major stores such as Selfridges and Liberty of London came on board and stayed and the company now supplies some 500 retailers.
Still based on its original site the company, which manufactures in the Far East, continues to expand its warehouse space with the aim of doubling capacity so it will always be ‘in stock’.
Following investment in digital, funded from profits, and the development of its direct-to-consumer operation in 2018, productivity has more than doubled too.
“We saw the strength of our digital integration when lockdown hit, overall sales increased 50 percent,” says Sarah.
A further 60 percent is expected this year and turnover to reach £7million in 2023 as the tablescaping trend fuelled by Insta opportunities also hots up.
“We know there is demand for this and our placemats are doing exceptionally well as more customers host dinner parties. The British public’s obsession with design and interiors never falters,” says David.
Orders come from as far afield as Hawaii and Kazakhstan and the company’s all-inclusive policy covering shipping and duty charges in the US has played well in comparison to domestic suppliers who always add on freight as an extra cost.
“This has provided our US customers with a very pleasant experience and has quickly built confidence. US orders now account for 40 percent of overall company sales,” says David.
“Trading there did present challenges at first navigating the processes and state tax laws as well as learning how not to incur huge costs when it comes to couriers. But our decision to keep everything simple has paid off.”
Further evidence of the brand’s status there also came recently when David and Sarah spotted an Addison Ross photo frame gracing a mega bucks interior in Sky’s searing hit comedy Succession.
Locally, in Northumberland, success has increased the team to 12 and employment for 35 indirectly with more recruitment planned for next year.
And when storm Arwen recently cut off power for four days, staff rose to the challenge.
“Our son Harry and the team were magnificent,” says Sarah. “They went in with torches to ensure the packing of thousands of orders never stopped. That’s why our customer service is second to none.”
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