Brand man Dave Salisbury discusses buying the intellectual property of a scissor brand and breathing new life into it in the New Zealand market.
What does your business do?
Vecom owns Tullen Snips, an iconic New Zealand brand of cutting scissors made in New Zealand in the 1970s and 80s that were famous for cutting through anything.
There were many millions sold around the world. The company was bought out in the 1980s by a company called Wilkinson Sword, they bought out the manufacturing process as well, and that all got shifted across to the UK. It was then on sold to a scissor brand called Fiskars which left the product and brand to die.
Two years ago I was cutting open the Christmas toys for the kids and I was having trouble because of the wire and thick plastic and I thought 'I'd love a pair of Tullen Snips' and then I went online to try and buy some and found out they hadn't been sold for over 30 years.
What was the motivation for starting the brand back up?
I thought 'What's the story with these Tullen Snips', where did they go and why can't I buy them today, and I read the amazing history about how the company started, the people behind of it, the size of it and I felt quite sad that it had just died.
I needed the product and could see other people in New Zealand needing the product so I got on a personal crusade to bring it back.
I spoke to the original founders of the company to see why it disappeared and basically it had been because it ended up with a company that left the trademark to die as they didn't need to keep the product alive so I put in an application to register the trademark in New Zealand and Australia and after six months of waiting for the intellectual property to come through, I was able to bring it back.
How lengthy was the process to acquire the trademark and intellectual property?
The first job was getting the trademarks and then the product development. Last year was focused on website development and the likes of social media as well. The first products arrived six months ago and have been on the market since then.
Half of sales to date have been in New Zealand and half to international buyers. Originally, 90 per cent of the Tullen Snips were sold overseas. We're mainly selling to English-speaking markets and sales have been really encouraging given the size and scale that I'm at. The current version of scissors are made in China.
Do you have a background in reviving retail brands?
I'm a passionate Kiwi-brand guy. I used to work for Contiki holidays, an iconic youth touring brand, and I love New Zealand brands. I hate seeing New Zealand brands dying and so for many years I have worked with brands and revitalising them.
There aren't many New Zealand homeware brands - everyone is into technology these days. It's not particularly sexy being involved in a brand like this but when you look at companies like Sistema that have done incredibly well in that space, it's encouraging. It's hard as there isn't a book on bringing back to life 30 year-old brands.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
The next step is really exciting product development as far as design and colours go. I'm working with a great local design company to help - I'm trying to be aware of the history of the brand but also bring it into the modern age.
At the moment we're doing all of our selling through the website but I'd love to have more of a retail footprint in New Zealand. Retailers can be pretty ruthless on brands and so I'm a little bit reluctant to have to go through retail but I know to get to volume and scale it really is the only way. It's a double-edged sword.
The first task is getting the product right, making sure that the price point is right and how it is displayed. Tidying up the finer details is still a work in progress but we're getting there. The long term plan is to get a pair into every home in NZ.
What advice do you give others thinking about starting a business?
Have the courage to take the first step and keep on walking.