Interview with Jeremy Corner, MD of Blue Eyed Sun and Distributor of BambooCup
MR: What makes your products unique?
JC: Retailers use our gorgeous design-led products to stand out from the crowd. They are ideal for those wanting to stock something different and a bit special.
As distributors, our environmentally friendly BambooCup by chic.mic products are the market leaders in their category. Not only do retailers keep telling us this, but we also have a patented bamboo fibre lid, over 50 gorgeous on-trend designs and the safest bamboo cup available.
In a recent safety test by Stiftung Warentest, out of 12 bamboo cup brands, our BambooCup was found to be the safest. In their words:
“BambooCup by chic.mic is the only bamboo cup which has no pollutant problem and does not raise false hopes. If you want a bamboo cup, this is the best choice.”
It is essential that retailers position themselves well in their local areas as leaders in quality and safety over price. We help them achieve this.
Blue Eyed Sun is also one of the leading handmade card publishers in the UK and has over 800 designs for retailers to choose from on their trade only website, at the main trade shows and via a network of friendly sales agents. Our products have been nominated for over ten Henries greeting cards awards and are stocked in the very best retail outlets around the world.
Quality will always triumph over price and we have always ensured that every product we sell is well made and sits at the top end of the market.
MR: How do you stand out as a brand?
JC: Blue Eyed Sun has been selling to retailers for twenty years and our fans will tell you we are a friendly and reliable company to work with.
The designers and brands we partner with as publishers and distributors benefit massively from our effective marketing and PR campaigns, which are second to none in the industry. We are positioned at the heart of the community and are long-standing contributors of value to both retailers and our fellow suppliers (having mentored hundreds of startups through the Ladder Club since 2004).
We have had the privilege of working with the very best independent retailers in the UK, as well as top multiples like John Lewis, Paperchase, Fenwicks, House of Fraser and many more. In 2016 we had the honour of meeting the Queen when the company won the Queen’s Award for International Trade for our stellar export growth and for representing the UK with our products in over 20 countries. We are also regularly asked to speak at industry events.
MR: How would you sum up your target customer?
JC: We are currently experiencing a seismic shift in retail that isn’t just limited to the rise of internet giants like Amazon and Instagram. The emergence of Conscious Consumerism and more of us mindfully choosing what to buy and who to buy it from is changing shopping habits in profound ways. We are very much focussed on this new consumer. We believe that, in the future, they will ultimately drive the majority of purchasing choices in retail.
MR: Why should Retailers stock your items?
JC: Never before has it been so important to work with the right suppliers who can be trusted to maintain the safety, integrity and quality of their products and their brands. It’s not just what you are stocking, it’s how well your supplier understands the product and can support you as a retailer to make the most of the opportunities in your local market. Our focus is on making our retailers’ customers happy with beautiful designs, ethically sourced and well-made products that sell – as well as providing marketing and point of sale support where needed.
MR: What do you do differently to your competitors?
JC: We are obsessed with understanding what’s working for our retailers and what isn’t. It’s not just about making individual sales for us. We want long term relationships with our customers that are built on trust, friendship and integrity. The kind which grows loyalty and goodwill, where retailers know they can share with us what they need and we will deliver for them.
We’ve always had good focus on the quality of the products we produce. We are not the cheapest out there and there’s a reason for that. You get what you pay for. We’d rather stand for quality over price any day of the week. This makes good business sense to us and it’s good for the environment too as it minimises wastage.
MR: What challenges do you face as a business, and how do you aim to overcome them?
JC: When you are growing fast like we have been doing, the classic issues are with cash flow, stock control and maximising sales during an upward curve. We’ve raised stock levels to cope with the high demand and refinanced to help with the cash flow.
We’re very fortunate to have had some very successful years and have always reinvested in the business, which means our balance sheet is strong and we have lots of options available to us in order to maximise opportunities.
It’s a very special time in the marketplace for eco-friendly products. It’s exciting to be part of this change for good in the world and to help our retailers boost sales with products people love to buy, actively use and talk about.
MR: How do you use technology to improve your offering?
JC: We love technology. Especially good old fashioned pen and paper. There is still nothing to beat hand-writing a card to someone you care about and the feeling of receiving one that someone has taken the trouble to buy, write and send.
Because consumers love to talk about brands and share them with their friends, we’re also big fans of social media and have been using Instagram to grow the BambooCup brand through @BambooCupUK. All of the different platforms are so useful for keeping in touch with consumers to help us understand what works and doesn’t work about our products. Plus they let us know what new things they’d like to see next.
We also love our Sage accounting software and marketing tools like MailChimp which allow us to make sure our trade customers have everything they need and are kept up to date with all of our latest products and special offers.
Last, but not least, we have a digital printing press in-house, which we use to print small bespoke runs for certain key accounts and special customers like our Estonian distributors who like to have some of our cards printed in their native language. It’s also very handy for test marketing new ideas we have for card ranges.
MR: What do you love about your work?
JC: We love creating and discovering new products that help our many independent retailers to stand out from the crowd and offer their shoppers something special to buy for their friends and loved ones. We are lucky enough to work with such an incredible group of customers and we love helping them to make the most of their businesses. Every day we continue to learn, grow and evolve as times change and new fashions come and go. Retail is an exciting, dynamic world to supply and be a part of.
MR: What advantages/disadvantages does your location bring?
JC: We live in Brighton and it’s a blessing to enjoy seeing the ocean every day. Our workshops and warehouse are slightly inland in Burgess Hill. It’s a beautiful drive via country lanes to get to work. We’re very fortunate to have our own building, which means that we can keep a close eye on things to ensure good service and delivery for our customers. The downside of being based there is we are a long way from Harrogate and the NEC in Birmingham where we do many of our trade shows. Although, it’s not too bad getting to Olympia for the Top Drawer shows we attend. It’s also easy enough to get to the Business Design Centre for PG Live.
MR: What are your growth aims for the next 12 months?
JC: We have some amazing new products coming through on both the greeting card and gifts side. Last year we doubled overall sales with our BambooCup distribution deal. This next twelve months will see new licensing partnerships, including our stunning new collection of design-led cards by Jade Mosinski, our cute Doodle Girl license and our humorous Zoom Rockman license amongst others in the pipeline.
In addition to our beautiful ranges of bamboo lunch boxes, bamboo SlideCup and bamboo baby bottles we are also launching water bottles at Autumn Fair this year. Last but not least, we have a market-changing range of products launching on the eco-gift side of the business, which we cannot wait to unveil at Spring Fair 2020.
The next twelve months promise to be very exciting, for both our retailers and their customers as well as for the Blue Eyed Sun team.
MR: What do you find most rewarding about your job?
JC: We love that our products make the world a little bit better than it was before. Our cards help friends and loved ones connect with one another. Our gifts are helping to reduce single-use waste and the people who use them inspire us to do better ourselves each day.
It’s the people that make our job most rewarding though. Our wonderful suppliers, our dedicated team, our hard-working agents, our loyal retailers and their passionate customers are a glorious chain of love and creative abundance.
Jeremy Corner will be speaking on Going Plastic Free: How realistic is that? at 13:30 on the Inspiring Retail Stage on Sunday 1st September in Hall 6 at Autumn Fair in the NEC, Birmingham. https://www.autumnfair.com/speakers
Website URL: www.blueeyedsun.co.uk
Social Media Links:
@BlueEyedSun on Instagram
@BambooCupUK on Instagram
@Blue_Eyed_Sun on Twitter
Number of outlets: 1,000+Location(s): UK & Ireland
Market(s): (eg. Homeware, fashion etc) Greetings Cards and Eco-Friendly Gifts including BambooCup