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The luxury British biscuit maker turning over ?5m a year and set to grow

With consumer spending in declineas shoppers tighten their belts, one might expect a gift retailer to be among those worst hit, but since its inception 10 years ago, Biscuiteers has gone from strength-to-strength, helped by its premiumproduct offering.
Harriet Hastings and her husbandStevie Congdon launched the business in 2007 after identifying a gap in the gifting market. "We believed that this was a massive growth area and wanted our product to sit alongsideflowers and chocolates as the perfect presentfor weddings, birthdays, anniversaries andbirths," Hastingssays.
The company has been somewhat shielded from the squeeze on consumer spending because of its international appeal and high-end customer base.
Its hand-icedbiscuits are made in three south London factories, where the majority of the firm's 100 or so staff scrupulously ice traditionally bakedchocolate or vanillabiscuits with unique and fun designs, before packaging them in the company's trademark tins. The biscuits can be bespoke and personalised, orthere are standard designs available to buy onthe website.
New ranges are released seasonally, with different biscuit designs launched in time for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Easter, Christmas and Halloween. In 2016, the firmrolled out a collection ofbiscuits celebrating the Queens 90th birthday, and this year will sell some celebrating the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May.
The luxury British biscuit maker turning over ?5m a year and set to grow

A biscuit tin has been created to celebrate Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in May
The company, which aims to "solve people's gifting problems" has seen exponentialgrowth of 36pc this year, and is expecting to grow by a further 30pc in 2019. Turnover for the last financial year was just under ?5m. "People are interested in unique and bespoke gifts, and they value good craftsmanship, so are willing to pay a bit more for our product. They are a work of art," Hastings says. This perhaps explains why the company charges ?45 for a16-biscuittin.
The entrepreneurialmum-of-four says the hardest part of running her ownbusiness has been the manufacturing of the biscuits, creating a product that is based on "old-fashioned principles", in that they arehandmade. Managing demand, being able to scale production, and get the biscuits from the factories to people's home in good condition has been a learning curve, Hastingssays.
The only external investment the company has received in its 10-year run has beenfrom a crowd-funding project, set up in 2016, which raised ?1.25m to put towards infrastructureand expanding the company's manufacturing base. This funding has allowed Biscuiteers to ramp up production.
The luxury British biscuit maker turning over ?5m a year and set to grow

A Biscuiteers shop in London's Clapham
While the biscuits arestockedby retailers including John Lewis, Selfridges, Harrodsand Fortnum & Mason, which helps to "enhance brand value",the bulk of Biscuiteer'ssales come direct from its website, which is available in almost 100 countries worldwide. There are also two shops, in London's exclusive Notting Hill and Clapham,which act as"marketing hubs" for the business and offer in-store icing classes and lessons to customers.
These bricks and mortar shops are the most "exposed" part of the business, Hastingssays, with the high street taking a "big knock at every level". But sheisn't too concerned about the threat to the high street, given the fact that the business is not a store-based brand.
What is more worrisome is Brexit, Hastings says, and the potential affect it could have on employee numbers. With a large international staff base, and British businesses already feeling theintensity of demand for workers, there are fears that retailer won't be able to recruit enough staff when Britain leaves the EU next year.
According to a recentsurvey from the British Chambers of Commerce, firms are finding it harder than ever to recruit skilled workers, with almost three quarters of services businesses struggling to make the hires they need.Skills shortages have reachedcritical levels, the BCC said.
How to make the perfect iced biscuits: The Biscuiteers' guide to decorating
Biscuiteers has also been impacted bythe rising cost of the raw ingredients used in its biscuits, cakes and chocolates, withthe average ingredient cost per biscuit risingby more than 10pclast year mostly due to the increase in the cost of butter.
Last year, research by Mintel found that the wholesale price of butter rose by 80pc, due to acombination of falling milk productionand unseasonableweather.
But the rising cost of ingredients is doing little to dampen the company's further growth plans, as it looks to scale up its production line with a new factory opening this year.
The companyisalso looking at international opportunities, with 5pc of itsonline sales currently exported abroad. Expanding its overseaspresence would be theicing on the cake for this successful UK start-up.
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