Founded in 1919, games and puzzles specialist Gibsons has weathered nearly 100 years to become a mainstay of the UK toy industry. Now, having handed the baton down to its fourth generation, the family run business has some big plans for 2017. Jack Ridsdale talks to the team about what the New Year has in store.
Gibsons has enjoyed a rich history, what is the secret to the company’s longevity?
Kate Gibson, managing director: It is definitely all down to the product. Since Gibsons was founded in 1919, we have ensured that our products are high quality, innovative and lots of fun.
This is our livelihood, we are not a faceless corporation but a family. You certainly find you put more care into your work when it is part of your heritage.
Michael Gibson, chairman: Yes, I agree. We have always stuck with what we know, whether that is games, cards or jigsaw puzzles. We made the decision early on to stay away from electronics because we didn’t want to get involved in an area we didn’t fully understand. I think it is very important to concentrate on your own goals, rather than worry about what other people are doing.
The company has been handed down to its fourth generation, how do you expect this to affect the business going forward?
KG: Fingers crossed no change in our profitability.
MG: We will continue to grow while concentrating on what we understand and are confident with. I am sure there will also be a little more innovation.
Nick Gumbrell, sales director: I think we have an ‘onwards and upwards’ outlook. We are lucky that the company has been built on solid foundations, especially with Michael having been at the helm for 50 years.
What upcoming products are you most excited about?
MG: Personally, I am excited by the resurgence of board games over the last few years. We have seen a huge uptake in our classic board game sales for products such as Wembley and 221b Baker Street. 2017 will see new classic games from our back catalogue that we can’t wait to share with you all.
NG: We look after all new product development in house, so we are like proud parents when it comes to the new stuff. Mind the Gap is a favourite of mine and was inspired by a game idea my father came up with when he was a director at Gibsons in the ‘80s. It’s a quick play card game that takes players aboard the London Underground.
KG: I have been working on our Iconic Brands Collection, which is a range of branded jigsaw puzzles presented in iconic, quirky tins. We have Marmite, Pringles, Vintage Kellogg’s, Mr Men and Love Hearts, with more in the pipeline.
Can you sum up how 2016 was for Gibsons?
NG: Lots of hard work but very rewarding. Gibsons has expanded a lot over the last 12 months with new routes to market, new customers and lovely new product.
KG: It was a year of change for me and I am looking forward to moving to the next phase of Gibsons’ development.
Our gift collection has grown a great deal and we now offer over 40 gift products, which means we have been able to open our doors to a whole new market and brand new customers.
What are you guys looking forward to this year?
KG: I am excited to be picking up the reins and driving Gibsons forward for the first time. There will be a lot of changes in 2017 from brand new products to growing our team. The move in our customer base means that we need to ensure we keep up with demand and continue to produce excellent product.
NG: 2017 will be very exciting for Gibsons. Despite the tough market and pressures to keep prices as low as possible, we’ve always stayed ahead of the game and I am looking forward to continuing our legacy as the UK’s leading jigsaw puzzle manufacturer.
What are your sales expectations for 2017, what growth are you predicting?
NG: There’s no denying that everyone will be affected by the post-Brexit exchange rate drop. However, we hope to take advantage of the dip in the GBP by growing our export business. We have been pursuing overseas business for a little while now and I have very high expectations for next year.
KG: We have had excellent sales in 2016, so I am hoping they will be even better in 2017. We are focusing our efforts on expanding our gift category while holding on to our mainstream core business: jigsaw puzzles and games.
MG: I have high hopes for 2017. We have a large and varied product offering and wonderful and loyal customers; a winning combination.