bird lovegod

on the blog

30th Aug, 2018

Eye Eye. A chat with Olympus Eyewear

Gary, how did you get into the business of designing and manufacturing eyewear? How did that happen?

My optical career started as a sales representative in the late 70s previously having been trained in the FMCG market by a leading confectionery company. My career in the optical industry developed into key accounts manager, general sales manager and finally sales director for a leading spectacle frame importer. I was encouraged by family and friends to embark on a self-employed role as a consultant in the industry. This role gave me experience with manufacturing companies in the early days in Italy, France and latterly in the Far East where much of the manufacturing for the world spectacle frame market is produced. I extensively covered China and spent many, many months during the years at the factories understanding the process to produce spectacle frames. This gave me the ability to design and generate product for specific optical collections. This experience was passed across to Ms Sue Fisher who today carries out this role in Olympus Eyewear Europe.

You say you were in the eyewear business for 30 years, is that right ?

Having started in the late 70s I am now in my 40th year of the optical business and have many connections worldwide in both manufacturing and retail.

And what changes have you seen over those three decades? Good bad and ugly?

Well I think I could write a book on the optical industry! This extends to the retail and wholesale distribution business and at the same time the change to the worldwide manufacturing locations. In the early days spectacle frames were driven by National Heath frames, the 524 (a standard acetate design) being the number one seller. People didn’t really wear frames for fashion, it was more a necessity than an accessory. The European manufacturers developed fashion frames and the market changed to that direction and is very buoyant even more so now with designer companies licencing their name to what has become a fashion accessory. During my early days in the industry there was a national health sight test which was free of charge until 1988. This affected retail sales for a period of at least 2 years. Today the general public would pay for a sight test. On the manufacturing side the biggest impact was the growth of the Chinese manufacturing base and today is still extremely strong. Regretfully many of the European facilities have either closed or downsized from volume to more bespoke technical products.

That was even before the internet, how did that impact the sector, in your experience?

For sure. The internet has had an impact all round both at retail and wholesale. It is unclear exactly what percentage of the market value has moved into this sector. But there are several major players in the online market spread across Europe. As a rule of thumb members of the public purchasing online glazed spectacle frames are cost-conscious and looking for value for money. Designer product is available in a limited way and many independent practitioners today price-match when possible. Fortunately the sale of spectacle frames is still a touch-and-feel sale – people want to try frames on and get feedback which isn’t always easy online.

What makes a great frame?

From my perspective quality of the product is first and foremost. From the materials used to the process of manufacture. When designing spectacle frames one must understand the DNA of the brand you are developing to bring to market. Non-branded product must offer value for money in terms of quality and be up to date with fashion trends.

In order to stand out from the crowd and have something different to offer to customers which we have with our Ultra Limited collection. This is a product very well made by artisans in Italy. Over a 41 day period, exclusive pieces of acetate plates are produced for each frame in order for the final manufacturing process to take place. The result being that each piece is totally unique and cannot be copied. This makes a great frame.

How has technology changed the eyewear sector since you started Olympus?

Technology has had a big influence in sight testing with a lot more equipment available to identify more accurate prescriptions and potential medical conditions. In terms of product new lens monomers have been developed to create higher index lenses and major lens companies are constantly creating more advanced lens designs in the progressive market. This is equally prevalent in the frame element available to the end user as different materials are now available for a more diverse product to accommodate thin and lightweight frames. Over the last ten years the hinge and temples have seen innovation such as screwless connections and more ergonomic shapes. The traditional method of producing a plastic spectacle frame has seen increased colour variations and laminations. With metal spectacle frames such materials as Stainless Steel and titanium are becoming more popular.

Over the last five years without doubt Social Media has played a big part in creating and maintaining brand awareness. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc. As a company we embrace this media and interact direct with the general public and customers. Online platforms allow eCommerce solutions and this is an area we actively take part in as a service to our customers having 2 sites, one for general public and one wholesale for the industry.

Can you see another 30 years into the future? Do you think eyewear will transform into some sort of ‘wearable tech?’

