Unpackaged: why Brixton’s WBC supports makers and local businesses

 

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WBC is a leading UK wholesale packaging company – it is based in Brixton and still manufactures in Brixton, too. Despite its national reach, WBC is keen to support local makers and businesses, and sponsored our recent Making Uncovered festival.

We caught up with James Howard, the WBC Marketing Director, to learn the WBC story and how it can help local makers and independent businesses.

Tell us about WBC – how did it start, what are your products and what customers do you serve?

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Born the year Nintendo released the Gameboy and Lisa Stansfield went all around theworld – for more than two decades now we’ve flown the flag for independent retail. Big or small, we design and manufacture quality packaging and retail display solutions. Our products help independent retailers turn their products into profitable gifts and play the chains at their own game by creating that special point of difference.

Despite initial rebuffs by banks and financial services, it was a small £5,000 loan from the Prince’s Trust that allowed WBC’s managing directors Andrew Wilson and business partner Tim Wilkinson to buy a delivery van. This was the start of one of the UKs’ best known B2B packaging brands.

We supply over 850 lines of hamper and gift packaging, wine packaging and accessories, retail display, and bags for life right out of our warehouse just off Acre Lane. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker isn’t so far from the truth when it comes to our client base. We supply everyone from artisan food outlets and producers, local cafes, street markets, wine merchants and breweries, colleges, garden centres, farm shops, food and drink associations, museums, charities – and even stately homes including the Queen.

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Our Kingsley range of retail display and merchandising are UK made, right here in Brixton. In fact the shelves are made from wooden reclaimed floorboards sourced in Brixton. What we love about them is that they are beautifully made signature pieces that really showcase product for market traders and retailers – pieces you’d never find in a supermarket!

Read Why WBC will never supply ‘bags for life’ to the major supermarkets

How can you help makers and small businesses locally?

Competition on the high street is tough, economically and financially it’s tough for small business. There are so many passionate artisan producers and innovative business ideas in Brixton and yet it seems that the big dogs always get the greatest share of the prize. We work with delis everyday who just get up and running only to find a Sainsbury’s local decides to move in next door and starts selling basics like milk and eggs at cut-prices they could never hope to offer.

We’ve learned the peculiar issues that small businesses are faced with. Price, Time, Space, Quality. So our model entirely reflects this:

  • Love Brixton bagWe create quality solutions that help local retailers stand head and shoulders above the crowd and turn a profit.
  • We support retailers with training – how to maximise sales opportunities and merchandising solutions
  • Our customers have access to the UK’s largest range of stock packaging, all at trade prices so that they are affordable, with price points to suit every budget.
  • We’re online 24 hours a day
  • We deliver product in small volumes on a next day service so customers never need to overstock – many of our customers have space issues so we hold the stock so they don’t have to.
  • Bespoke and printing services allow local businesses to create a brand for their packaging

Why did you choose Brixton as your location and what do you like about the area?

Brixton has been the headquarters for WBC for well over a decade now, and we’re pleased to supply many of its small businesses. There is a fantastically close-knit community of like-minded people here. London can be a very transitory place to live, whereas Brixton has always had a grassroots feel about it that works well with our little WBC family.

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In recent years we’ve become much more involved with local initiatives like Brixton Market, Makerhood, local police charities, pop-up shops and others. In Brixton there’s a togetherness and willingness to knuckle down and all pitch in.

When the London riots took place in 2011, we made a cotton bag with ‘Make Tea Not War’ on it, which local businesses could sell with a portion of the profits going to youth charities. With the ties that David Bowie has with Brixton, it was fitting that the official Bowie tote bag made for the V&A exhibition and which sold out in 3 days, was produced by a company based in here in Brixton.

We love the vibrancy and now with new technologies and social media, the community in Brixton has become a much closer place, bringing us together with people and businesses we would never have met.

Check out the WBC catalogue on their website: http://www.wbc.co.uk/. Or read their blog with interesting recent stories: http://blog.wbc.co.uk/


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