TnP talks to Paul Beverley, founder and owner of PMS International, the company behind the Elves Behavinâ€™ Badly brand
Tell us a bit about your company.
PMS International was established nearly 50 years ago from small and humble beginnings. The company is now a global importer and distributor with offices in the UK, Hong Kong and China. The UK headquarters (International House in Basildon) employs more than 200 people, with the overseas divisions staffed with a further 100-plus. It occupies nine landscaped acres and was officially opened by The Princess Royal in 1995.
What changes have you made in the light of Covid restrictions?
Like most businesses, Covid affected PMS, but our extensive supplier networks enabled us to source and supply necessary PPE equipment quickly throughout the pandemic to a broad sector of customers.
For over 20 years, PMS has stocked a comprehensive range of PPE-related, non-medicinal, first aid items like plasters, bandages, and sanitising gels. In the last year we have expanded the range to meet demand for related items such as face masks.
As an essential supplier, our warehousing operations remained open, with the majority of office staff providing much needed back-up from home. We continue to provide PPE to the market on a much smaller scale and currently hold strong stocks of masks, sanitising gel, antiseptic wipes and so on.
During the pandemic, PMS had up to two-thirds of office staff working from home but, following government guidance, we have gradually reintroduced staff back into International House, which is now largely fully staffed to pre-pandemic levels. Our extensive showrooms remained open, exhibiting more than 5,000 products but with all Covid safety procedures in place.
“Itâ€™s extremely rewarding to see our products spread a little festive joy to families”Paul Beverley, founder and owner of PMS International
Apart from Covid, whatâ€™s the biggest challenge facing toy suppliers?
Brexit has been a major challenge for the company, but we are now making good progress in restoring exports to mainland Europe. Each month we are seeing a pick-up in our export sales.
Currently the biggest challenge is the worldwide issue that has caused massive inflation to the cost and availability of shipping containers from Asia to the UK. Freight shipping has found itself in a unique situation where unforeseen events have left a global shortage of containers, which has had a domino effect down the supply chain, disrupting global trade. PMS is working hard to minimise this impact and avoid major disruption to our supply chain. We remain hopeful that we can ship all ranges this year and meet all of our customersâ€™ orders.
What are your core goals for Q4?
The centrepiece of Q4 for us is the Elves Behavinâ€™ Badly brand: a set of naughty little elves that have wreaked fun and festive mischief among UK families for the past five years. The Elves Behavinâ€™ Badly were created and designed by PMS in the UK with a lot of the product development undertaken in Hong Kong. The Elves made their first public appearance in time for the 2016 Christmas season.
The affordable Elf dolls – Elfie and Elvie – are widely available in a variety of attractive packaging, in most major retail outlets and via a host of online distributors. The broad range of Elf dolls includes a poseable version and one with electronic sounds including laughs and giggles.
PMS has sold more than 10 million Elf dolls to date, with sales of around 2.5 million this season alone. This is pretty remarkable considering that we believe many families save and reuse their Elf dolls each year. This suggests that the most recent sales will have been made by new purchasers keen to start the Elf pranking tradition within their own families.
“We remain hopeful that we can ship all ranges this year and meet all of our customersâ€™ orders”Paul Beverley, founder and owner of PMS International
To assist the Elves in their annual pranking, PMS offers a fabulous range of more than 100 accessories. The enhanced range of more than 20 dress-up outfits has proved extremely popular. Costumes available include festive snowman and reindeer costumes, along with a chefâ€™s outfit and a rainbow-coloured faux fur jacket!
By popular demand we commissioned two hardback childrenâ€™s books, complete with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations detailing the Elvesâ€™ story and adventures from their original beginnings in â€˜Elftoriaâ€™. One of the books shows the amusing story of
the Elves at a school dedicated to teaching them â€˜how to
A firm favourite is the range of personalisable products, which includes a high-quality wooden Christmas Eve box, luxury jute Christmas present sack and write on/wipe off message board.
Another recent addition is a new runge of Christmas cards, available in both kidsâ€™ and adultsâ€™ designs. Sales of both have been extremely encouraging and we have re-ordered to meet current demand.
Where do you see opportunities for growth?
One of the most popular growth areas by far has been in pranking and joke-related accessories. With retail prices starting from just Â£1, the collection includes â€˜Elves Pooey Friendsâ€™ (joke â€˜pooâ€™ with googly eyes), a quality range of jokes and pranks, Farting & Laughing Bags and even a â€˜Complete Fart Kit for Naughty Elvesâ€™. This rise in success is hardly surprising, given the huge appetite for new and fresh ideas for â€˜pranking seasonâ€™.
PMSâ€™s longevity, and what we have achieved over the years Iâ€™ve worked in this challenging sector, is based on the companyâ€™s ability to quickly identify new and upcoming trends and â€˜craze linesâ€™. The Elves Behavinâ€™ Badly Elves was a creation designed to supply more affordable Elf dolls to satisfy the increasing demand and interest in the daily ritual, during the month of December, where parents use the Elves to stage funny scenarios, hoping to prove to their kids in the morning that the Elves have been busy causing mischief and mayhem overnight.
The Trademark and Registered Design associated with the Elves Behavinâ€™ Badly collection are heavily protected by IP rights, which PMS vigorously enforces on all occasions.
With rising costs and supply chain challenges, will we be seeing
Of course, every business needs to look at inflation and rising prices, but the Elves Behavinâ€™ Badly brand has a number of items starting as low as Â£1, which can help provide families with a very memorable and affordable Christmas. With more than 100 different products in the range, it means the festive fun is accessible for every budget.
Whatâ€™s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
It may sound a little cheesy, but itâ€™s extremely rewarding to see our products spread a little festive joy to families. The holidays are a period where families come together, and to see our toys be a key part of that experience for millions of people is very satisfying.
Did you know?
The Elves Behavinâ€™ Badly Elves was a creation designed to to supply more affordable Elf dolls to satisfy the increasing demand and interest in the daily ritual, during the month of December, where parents use the Elves to stage funny scenarios, hoping to prove to their kids in the morning that the Elves have been busy causing mischief and mayhem overnight