Many happy returns

Boomerang breakthrough from the company that juggled its way to success

A BRITISH company is about to despatch 300 boomerangs to Australia, and doesn't expect any of them to come back.

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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there