Wholesaler Flair Gifts, founded by John Doyle in 1992, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. We spoke to John’s daughter and business partner, Amanda Brandt, about past successes and things to come.
Why did your dad John start Flair Gifts in 1992?
John had many years’ of experience as a senior buyer for the Coles Myer Group, which saw him travel globally to source the most successful products. With the establishment of Flair, he saw an opportunity in the market for decorative items to be imported to Australia.
One of his earliest and most successful products was a brass ‘keys-n-coins’ dish. Over the years, we estimate that Flair has sold over one million pieces of this handy product [and] a variation of this 25 year old product continues to sell well.
How do you think the gift industry has changed since Flair began?
The retail market has fragmented over the years, with multiple stores bringing in a huge cross-section of products. This is evident with garden stores adding homewares during the drought and newsagencies adding homewares due to a changing dynamic in the newspaper and magazine market. This is by no means a negative, with stores evolving and looking to display and optimise sale opportunities with quality products.
Flair at the gift fair in 1995.
What has been the highlight of running Flair Gifts over the past 25 years?
The highlight has certainly been the friendships we have made over the years, with many of our original customers continuing to build successful businesses with us. We have come to know their families, partnerships, and the intricacies of their market area, to continue to support their successful business growth. Their ongoing success is our success.
And what about the biggest challenges?
A challenge (and at the same time, a highlight) has been the learning that comes from running a family business, and having a father/daughter relationship. Over time we have learnt to recognise each other’s strengths, challenge each other vigorously, yet at the appropriate time step back, trust each other and move forward.
John and Amanda.
What have you found surprising about running the business?
Just how good success feels! When you search for, design, re-design, and push for as near a perfect product as you can with your supplier, and the clients love it, it brings a great sense of satisfaction and drives you to do it again and again, and better each time.
Also, the really strong friendships we have with other wholesalers within the industry, the support for each other is always amazing. We have friendships that go beyond competing for business and more a genuine warmth to really see each other succeed.
What is the secret to Flair’s success?
We seek to be worth knowing rather than well known. Our honesty and integrity we trust will see us known fondly. At all times, taking a client perspective in our decisions rather than an individual perspective is critical. Our great product and forever changing ranges mean you will never see us ‘comfortable’ with where we are—that expectation and drive to always do better keeps us on our toes.
John in China in 2016.
You’re always updating your ranges—what new products did you show at the AGHA Sydney Gift Fair?
Every fair we launch over 100 new products. February included a look of lush luxury with clean designs. We built on existing popular lines of chrome mirror trays, celebratory barware and statement candlesticks. We have become well known for our party tubs and celebratory ice buckets.
And finally, what’s next for Flair?
[We will] continue to make it easy for our partners to do business with us… Career experience and earned trust go a long way for sure, yet we need to move with the digital times, so our website is ‘live’ and updated daily and we are always looking to improve this experience where we can. Our retailers come to know our new stock from the two trade fairs and can of course re-order or add to their range directly from our site.
While many in the industry comment that trade fairs are losing their appeal, we disagree. Products in such a tactile and visual industry will continue to need to be seen and felt—we hope humans will continue the interaction of coming to know who they are dealing with, and have the desire to interact with new product.
We love what we do and have the energy and joy of designing new lines—new samples arriving feels like Christmas Day for us. Showcasing them to our customers brings a gratification and happiness which extends well beyond just a career.
Main image: Flair Gifts' stand at the AGHA Sydney Gift Fair in February 2017 via Instagram.
By Ruth Cooper