Many happy returns
Boomerang breakthrough from the company that juggled its way to success
Sunday 11 June 1995
As a marketing triumph, it is on a par with selling English wine to the French or cowboy hats to Texas. While the market for its juggling equipment may have peaked, the company, More Balls Than Most, is proving that it still has plenty of bounce. And cheek.
The deal was struck at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. Myriam Duetz, men's gift buyer for David Jones, the Australian department store, was touring a trade show there when she called in at the More Balls stand. Step forward Sally Marlow, international sales manager. "I'd love to sell you this," she beamed, and whipped out a polished piece of curved birch, measuring 15 inches from tip to tip, and lovingly crafted in the outback of Northampton.
Ms Duetz was impressed, particularly by the packaging. Each box is decorated with surreal Monty Python-style graphics. It contains not only the boomerang but also a little tin of wax polish and a booklet that makes it plain this is a Pom product.
"I think the Aussies love that in-your-face cheekiness," says Ms Marlow. "It's really an executive toy for the man who has everything. It should go well on Australian Fathers' Day."
Like many multiples, David Jones is already selling the juggling kit that More Balls Than Most helped turn into a craze in in 1990.
Charlie Fairbairn was a computer consultant in the City during the 1980s. He spotted a gap in the market after being taught to juggle one night. When he wanted to buy the equipment, he had to go to Amsterdam. He returned with a suitcase full of balls, set up a stall in Covent Garden and sold the lot in a day.
With his partner, Adam Gardner, he set up in business in Bermondsey, south London, behind the London Wool, Leather and Hide Exchange (and bought a pub there, now renamed the Jugglers Arms) sub-contracting the manufacture of balls and clubs. The firm has since sold 200,000 kits, not just in Britain but also in America, Germany, France and Scandanavia.
But crazes do not last. Non-juggling products now account for 40 per cent of its business in Britain. The boomerang is one manifestation. Balloon kits are another. Each comes with careful instructions on how to build your own blow-up Harley Davidson motorbike, Viking helmet or dinner party, complete with lobster thermidor.
"We're about introducing old ideas in a new way for adults," said Mr Fairbairn. "We appeal to the child in everyone." Regular brain-storming sessions are held in the Jugglers Arms. Ideas are "thrown around", but the company is deadly serious about the ones it adopts. Designers are involved, prototypes developed, market research assiduously carried out. "The most important thing," said Mr Fairbairn, "is to understand the psyche of the person you're selling to."
- 1 I was raped by another man. And now the Government wants to take away the one thing that saved my life
- 2 Preston fan who appeared to snatch Jermaine Beckford's shirt from eight-year-old boy identified and says: 'the truth will come out'
- 3 Priest warns pupils the 'Charlie Charlie Challenge' is 'demonic activity'
- 4 Iran launches anti-Isis cartoon competition 'to expose true nature of Islamic State'
- 5 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
Priest warns pupils the 'Charlie Charlie Challenge' is 'demonic activity'
Iran launches anti-Isis cartoon competition 'to expose true nature of Islamic State'
US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
University league tables: Best universities for teaching standards rank Oxford, Cambridge and Coventry among top 20
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...
£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...
£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...