The finer things

Posted on 25 Feb 2009 by The Manufacturer

Attention to detail has taken Presentation Products far, securing several blue chip customers along the way. Louise Hoffman speaks with production manager Rory Banks

Presentation Products began life in 1964 as a box maker, and indeed this continues to be one of its main competencies, as production manager Rory Banks explained: “As a box maker we specialise in rigid boxes, mainly for the whisky industry. We’ve probably dealt with every single distiller in Scotland over the past 40-odd years!”

In its box-making capacity, the firm accommodates both small run and bulk batches for small and large companies respectively. At the top end, Presentation Products is supplying such big players as Diageo and Edrington, producing boxes for Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Macallan Brand and many more.

“That side of the business is really ongoing,” said Banks, “and it is one area that we are seeing an increase in demand because the global market for whisky seems to be quite insatiable at the moment, especially for the sort of things we do – very bespoke and high end. And it’s all for export – the type of thing you see in duty free at airports.”

The other side of Presentation Products’ business is equally, and impressively, high end. “Here we are dedicated to fulfilling retail contracts – particularly concentrating on gifts. Our main customer is Marks & Spencer, but in the past we have done gift ranges for John Lewis, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason – these kinds of blue chip companies,” Banks explicated.

Indeed, the firm lays claim to be the mastermind behind the so-called ‘composite gift’, which began to spring up on department store shelves 18 years ago. You know, the attractively boxed combinations of alcohol and chocolate or selection of condiments that have become the answer to all our Christmas shopping nightmare prayers? “It seems like an obvious thing to do because there is so much of it out there on the high street now, but at the time it was a first, and we have developed it from quite a small thing into something really rather large,” Banks added.

“Everything we do for Marks & Spencer is completely bespoke,” he continued. “We’ve got a team of product developers here who come up with the ideas. It’s all done from scratch, especially in conjunction with our sister company called Farfalla, which is based in Hong Kong and acts both as a trading company and deals with gift development. They have a really large QC team and they’ve got account managers there who work very closely with our product developers to come up with ideas.

“The way we work with M&S is we provide a one stop shop. We come up with a product range, develop that with them, and we then procure all the various items, bring those across to our site in Arbroath where we have a packing operation in house as well – there’s no subcontracting – so we have a good level of control.

“The attention to detail is incredible. Every single gift has to look exactly the same so it looks the same on the shelf. There are very high QC standards because it is a gift and someone is buying that to give to someone else,” he pointed out.

Three years ago, with the rapidly growing Marks & Spencer contract, Presentation Products found itself increasingly pushed for space at its central Arbroath factory. Little development of the listed buildings could be made, and the residential estate location with its narrow roads meant lorry access was restricted, and vehicle queuing impossible. “So we moved to an empty factory on the outskirts of Arbroath, just beside the dual carriageway that gets us onto the road to Dundee,” began Banks. “It was an old canning factory and was basically just a big empty space, so it was like a blank canvas – we could put our machinery into a more logical location to help the flow of things through the factory. We also extended the warehousing facility so we now have enough room for over 4,000 pallets in there.

“The move has helped massively. There is a lot of product that goes through here from the end of August to maybe the first week in December – quite a short space of time – and you can run the risk of having bottlenecks if you don’t have the space at either end.”

And the expansion continues. Only recently, Presentation Products opened a southern office in Hemel Hempstead to help grow the stationery business. “Our sister company Farfalla supplies stationery all over the world, particularly licensed stationery, and this is another area we want to grow; back-to-school product, rulers, exercise books, that type of thing,” said Banks.

“We’re trying to target more of the high street for gifting as well. It’s all doom and gloom in the papers at the moment, and we’ve obviously got to see what happens this Christmas, but I still think there is a market for gifts, particularly within the UK – people are always going to be looking for things for Christmas.

“Every year seems to bring new challenges, but we feel we’re well equipped to face them head on,” he concluded. And with quality and service on its side, Presentation Products certainly is a force to be reckoned with.