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How Casdon is meeting its export ambitions

Phil Cassidy shares how the business is achieving international growth.

Vicki Evans, Relationship Director – Commercial Mid Market, says: “We’re proud to work with a company such as Casdon, which has been established for 77 years. We understand the importance and challenges of international trade and make it our mission to support businesses to grow globally with ease. We’re delighted to support the end-to-end working capital requirements of Casdon as the business continues to innovate and expand in the roleplay toy sector.”

Read on for Phil’s tips on trade in the UK and internationally, building cash reserves, and continually innovating for a competitive edge.

Consider whether an early investment could benefit future security

My grandfather started the business in 1946, just after the war where he was an engineer. After the war ended, he used his engineering skills to create tools for traders and wholesalers to then sell on Blackpool Promenade. He bought the land we’re on today, then the buildings and factory. His brother joined the business, and it was called Cassidy Brothers for many years. The land investment stood us in good stead because we don’t have landlords to pay. We own the land, everything around us is our value. It's very helpful on our balance sheet.

Take opportunities when you see them to get ahead

In the 1970s and 1980s we started to make replica products like washing machines for children to play with, through licenses with brands like Electrolux and Hoover. The business grew from there as we got involved in more licenses and became a PLC trading on the London Stock Exchange. My dad also trained as a toolmaker, he did his apprenticeship in Germany, and came back to get involved in the business and eventually run it. Now myself and my brother Peter run the business and we have enjoyed 10 years of growth with just a couple of years of flat growth.

To be a future fit business you have to commit to innovation and new ideas.

Phil Cassidy
Managing Director, Casdon

Take time to focus on strategy to boost growth

To be a future fit business you have to commit to innovation and new ideas. I’ve been able to sit in a more strategic position since Covid, when I had the chance to sit back and think about things a little more clearly rather than be involved in the daily grind. We grew from a team of 17 to 38. We now have four amazing department heads in Sales and Marketing, Finance, Factory Management and Production. We also have a Head of Research and Development whose role it is to think about the future and create unique and new products to drive the business forward. By seeking more licenses we’re having different conversations with some big global players.

Diversifying internationally could mitigate risk

We were a very ‘British’ company when I started in 2008, with little export business. We were reliant on the UK and when one of our retail customers went out of business it negatively impacted our trade. We pushed for international growth after that and started getting in bigger markets with different retailers and distribution partners. That increased our turnover and it just kept growing. We now have three locations that retailers can pick up stock from: in the US, the Netherlands, and the UK.

Build cash reserves to manage supply chain risk

With 10 years of growth, we’ve built a good cash balance and have been able to navigate recent challenges. A trade loan facility has been one solution during the supply chain crisis, when the cost of shipping containers increased from £3,000 to £20,000 a container in 2021. That was an unprecedented increase in costs, but we had the cash to weather that storm. It was a 12–18-month issue and now we’re back down to more reasonable levels of £3,000 a container. But that was a massive hit, and some businesses will have struggled to absorb it. 

Consider ways of managing costs during headwinds

Because of inflation and everything that’s been going on in the world we’ve had to increase our prices for three years. We've had those conversations with our major retailers, explaining the situation, and they have been incredibly understanding. We’re also in a good position because we have a unique product line – miniaturised Dyson vacuum cleaners, miniaturised Morphy Richards kettles, the sorts of things they can’t get anywhere else. A strong product line and strong relationships have helped in challenging times and within a very competitive toys market.

Investing in tooling could be key

Because we have a strong balance sheet, we don’t seek access to finance. We do significantly invest in tooling for new products. We spend a lot of money on the tooling to produce and design the toys. To justify those investments, we analyse our data: how much could we sell, how much could it cost us? If we’re going to spend £200,000 - £300,000 on tooling, it’s important to understand whether and how quickly that will come back into the business and how commercial the toys are likely to be.

Family businesses contribute to economic growth

Casdon is a third-generation business, it's running through my veins, and it feels great to produce high quality, affordable toys. I’m proud of the team we’ve grown, we now have heads of department across three or four areas of the business. And I’m proud of our continual growth and creating wealth in the UK. We’re looking forward to seeking more licenses, to grow our presence in existing markets and expand further internationally. We think there are more opportunities for us in the US, in EMEA, particularly Europe, and APAC.

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