It was on a business trip to Taiwan when inventor Mark Higginson had one of those lightbulb moments, he was buying a container of Christmas lights at the time.
Seeing the speed in which the products were snapped up from their shop at Disklok House, Charnock Richard, therein Festive Lights was born.
That was 1999 and now the family company has grown into an internationally-recognisable name distributing products to more than 30 countries.
Mark started up Festive Lights alongside wife Margaret and they admit their success came somewhat unexpectedly. Mark, inventor of the innovative steering wheel-mounted theft deterrent Disklok, was on a manufacturing trip when he was persuaded to buy the lights.
Initially specialising in Christmas lights, the company has expanded its product portfolio over the years to include home, decorative and garden ranges to become one of the UK’s leading online lighting supplier, boasting clientele from the general public, national retailers to celebrities
Last year sales rocketed by 40 per cent, with around 88,000 parcels picked, packed and delivered during the Christmas period.
From those humble beginnings, Festive Lights very much remains a family business Martin Higginson, Mark’s son and one of three brothers, joined the business at 16 years old, straight from high school
Martin proved a valuable asset during the company’s online launch. With the ecommerce boom building, his passion and self-taught IT skills saw him excel within the web team.
He says: “Online was thriving and I started off doing admin jobs like editing and uploading products. Before I knew it, I was ecommerce manager running a team of five.
“As the company’s grown, I’ve taken on more managerial and HR responsibilities, which meant handing over the reins of the website to a new head of ecommerce. My role vastly changes season to season. During Christmas, it’s all hands on deck to manage the influx of orders.”
Around 35 staff operate from the firm’s head office, with an additional 40 employees joining during October and December to manage seasonal highs.
To ensure every employee has their say, Festive Lights asks staff to provide honest feedback following peak selling periods and it’s this information that informs management planning.
Martin adds: “We want staff from every corner of the business to contribute to the decision making process and help us to improve. I’ve been here 11 years and it’s changed dramatically from a small shop in Chorley to a global company. We’ve stayed successful because we’re adaptable and have a loyal, hardworking team driving us forward.”
Brother-in-law and general manager, Stephen Alty, adopted a slightly different path. A PE teacher for six years, his drive for a more viable long-term career led him to Festive Lights.
Stephen says: “I knew I couldn’t be in PE forever and couldn’t imagine myself teaching anything else. An opportunity within the family business soon presented itself and I haven’t looked back since.”
The 34-year-old’s role is extremely hands on, with no two days the same.
“There’s no corporate hierarchy in the business. Everyone gets stuck in and it’s this willingness and enthusiasm to work hard that builds success” he adds, “We’ve a fantastic culture, with excellent staff retention.
“We’re also recruiting due to our recent growth and we look for people who fit within our culture as well as skills.”
The firm was recently awarded Gold Trusted Merchant status from independent review site, Feefo. The accreditation recognises consistent excellent customer service and rewards those that achieve a feedback rating of 95 per cent or above.
Fashion buying and merchandising graduate Carmen Chan is one of the newer recruits. Joining in October 2015, the 24-year-old was quickly thrown into peak season.
Carmen says: “From day one it was 24/7 on the go. The company feels like one big family and you want to do all you can to help out.”
The product sourcing assistant places orders, organises delivery dates and shipping schedules and liaises regularly with overseas suppliers.
“Many of our factories are overseas so we need to be aware of any potential weather or political issues.
“A change in temperature, for example, could affect production of certain products. Likewise, the recent Chinese New Year saw a two to three week shutdown across the country. The concept of buying is the same in any business; it’s the products that change.”
With 2016 set to be the biggest yet for Festive Lights, the company is already predicting a growth in turnover of 20 per cent.