Using my imagination one can easily imagine refractive surgery becoming more popular. Bespoke eyewear designed by the individual made via 3D printing. Lenses with digital display similar in concept to a modern car dashboard display. The potential for your spectacle frame to incorporate a mini computer is not unrealistic.

Predictions? 😊

Currently the major multiples compete against each other for the volume sector of the business. The independent practitioner is still a very important part of the market and can offer equal products to the multiples but they have the added advantage that they can also offer more bespoke and unique product. Today we are seeing an increase in boutique type practices in the independent sector as members of the public are always on the lookout for something different to enhance their personality. Social Media is a big influencer in this area.

As always. Thank you Gary. See more here.


14th Aug, 2018

Fist Bump For Science?! Tell more.

I like cool names. Which means I love Fist Bump For Science, even before I realise just what a great concept it is. They take science kit into schools and colleges and get the kids using it. Inspirational, educational, Director Tom Warrender tells the rest.

Where did the name Fist Bump For Science come from?

Me and my daughter make little videos together at home with mini science experiments or info for teachers and she loves to get involved. We had recently seen the Disney film Big Hero 6 and the main two characters do a fist bump, so we started doing it too! We added the phrase fist bump for science as a ad lib when filming and it stuck!

17th Jul, 2018

Boxing Clever with Richard Britton of Hull Boxes and Packaging

Richard Britton of Hull Boxes and Packaging in dialogue with journalist and business consultant Bird Lovegod

Richard, it’s always interesting how people start out, how did you get into the packaging business… and why packaging? Am I right in thinking this was previously your fathers company?

Obviously growing up in the packaging industry, as my father had a company, I always found it interesting and I enjoyed working in his company during the school holidays during the early 1980s. When I was 17 I headed down to London and worked for a company called Ridley Quiney & Co Ltd. This is where I started my real education in the packaging industry; buying packaging products from around the world and selling to packaging companies within the UK and Irish markets. I learnt about all aspects of polythene, s/a tape, papers and many other commodity packaging materials. In the late 1989 I returned to Hull and took up a position in my father’s company where I set out to expand the industrial packaging base of the business.

What’s the trends in your sector at the moment, I imagine people are trying to move away from plastics, is that happening?

There is always new trends and ideas coming and going in the packaging industry. Our sector is quite lively at present and will remain so for the foreseeable future. We hear lots of negatives in the media about plastics but there will always be a need for plastics in the packaging industry, this wont change (just yet!). However there are certain sectors where corrugated can be used to replace polythene especially in the secondary packaging this is where the growth can be achieved well into the long term.

You’ve been running the company since 2013, what’s been happening in the last five years, what changes are you seeing? Is the sector growing?

In the past 5 years we have seen remarkable growth due to customer service and trust we will deliver on time as required. All our customers are treated on a one to one basis and know there orders are valued however big or small they may be. We have invested very heavily into the short run large format case market where there are far fewer manufactures and greater returns in margin.

What do you think the future of packaging has in store for us all? Is there any big changes in the pipeline or business as usual?

I believe we will just continue to grow as there is a will within our management to think outside the box to achieve efficient packaging solutions for our customers individual needs.

Thanks Richard, it’s always interesting to get a little insight into companies and the people behind them. Wishing you well for the next 5 years, and long after that. 


13th Jul, 2018

Interview with Jeremiah, from Riad Importers

Jeremiah, you started your business in University, right? You must have put in a lot of effort and hours? 

Yes, very true. I had some understanding of the industry from my experience my father gave me by taking me along to the market with him in my earlier years. At university I established the company and in my final year and began contacting new suppliers around the world for the wide range of products needed. This is where a lot of hours had to be put in. It was almost like fishing with a very low conversion rate due to being a fresh new company with no recorded trading history. I would have to contact hundreds of suppliers before I met my first supplier to send me products. He was from Spain and took a risk with me as at that time I couldn’t get credit insurance of course. He still sends me Citrus products to this day!

At university I knew I had a great opportunity to start a business that has a massive potential profit gain. I didn’t mind sacrificing some of my social life in my final year to get the ball running once I had graduated. I knew it would take some time but the experience and backing of my father gave me confidence. Also my degree gave me confidence as I knew I could fall back on it if things didn’t quite work out.

