General manager Michael Sanderson discusses the firm's plans for Q4

Company profile: Exspect

You have some ambitious plans for Q4, what are they?

Exspect is now in year five of the Gem Distribution partnership, and we have seen consistent growth year on year.

Since the acquisition, we have built on our strong iPod and iPhone ranges, and Apple’s annual updates have helped us to enjoy the ride, developing new and unique ways of protecting, powering and enhancing the hardware.

The introduction of the iPad, the new iPhone 4, as well as the updates to the iPod family, will be keeping us busy for most of Q3, and we are expecting big things going into Q4.

The success of the Exspect brand in this sector has given us the ability to give something back to a few selected charities. Our range of accessories which provide money to the Breast Cancer Charity is something that we all feel strongly about, and we will be ramping up our range across all sectors of the Exspect portfolio for October’s Breast Cancer Month.

The Whatever It Takes license is also into its third year, and the ability to use the artwork and signature of some of the world’s biggest celebrities, combined with the feel-good factor that comes with helping third world poverty is proving to be a great success.

Meanwhile, the Joystick Junkies fashion brand is getting a great deal of interest from the trade, after launching at E3 in June. Exspect’s experience, passion for quality and design combined with Joysticks Junkies’ range of lifestyle design-led t-shirts has been the perfect combination for both parties.

Fashion is definitely finding its way into consumer electronics, and our products are being requested by fashion retail outlets too. Being able to use the talented designers at Joystick Junkies has given us the opportunity to not only utilise the great artwork available, but also pick their brains regarding the fashion aspects of the products we produce.

Has Exspect seen a lift in the last year or so?

I think it’s fair to say that no one is having a brilliant time of it in the current climate, but we are working our way around that by developing and producing unique products that set us apart from others.

We have invested a lot in our design departments to ensure that our development into new lines and categories are well thought through, well researched and well sourced. This ensures that we are developing consumer friendly products, at the right price that are unique and bespoke to the Exspect brand.

What have been the main drivers of success in the UK?

One of the challenges of growing a business rapidly is to manage its success internally, and we have worked hard to ensure we have the right foundations within to push forward in all areas of the business. We have spent a lot of time and resources on our Hong Kong office to ensure we are getting product through in a timely and efficient manner.

The growth of production has resulted in a dramatic increase to UK sales manager Danny Coe’s team, enabling us as a business to provide retail with a strong, rounded, knowledgeable and experienced sales team with passion and good understanding of the features and benefits that we bring to all of our products.

The boost in sales has also resulted in an increase within our marketing team, headed up by Karen Hughes. We are always challenging ourselves on updating packaging, sales literature and our new website, which was launched on July 1st.

What plans do you have for international growth in Q4?

International growth has been and continues to be one of our main focuses, and we are starting to see the fruits of our labour. We have consistently attended trade shows and built working relationships for the past three years, and with Tracey Brown (head of export) and Neil Meredith (international sales consultant) heading up this area, we are expecting big things in many new territories worldwide.

How will you be building on the relationship with Joystick Junkies?

Joystick Junkies is a great brand to be working with, in many ways. The JJ team has great knowledge and experience in the fashion trade, and is continually developing its ranges to fit in with the seasonal trends of colour, design and textures. This is great to feed back to all aspects of our business.

They have an international list of talented designers working on new gaming and fashion related artwork, which we will be using to evolve our range of laptop, iPod, iPhone, iPad accessories and headphones. This will ensure that we can offer limited edition products in all sectors.

Are you planning to expand into other product areas?

Exspect has built its reputation on high quality, well-produced products with an element of unique design. We add well-researched features to ensure the end result is an enjoyable one that not only protects, but enhances the hardware. We have taken these core values and added it to our extended range on MP3 and mobile phone devices, including MFI + WWI (Made for iPod, and Works with iPhone and iPad) FM transmitters and speakers.

We are also heavily developing our range of other mobile phone accessories including Blackberry, Nokia, Samsung and Dell. We have sharply expanded our video games range too, introducing new innovative technologies to our already successful range of accessories.

The licensing working relationship between ourselves and Sony is also going from strength to strength, and its support is enabling us to break through new boundaries in our design and manufacturing of new accessories for later in the year.

Where do you plan to be in five years’ time?

The plan or the company motto hasn’t really changed since the brand was started over seven years ago by myself and Neil Meredith and that is to develop stuff that adds value to consumer electronics and to have a passion and a belief in every product we develop, design and manufacture.

Five years ago the iPod was the number one product, and we had never heard of the Shuffle, the Nano, the Touch, the iPhone or the iPad. Five years ago we had never heard of the Wii, Sony PS3, Move or Xbox Kinect. We don’t know what impact the iPad will have on the laptop market, but what we do have is the commitment by Gem to grow the brand and to develop new and cool accessories for new technologies, and that’s the buzz about this business.

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