Fancy that! Manufacturer goes global

A fancy dress costume manufacturer, which has generated a £4m annual turnover and created 25 new jobs since launching in the depths of the banking crisis, has appointed overseas trade specialist Chamber International to help it go global.

Fun Shack (UK) Ltd, which is already selling costumes in the EU, Australia and New Zealand, believes its design team in Leeds can create costumes to fit any occasion and culture from Massachusetts to Mumbai.

The company, which is continuing Leeds’ clothing heritage, is based in one of the textile industry’s most famous buildings, a red brick factory in Shafton Lane, Holbeck, former base of the world’s biggest cloth cap manufacturer, JW Myers, which closed in 2000 after 111 years of exporting the Andy Capp look worldwide and relocated manufacture to Panyu, China.

Fun Shack (UK) Ltd is among businesses wanting to step up exports as part of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership’s We are International initiative which aims to bring an additional £1.6bn into the economy of the ten local authority areas and create thousands of new jobs.

The company was founded in 2008 and its directors Jeffrey Fearnley, Geoff Key and Harvey Felstone believe that it can become an international business by understanding what makes people from different nationalities, faiths, cultures and ages dress up to have fun.

The company, which supplies joke, toy and fancy dress shops and online retailers, has built up its business in the UK with scores of different costume designs, from Cute Cowgirls, Clowns and Cabin Crew to Tudor Boys, fighter pilots and Victorian Factory Owners and started exporting in 2012.

Jeffrey Fearnley says: “We launched Fun Shack after spotting a gap in the market. Fancy dress costumes are either good quality and expensive or cheap and poor value. Ours are high quality, yet our customers can retail them at very competitive prices.

“So far overseas sales represent eight per cent of turnover but we want to do more. Our research and design centre allows us to understand local markets and create outfits specifically for local cultures which, although they may differ, have a common factor of appreciating quality and value.

“We face similar challenges to the fashion industry. We need to anticipate what is going to be popular a year or so ahead and avoid sensitivities in different cultures. Chamber International is hugely experienced and we have initially sought help in locating potential trading partners, compliance issues and for market reports for various countries including the USA and Germany.”

Fun Shack (UK) Ltd, which is also exhibiting at Nurenburg Toy Fair 2016, says all of its outfits comply with European Directives and it works closely with West Yorkshire Trading Standards for product safety, including flammability testing.

Chamber International senior export adviser, David Attia, a former international sales director with Jacuzzi, Bradford, says: “Fun Shack (UK) Ltd makes fantastic costumes and they certainly have significant potential. It is still early days but we’re looking forward to helping the company take its brand of fun overseas.”

Chamber International, which also runs the We are International Export Network as part of Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership’s We are International campaign, helps hundreds of new and experienced exporters with a wide range of specialist services to make exporting easier and more cost effective each year and is exclusively partnered with London headquartered global testing organization, Intertek, to assist with a wide range of issues including product conformity.

IT’S A FUN THING!  Pictured (L to R) at Fun Shack (UK) Ltd’s Leeds base are: Chamber International senior export adviser, David Attia, who is working with the company to help it boost exports; Fun Shack (UK ) Ltd employee, Jonathan Pearson in hippy outfit and Fun Shack (UK) Ltd director, Jeffrey Fearnley.