Despite being on course for an economics degree at a UK top 5 university, I had always enjoyed the experience I had in this business. To be quite honest, it didn’t really seem that hard. To me what seemed more important in this industry was your inter-personal skills and work ethic which I didn’t lack. Not only that, but trading fruit and veg is like any commodity being traded such as stocks and shares. I’ve applied a lot of the knowledge I gained in my Macro Economics module of International Trade, too.

 Is this a follow on from your fathers business? What did, or does, he do?  

Good question. My father has been in this industry since 1987. Started by owning and running his own stand at New Covent Garden called ‘Egyptian Fruit’. He established himself as one of the main importers of Egyptian products which we now see commonly in supermarkets such as citrus, grapes, spring onion, etc.

New Spitalfields Market opened in 1992 and was where the focus of this industry shifted to. Everyone wanted a stand in this market, competition was fierce and unfortunately the waiting list was years long. Therefore my father left being a trader (stand owner) at New Covent Garden Market and opted to be a supplier to the traders at New Spitalfields Market. He would import products from the Middle East and Europe such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, and supply the traders in Spitalfields who have their own stand. He became one of the top suppliers (based on volume) for over 15 years.

Currently my father advises me on big decisions where experience is invaluable. I ultimately decide the goals and objectives of the company, and he gives his advice based on experience. He also goes to the market several times a week to oversee operations. Of course he also put me in touch with several of his old suppliers which I owe him for as we trade well.

An example of his advice would be: I decided I wanted to differentiate and start my own brand of product to build brand reputation and capture more of the margin. I made a list of all the potential products. After discussing with my father, he advised that the first product to try should be low risk (low cost, high margin, low-perishability, and surprisingly – high barrier to entry so others couldn’t easily copy). This ended up being the fresh yams from Nigeria which is an amazing line of business for me and any teething problems didn’t result in losses.

What do you see yourself doing in ten or twenty years? 

I aim to establish this business in different parts of the supply chain. Fruit and vegetable wholesale continues to grow in line with population growth and a shift in the mentality of food consumerism towards more healthy products (i.e fruit and veg). Just see how much much more popular being vegetarian and/or vegan has become as a result of this.

I actually have certain goals I would like to achieve in this business in the next 10 years:

– Have a stand in every major wholesale fruit and veg market in the UK (such as Western International in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, etc) to repeat out success in New Spitalfields Market and increase out output in the UK.

– Increase my own branding to cover a wide range of South Asian, Middle Eastern and African produce such as hot pepper, chilli, etc. Plans can be put into place with suppliers once I solidify my position in the market by purchasing a stand

– Lease land in Morocco or Egypt to produce products for export to the UK

– Expand distribution business to become the preferred fruit and vegetable distributor in London. Aim to have 50 vans that leave each morning for deliveries across London.

– Supply retail (supermarkets)

– Expand and establish local wholesale ‘Cash and Carrys’ around London (North, South, West, East)

– Establish a higher-end service of fruit supply to corporate clients (within next 2 years)

Currently, I’m the youngest trader in the market. I noticed that the vast majority of business owners have been there for donkeys years and continued to do the same thing again and again. That’s what inspired me to be different and start my own line of products like yams and peanuts Vs using the same agents as everyone else.

What does your business mean to you, today?”  

It’s honestly hard to explain how much we’ve actually achieved in our short existence. From formation to purchasing a stand in less than 5 years is unheard of. There are around 75 traders in the market, which account for over half a billion in revenue each year. The application process to become a tenant of City of London in Spitalfields Market is very long are gruelling. Besides a strict financial appraisal of the company and its ability to pay its obligations every month, you also have to be a company of good reputation as one of the stages in the application process is to be accepted by the market’s Tenant’s Association. They wouldn’t give approval to a company that they think could go bust or doesn’t have the necessary experience to survive. Everything achieved up until now will feel like only step 1 in our journey by cementing our position in the UK wholesale industry. We were lucky to find a stand willing to sell due to ill health of the owner after having 3 generations of their family in Spitalfields. It’s an incredible opportunity that we want to grab!

