Blackpool Rock

Having survived the political storms of the seventies and the disappearance of UK manufacturing, industry stalwart Casdon forges ahead, growing its international presence with FOB lines in the US, Australia, Japan, Korea and Russia. Helen Jacobs hits the North to find out more...
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Ah, Blackpool. The Riviera of the North. Famous for its 112 year-old Tower, the Illuminations and the Pepsi Max Big One.

And, it is home to Casdon, a time served-English firm born out of the labour of one craftsman, Tom Cassidy MBE, some 62 years ago.

Upon arrival in the seaside haven, although no oceanic view could be seen from the tiny train stop, it wasn’t hard to miss the firm’s whereabouts with Casdon boldly painted in red across the aluminium roof of its large premises.

But inside a slightly different scene has been painted, following the firm’s decision to take its manufacturing to the Far East about eight years ago.

“In the 50s and 60s if you had the ability to manufacture and tool you were kings. The same was true in the 70s and 80s, but inflation had started to impact prices in the UK.

"Manufacturers survived by being prepared to ride the business cycles and constrict the size of the workforce. This is what Casdon had to do on several occasions,” Paul Cassidy, chairman and MD, recalls.

“China only really started to bite into our regular range in the mid 80s but we had embraced the nation’s appetite for home snooker tables, which kept the workforce and production department very active.

“Even though we had the equipment to manufacture and to design and make the tooling, it was clear to us that the importance of the engineer was being gradually superseded by the marketeer,” Cassidy explains.

“The process of moving to China lasted about three years, which saw us gradually make 200 people redundant. The first to go were the 12 toolmakers, followed by the middle management. There were mixed feelings; some were queuing for their cheque – they had never seen so much money. It cost us half a million pounds.”

The 70,000 square foot distribution warehouse has since become redundant; moulding machines have been sent to Nigeria; and premises previously used for production are now used as warehouse space.

Wandering through the area, Cassidy gets nostalgic as he points out some of the dusty, aged moulds that were used to make the iconic Super Cash tills and Jumbo Phone, originally launched in ‘63, among others. “The period between ‘63 and ‘71 was the landmark in the company’s history, we started manufacturing domestic appliances and cash registers. It is the niche we still have,” he says.

“In the early years my father and his brother didn’t have the capital to buy new machinery, so they designed and constructed their own compression moulding machines with the ‘Cassidy’ name cast into them. We still have them and I can’t throw them away.”

Casdon has been adaptable while maintaining its strong focus on the role-play market and domestic appliances in particular such as the Dyson, Henry and Hetti. And it continues to design its products in-house, using video conferencing to communicate with its manufacturing facilities in China.

“If you look through our product range today, you see iconic shapes. We avoid developing generic products now unless it is patented or licence protected otherwise it will be copied and sadly brought into the UK market.

“Whichever market the real Dyson enters, Casdon follows. Conversely, wherever we sell the toy Henry, the sales of the real one increase.”

Interim results for the six months ending October 31st, 2007, showed an 8.5 per cent increase in turnover to £1.95 million, generating a profit before tax of £134,751.

“It’s all to do with marketing these days. The engineer in the UK has been left behind and the marketeer has come to the forefront. We have this domestic appliance niche, for which there will always be a market,” Cassidy says.

“Role-play is essential to Casdon. Kids always want to copy Mum and Dad, so it is a matter of us keeping up to date. As Dad always said, we are lucky to have the niche that we do but we need to spend more on marketing,” adds Cassidy’s eldest son and joint managing director­, Phillip.

“With the challenging conditions of the High Street, our growth over the last two years has come from our FOB business in the USA, Japan, Russia, Australia and Korea. For us to achieve long-term organic growth, we have to invest in marketing to other countries,” Paul Cassidy adds.

So it seems for Casdon that the future is dependent on locations further afield than Blackpool.

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