The UK events industry is currently worth £42.3 billion, and the top 10 UK event agencies turnover more than £3.5 billion. The industry is remaking relatively stable too: an impressive 64% of agencies claiming the number of pitches they took in-creased over 2016/2017 and 83% said they looked to increase headcount in 2017.
In this fast-progressing field, London based business Theme Traders have established themselves as pioneering market leaders. Theme Traders produce high end events for both corporate and private clients across the UK and Europe. Based in a newly refurbished creative village in Cricklewood, North London, the business houses a 40-strong team, one of the largest prop collections in the country and a unique one stop shop for event planning and production.
Catering to both corporate and elite private clients, Theme Traders bring to life a client’s most creative and unexpected parties, often in record time. From an Orange is the New Black themed party to Halloween spooktaculars. Having ditched the typical corporate structure and replaced it with a family-style operation, the company’s emphasis on imagination and individuality has generated a thriving workforce. Employing diverse creative skill-sets, they produce glamorous and unique party experiences while offering sustainable income for their individual creative practices.
In our interview with Theme Traders Director Natalie Webber, we find out just how the business thrives in such a noto-riously tough and competitive industry.
What is the company’s ethos?
Theme Traders’ mission is always to exceed the expectations of the client, every single time. Our ethos relies on our de-sire to provide a certain wow factor across all projects, something that has set us apart in the events planning and man-agement industry.
What’s the core philosophy?
Being in a client orientated line of work our philosophy has always been to provide the best service and client experience. We look to produce the perfect event for each individual and it is a real privilege to create special memories for people. Often, we are working on events celebrating the most important days of their lives, whether it be their wedding day, a child’s first birthday party, a company celebration or a public event.
A key to success for any events company is acknowledging that our work brings people together. It is also important to treat each and every client and event with a bespoke approach, as all projects are unique; one minute we might be pro-ducing a Frosties inspired vintage milk truck for Anya Hindmarch and the next an Alice in Wonderland tea party in the middle of London’s Victoria train station. Theme Traders has flourished for the last 30 years because we don’t offer a readymade product or service and we are adaptable to the vast range of event requests we receive on a daily basis.
What’s the key to success?
We definitely see ourselves as a reactive company, and as such we are constantly evolving, changing our business direction and tailoring our services to the current economic climate and mood. For example, at the beginning of the financial crisis of 2008 we soon realised that demand for events in the corporate sector would plummet. Determined to remain in busi-ness, we decided to market our props and offices to TV production companies and photographers instead. These new clients hired our offices and warehouses for shoots and filming, including the BBC, we are now BBC accredited set design-ers. Not only did this bring in extra income, but it also provided us with great organic PR and we maintain many of the relationships created during this time.
We are fortunate that the Theme Traders team is diverse and multi-skilled, full of creatives who are always on the look-out for newest, coolest venues, shows and experiences in London and across the UK. We pride ourselves on their enthu-siasm and ability to remain on top and even ahead of cultural and industrial trends. It helps us provide our clients with the latest and most up to date events; everyone wants to set the trend when it comes to parties.
Are you prospering through Brexit?
The Brexit issue is a tough one to address. Until Brexit is finalised in 2019 I don’t think any of us know exactly what is go-ing to happen. In relation to Theme Traders and how Brexit is directly affecting our business all I can say is that the last 18 months have been extremely successful at Theme Traders. We have worked on some exceptional projects, including large scale productions in various European cities for UK based clients who want us to provide creative services abroad. At the moment we’re pulling together ideas for a company who are holding a large conference in Paris and would like us to pro-duce three different parties over three days.
What makes Theme Traders unique?
We are probably the only company in Europe to offer so many services under one roof and produce events from start to finish all in house. The majority of our sets and production are made in our warehouses in Cricklewood. Not only does this allow us to maintain the quality of all our products and services but it also provides an unprecedented amount of transparency for our clients who are more than welcome to visit our workshop at any point during a project to view the progress of their event. This transparency instills confidence in our abilities and overall reliability with the client, whilst al-lowing them to maintain control over their party.
Our business is highly susceptible to the state of the economy and how much extra capital people have. We understand that people’s situations change and pride ourselves on our ability to plan ahead and troubleshoot events to adapt to the changing times, providing our clients with the best but realistic events, whilst as a business surviving through the ups and the downs.
What are the challenges Theme Traders have faced?
When we started thirty years ago, we were the main providers of props and themed events in the UK. It’s only been in the last decade that we have noticed a sharp increase in the competition for event services both in the UK and globally, with many of these newer events companies competing by undercutting wherever they can. With this increased competi-tion, we have had to decide as a team how we wanted to compete and ultimately decided we would rather be known for proving the best rather than the cheapest services, which so far has proven to be a wise decision.
In my experience, I also hear of a lot of companies in our industry identifying a high staff turnover as a main challenge. Alt-hough we are not exempt from a higher than average turnover, Theme Traders has a great staff retention record. Many of our team members have been with us for at least five years. A reason for this is that we offer flexible working to our em-ployees, which is a popular choice amongst the creative team members who we openly encourage to take time off to work on their own artistic projects. The flexibility fuels creativity, whilst also helping to develop and strengthen a support-ive sense of community and is proving to be crucial to the success of the team, company and our projects.
What do the next thirty years hold for the business?
The event industry changes at a remarkably fast pace, even thinking five years ahead is a challenge. We recently moved into our creative village in North London that houses our offices, some of our vast prop collection and our growing Theme Traders team. I hope our new base will help us to build a solid foundation to continue to nurture our team’s growing talent and continue to develop the parties and events we produce. In the crazy world of event planning and man-aging we enjoy looking to the future, it ensures we stay ahead of the game and produce the best events we can.