A bright future for Anglepoise

Its angular shape is one of Britain’s most famous designs. For 80 years, it has adorned the desks of writers, designers and students. But now Anglepoise (photograph ©Portsmouth News) aims to spread its light brighter and wider around the world.

“We want to become a globally significant player in the world of decorative lighting,” says Richard Sellwood, the chief executive of the Portsmouth-based company. He has a five-year plan to grow the business by 500 per cent – and he is currently on target.

His plan for growth is based on three pillars: increased sales of existing products, new product development, and collaborations with other brands.

Expanding into new markets

Increased product sales will come from opening up new geographical markets and new sectors as well as embracing e-commerce, he explains.

Currently Anglepoise is in 35 countries and its exports account for 40 per cent of revenues. In four years time that will be 80 per cent, he reckons. Currently, Anglepoise’s biggest markets are France and Japan but Sellwood thinks that the USA may soon surpass them.

“We don’t currently sell into the big emerging economies but China will be interesting when we are the right size to do so. China is an amazing opportunity,” he says.

Anglepoise is targeting the so-called A&D market – architecture and design – as an important new sector. “At present, architects and designers are aware of us but have not thought of us as a solution for decorative lighting. We’re going to change that. We are beginning to win these contracts.” So expect to see more Anglepoise lamps in hotels, restaurants and airports.

Anglepoise is developing new market sectors as well as geographies, such as the hotel and restaurant trade

Anglepoise is developing new market sectors as well as geographies, such as the hotel and restaurant trade. Photograph by Jill Tate.

This means extending the range and number of Anglepoise distributors. And that in turn requires considerable investment in trade shows and exhibitions.

“Trade shows are one of our main routes to market,” says Sellwood.

Here, Anglepoise is in constant contact with UKTI for its trade show support.

“UKTI has been of fundamental help to us, both with support for our trade shows but also with their market information services,” he says.

In the past few years, the company has added 11 new distributors and has just opened an office in New York.

The e-commerce channel – both through marketplaces such as Amazon and Vente Privee and direct sales on the company’s own website – are growing rapidly. “It is incredibly important that we connect with our end consumer,” says Sellwood. “We have to engage with a younger audience so we are investing in digital talent to build up our social media presence.”

Creating and protecting new products

The second pillar of the Anglepoise growth strategy is to introduce more new products more rapidly. In the last 2 years, the company has doubled the number of its products and has added new members of staff to its design team to create variations of its distinctive, trademarked shape.

“We have spent a lot of money and time registering and protecting the registered design, and reinforcing that Anglepoise is a trademark not a generic name,” says Sellwood.

Under the guidance of Britain’s leading industrial designer Sir Kenneth Grange, there are mini-Anglepoise lamps. There are giant ones. There’s Anglepoise wall lighting and pendant lights. Versions have been modernised; classic models have been brought back. And more new products are set to appear, as Anglepoise has just registered its first patent for a new balancing system in 80 years.

The Anglepoise lamp has been recognised as a classic piece of British design

The Anglepoise lamp has been recognised as a classic piece of British design. Image courtesy of Royal Mail

The three-spring engine – the basis of the Anglepoise design – has remained fundamentally unchanged for decades. It is a work of design and engineering genius.

But, Sellwood cautions, “we don’t want to just be a historic British brand. We want to be an innovative, forward-looking company that produces modern products.”

Anglepoise works with local universities such as Bournemouth, Portsmouth, and Southampton as well as with other European universities such as Delft.

With innovation and design being at the heart of the company, says Sellwood, R&D tax credits have been of “incredible support.” What they have meant is that the company has been able to reinvest more money back into R&D, which in turn makes it more competitive.

“The more R&D we do, the more we can claim, so it is like a discount on our design time – which is probably the most important thing that we invest in. So the process is self-fulfilling.”

And, he adds, the benefits of the R&D tax credit motivate the Anglepoise team: “it concentrates people’s minds on what that money is there for.”

Developing partnerships

The third pillar of growth lies in collaborations and partnerships.

“We have to underpin our entry into new markets by collaborating with existing global brands. It’s a great way to present our brand in new territories,” explains Sellwood.

One notable example is the collaboration with Sir Paul Smith. The Paul Smith Anglepoise didn’t just generate a wave of press coverage – it enabled the company to sign up more than 30 premium department stores around the world.

Building a sound platform for growth

Growth ambitions of this scale are only realised by having a sound platform. At present, Anglepoise sells about 65,000 products each year.

As sales and the breadth of product range expand, all the details have to be got right: the efficiency of the warehouse, the tightness of the IP agreements, the integration of systems, the smoothness of the supply chain. Here, Sellwood is a big fan of the Manufacturing Advisory Service (now part of the Business Growth Service).

“We want to be world-class in our operations and we have had quite a few projects part-funded by MAS,” concludes Sellwood.

“It’s amazing; you can get help with anything that is going to help your business to grow. And when you are getting the foundations ready for stellar growth you need all the support you can get.”

The Business Growth Service is now closed to new customers. Contractual commitments to existing customers will be honoured, as long as all support and related activity is completed by 31 March 2016. If you’re looking to find what business support is available in your area, your local Growth Hub may be able to help.