In the hot seat – Preseli Dave Wilson

Now more than a quarter of a century young, merchandise supplier Preseli was formed in a way that will be familiar to many businesses in the industry.

A request from a customer to source umbrellas led to the realisation that here was a gap in the market, and Preseli Merchandising was formed in Hong Kong in 1992. The UK arm of the Preseli Group kicked off in 1994, initially as an importer and stockist of a range of items.

Managing director, Dave Wilson was invited to join the firm by his uncle in 1999, and it remains something of a family affair, with brother Mike the company’s business and marketing manager.

From small acorns

What started from a one-off request became the basis of a business that has thrived. “Some of those original stock lines are still strong sellers for Preseli, such as umbrellas, clipboards, pencil cases, and ripper wallets,” says Wilson, although the business has had to adapt to inevitable changes.

After the first decade as a stockist, Preseli started to sell some smaller, made-to-order product lines like trolley coin keyrings and lanyards. In 2010, Mark Lumb joined Preseli and brought a wealth of product knowledge and supplier contacts of small, lightweight products.

Bolting on that range of bespoke made items has been the catalyst for growth. “The past 10 years have been characterised by solid growth,” says Wilson. “Turnover in 2019 was nearly four times what it was 10 years ago. Our intention is to keep growing the business.”

Continued growth has meant being reactive to a changing market. Technological change has not only increased the speed of turnaround for orders, but has allowed more complex artwork to be used. “Customers do not just want their logo dropped on a product,” says Wilson. “They want a full representation of their artwork or they want a product designed around their brand. All of which we can supply.”

Ethical approach

Compliance is now more than a tick box exercise with a growing demand for information about the audit trail of a product. Preseli has instituted mechanisms to check its China-based suppliers are audited to and run ethically. Product safety and testing are inherent, as evidenced by ISO 9001 accreditation in 2019.

Concerns about sustainability run hand in hand, and Preseli now uses UPS Carbon Neutral courier services to deliver from Hong Kong to the UK. Air shipments are offset by investing in projects that are carbon neutralising.

The company is also now using UPS Carbon Neutral freight for outbound consignments and is working to reduce its use of single-use plastic, and increasing the range of products made from renewable resources. In 2020 it will be audited by Intertek with a view to becoming ISO 14001 accredited, proving that it has an effective environmental management system (EMS) in place.

Supportive business

On the home front, Wilson applauds the BPMA’s proactive approach to mental health in the workplace. With experience of mental health issues, both personally and within his family and friends, he recognises how it can be overwhelming if unchecked. “Happily, I also know from my own life experience that a combination of medical help, counselling and support can enable people to gain control over mental health issues and to, eventually, be better able to face the ups and downs that life, both in and out of work, will inevitably throw at us.”

Preseli tries to maintain a supportive and ‘safe’ work environment, where staff are able to be open and honest about their situations, knowing that management and colleagues will support them. Looking ahead, Wilson wants to build on the organic growth that Preseli has experienced in recent years. The appointment of industry stalwart Russ Coleman reflects an ambition to grow the business to the next level.

“Russ will be out on the road, talking to distributors about what Preseli can offer them, and we look forward to working with him to develop and strengthen relationships with our existing customers, as well as creating new ones,” says Wilson.

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