It’s a market that’s traditionally found behind blanked out shop fronts in the seedier parts of Soho but one company has re-imagined the image of suppliers of adult goods and lingerie and is confident that its ‘by women for women’ approach will be a sure-fire winner for those looking to spice up their love lives.
London-based Pink-tiger is run by Juliette Pritchard and a small team of staff. The whole ethos of the company is to bring such transactions into the mainstream. Juliette’s husband, and Pink-tiger’s spokesman, Roy Pritchard, takes up the story. “There is a lot of competition out there, “he admits, “and it’s quite a small market, and therefore quite a competitive market. However, it interests us more than selling, say carpets, or general retail because it gives us the chance to build a brand name,” he says.
So why go into such commercial fist-fight in the first place? Roy continued: “We’ve always both worked in niche markets, and this was a ‘niche-y’ sort of thing to go for. The thing with Juliette is that whenever she does something she always tries to be the very best at it. The industry has always had a bit of a bad name. To be fair, it’s gotten better but as recently as 10 years ago, it would have been considered an incredibly seedy business to be in. What Juliette was looking to do was to have re-look at the model and see whether we could do things in a very discrete and classy way.”
One of the things we’ve come across in retail is that you’ve got to watch your wholesaler very carefully...
And that would appear to be the USP for Pink-tiger. Once seen as a “specialist purchase” its products may now be bought online and with no issues of embarrassment. Of course, because of the nature of their products, Roy and Juliette were faced with added challenges than if they were selling, say books or furniture. “Advertising, for sure,” explains Roy. “We’re new to retailing and especially to online retailing. It’s not just a question of just building a website and then sitting back and waiting for the money to roll in. It’s not as simple as that. The hardest thing for us to do from day one was to get traffic on to the website.
“We’re still working on that but we were determined from the outset that the site would constantly evolve and would constantly need work on it. Of course we’re using various online advertising techniques, search engine optimisation, Google Adwords, etc.”
While most Pink-tiger products are manufactured in the Far East, its wholesalers are based in the UK, and this has also proved problematic for Juliette and the Pink-tiger team. “One of the things we’ve come across in retail,” says Roy, “is that you’ve got to watch your wholesaler very carefully. Some of them just don’t care what they send you and that ultimately impacts on the customer experience. So my best piece of advice is to watch your quality control very carefully. Basically, make sure your clients are getting what they pay for.”
Lastly, Roy feels that a major challenge for Pink-tiger has been to find the correct people to build their website. The Pink-tiger website was custom built. “The prices vary considerably,” says Roy. “The first one we got a quote for – I nearly collapsed when they told me the price! “The one we ended up with wasn’t that expensive but I think they’ve done quite a good job of it,” he says. “They followed the brief and followed what Juliette wanted to do, etc.”
After the struggle they’ve faced, Roy and Juliette have some wry words of advice to anyone starting up a new business in the current economic climate. “I’ve been self employed for a number of years,” says Roy. “Everybody’s looking for that magical product. Everybody’s there to make as much money as possible with as little risk as possible. The best product that an entrepreneur could find is something that is free to the public - something like a mobile phone – but that isn’t reliant on a member of the public paying an invoice for it; ie, it comes from the distributor. We’ve seen both sides of it, the retail side of things, the service side of business where invoices don’t get paid. You’ve done an awful lot of work and you get ‘bumped’ - it’s very frustrating.”
According to Roy, you’ve got to pay attention to the basics to succeed. If you create a business with whistles and bells in the middle of a recession, he advises, you’re going to fail, “I believe very much in the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) ethos. I’m also a big believer that you can only get out what you put in anyway.”
On the subject of finances, Roy is particularly emphatic. “You’ve got to watch money. You’ve got to know what your break-even point is and keep a handle on figures. There are many businesses of whom if you asked “What’s you break-even point, they wouldn’t know what you were talking about.
You’ve got to watch money. You’ve got to know what your break-even point is and keep a handle on figures.
“You’ve got to be able to control all of it because if you don’t you’ll be in trouble and that problem will just snowball until it gets too big and you end up working for a month and getting no money for it. And that happens to people because they didn’t keep their eye on the figures properly. Any business model in any industry needs to have some potential for re-investment. If you just keep milking the cow dry every day, eventually the cow’s going to fall over and die.”
All that being said, does he enjoy his role at the company? “The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that you get the rewards for your hard work. It’s all yours. On the flip side, you have to put in the work. Since we’ve become self-employed, we’ve probably had to work harder than ever before. Other than that, there are very few negatives. You’re not answerable to anybody.”
And over the coming years, the Pink brand is to be expanded. “We already have Pink Zebra,” Roy explains, “which is the lingerie side of the business. What we really intend to do is create a multiple faceted business. Now it’s time to start looking at more brand extension for the Pink name.”
And with the drive and ingenuity shown so far, who knows where that could go?