UPDATED: Carte Blanche acquires Wishing Well Studios
Carte Blanche today announced the acquisition of 100% of the shares in Wishing Well Studios (Holdings) Limited and Wishing Well Studios Limited (Wishing Well) for an undisclosed sum.
Wishing Well, founded in 1996 and headquartered in Wigan, has a reputation as one of the leading suppliers of greetings cards to the Independent channel. Winner of the Henries Customer Service Award for the last six years, Wishing Well has stuck rigidly to a philosophy built around service, innovation, quality and design.
Carte Blanche CEO, Roger Murphy (right), told GT that Wishing Well offers the perfect fit alongside Carte Blanche’s renowned
industry brands including Me to You, My Blue Nose Friends and Violent
and Vivacious Veg. “We are delighted to have completed this deal with the Wishing Well
Team. They have built a fabulous business and we are privileged to now
own the Wishing Well brand alongside our existing Carte Blanche
portfolio. This clearly demonstrates our commitment to continuing to be
the first choice provider of leading brands to our customer," he said.
Wishing Well's management team, led by joint Managing Directors Brian Phillips and Rod Brown have stepped down from the business. “Everyone at Wishing Well has always been focused 150% on delivering great product and service to our customers. I had not contemplated selling until the approach by Carte Blanche however having spent time with the CBG team I feel confident that they will provide the necessary platform to take Wishing Well to the next level," said Brian Phillips.
Murphy also confirmed that the core Wishing Well business would remain in Wigan with CBG board director, Steve Blakemore, taking over the reigns on a day to day basis assisted by Ian Wakefield (operations) and John Coda (finance). "The first phase of the acquisition is done and dusted," added Murphy. "Now we are in the process of reviewing the business and looking at all the key functions. One of the conclusions we have drawn is t
hat the key creative element of the business will remain in Wigan."
Murphy is adamant that the move for Wishing Well was initiated by CBG following a three year search and signals its desire to become a 'category captain' for the independent channel.
"I was pretty deliberate about how we should approach it," Confirms Murphy. "We looked at different options and asked can we do this organically or do we need to buy?
"Wishing Well is a fabulous business based in the independent sector in
cards and dressings - and what the independents value is service. We
have great distribution in other channels, as well as in the independents, but what is important to us is what happens when product is in
"We believe that there will be consolidation in the numbers of publishers in the industry and in retailer's number of suppliers. So we've taken a stake in another important area. CBG is a portfolio of brands and with Wishing Well on board it gives us the chance to manage a bigger part of the retailer's business. If they have a question on range and layout for instance we want CBG to be the first person they talk to."
When pressed on whether CBG would be looking to leverage its close trading relationship with Clinton Cards to expand Wishing Well, Murphy candidly admits that "Yes we could try that" before adding "But it's not priority number one and at the moment we are focused on understanding the opportunity in the independent channel. Down the road however, there may be other opportunities."
Currently, Wishing Well uses agents for its sales, whereas CBG employs in-house representatives. Whether that situation changes remains to be seen although Murphy confirmed to GT that in acquiring the business it had also acquired its agency contracts.
"At CBG we've always had in-house sales due to our scale." he said. At Wishing Well the agents have been doing a good job so we will be sitting down with them as soon as possible and having a conversation about how things will move forward.
"What we want is a consistency of representation whether its agents or in-house."
Ultimately, CBG's purchase of Wishing Well signals a very definite statement of intent by the Chichester-based operation, with Murphy confirming "We will continue to look at other areas and we are in the market for acquisition."