I have a 2:1 in Economics from Durham in my back pocket that I don’t think twice about which says a lot about what this business means to me. I know how much there is to gain and how much we will continue to grow which is why my focus has been on this company from the start. I look forward to purchasing this lease and taking the next steps in our journey.

Thank you Jeremiah, you clearly have a great head for business and a work ethic to match. All the very best my friend. Interviewer Bird Lovegod, co-founder of The Fintech Times, Journalist, Business Consultant.


You can find the RIAD Importers loan profile here

28th Jun, 2018

Invest ethically, why not.

There is sometimes a misunderstanding, a false assumption, that ethical investments are somehow likely to perform less well than unethical ones. It’s almost as if some investors think they can’t have their cake and eat it, that they can’t make ethical investment choices and get a great return on their money. This is definitely not true. In fact, it seems almost obvious that as we, as human beings, become more ethical and considerate of our environment, (we are, which is part of the reason it doesn’t always seem that way, we’re more aware of it now) the companies that will perform best are those that are aligned with the increase in ethics. In other words, good business is more sustainable, more intelligent, more attractive to customers, than blunt capitalism that makes a profit at the expense of life itself. The rise in BCorps is testament to this, as is the clear and obvious dissatisfaction of the millennial generation that have absolute access to the evidence of environmental and humanitarian degradation and are definitely not wanting to be part of it in any way, least of all by investing in companies complicit in it. Investing in something funds it, makes more of it happen, supports it and gives it a clear thumbs up. Investing in local businesses supports them, empowers them, enables them to employ more people, and do more good on the ground.

You’ve come to the right place.

Bird Lovegod

20th Jun, 2018

Pi and Mash

Following the series of successful Fintech North events in Leeds, Manchester, and Liverpool, part organized by P2P lender, we posed a couple of questions to our contributor network, asking what the greatest opportunities for the tech and fintech ecosystems are in the North. And to keep the scale straight, what the most significant limitations are. Here’s what Toby Jordan from MadeByPi had to say on the matter. Bird Lovegod provides the banter.

 Toby, what are the Norths greatest opportunities, in your opinion?

The North has the greatest opportunity for growth which is supported by the success of the organisations that have already relocated and are benefiting from lower overheads and running costs. The communications network, principally the M62 corridor, with lower land costs and access to skilled talent has driven major growth in distribution and ecommerce businesses. While access to cheaper property, education and entertainment facilities provides a better work-life balance that is encouraging migration out of the overcrowded and expensive capital.

Bird says…It’s a fair point, organisations often do find a lower running cost when locating to the North, indeed, some councils will offer significant incentives if location or relocation is going to bring jobs. With regards to distribution and ecommerce, think Amazon, for sure, location is all about motorway access and the availability of large sites. Until Amazon start dropping orders from skybased warehouses, (they plan this, or at least have patents relating to it.) Work life balance is undoubtably better in the North, cannibalism is up 23% in London this year alone. That’s a joke by the way. Northerners also have a more developed sense of humour. People in the South are too busy ignoring each other on the tube to find their own situation amusing.

And go on Toby, we’re all friends here, what’s the Norths most significant limitations?

Overcoming the infrastructure challenges has been deferred so many times that they are now so large as to require both a major investment and a step-change to upgrade and innovate new solutions. Still the biggest challenge remains the perception of the North which, while improving, is still a great barrier to investment and in attracting and retaining talent.

Bird words…Yep, London gets six times the transport spend of Northern regions. And the HS2 vanity project, which will go over budget by tens of billions, is designed to funnel even more workers into the Capital. Agreed, transport up here is pretty lame at times, Londoners become incandescent if they have to wait more than 3 minutes on the Northern Line. We’re happy if a train arrives at all. With regards to perception, hmmm it’s true, and perhaps the solution is for the North to stop comparing itself to the South. And when we say South, we of course mean Devon and Cornwall. Having lived in London for ten years, I can honestly say policy makers in London, in fact everyone in London, gives exactly zero thought to the North of England. None. Ever. We should probably return the sentiment. Ayup.

Thank you
Your Bid's been