From one man and his suitcase, Parkers aims for £3m turnover

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CHARLIE Parker has big plans to grow his Yorkshire-based promotional products firm as it clocks up 30 years of trading, which have seen it grow from a suitcase-based operation into a thriving business with the likes of the Palace of Westminster among its client base.

Parkers Promotional Products, based in Bramhope, was launched by Charlie’s father, Albert Geoffrey Parker, who was a textile baron in Bradford and well known for his involvement in sport in Yorkshire.

He had been made redundant at the age of 49, so went to work at a promotional products firm in Blackpool.

Charlie explained: “Very shortly after he started working for them he realised that all his mates wanted to give him orders for promotional products.”

So Parkers Promotional Products was born. Charlie, who had been sacked from a succession of jobs before the age of 25, joined his father in the venture.

Charlie has been running the business since his father retired 19 years ago.

Charlie said: “Back in those days he had a suitcase, my father, and he has a hundred different lines in this big suitcase... key rings and tax disc holders and pens, and he used to literally go with his big suitcase and lay it out on the guy’s office desk and say, ‘what do you want to buy with your company name on it?’”

Today, Charlie’s son, Edward, is working within the business too, and its product range has expanded significantly.

“The beauty of our business is you can sell to any business, so you’ve got the spectrum of being able to sell to a hairdresser or to Asda, it goes from a one-man band to an organisation that’s got 180,000 employees,” said Charlie.

The company, which turns over £1.5m every year, has supplied Northern Rail, The Ice Company, Leeds and Partners, Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream and the Leeds Arena.

Parkers Promotional Products also works for third party businesses, which supply supermarket chains Morrisons and Asda.

The firm also supplies products to the Palace of Westminster, the home of the Houses of Parliament.

Charlie said: “We tendered for that in an open government tender situation and won the tender to supply it for five years. We are three years into a five-year contract supplying the Palace of Westminster with their lan- yards.”

Parkers Promotional Products supplies the Palace of Westminster with 500,000 lanyards per year.

Now, Charlie is planning to focus on growing the business, with the hope of reaching a turnover of £3m in the next five years.

He explained: “In 1999, my first wife died of a brain haemorrhage leaving me with five boys... ranging from 14 to four.

“So the business suffered somewhat in its progression because for the last 14 years – the youngest is now 18 and he’s in New Zealand playing cricket – I’ve been running this business and I’ve been paying their school fees.

“I had to send them away to school.

“I could not possibly have ever managed to look after them properly at home.”

He added: “Now it’s all done so consequently now I have an opportunity with my eldest son and maybe some of my other sons at some point, to drive the business forward and not take all the profits to pay for the school fees.

“So I’ve now got quite an ambitious plan to expand the business.

“We think that with the same number of staff and given that we’ve won a new piece of business worth £400,000 or thereabouts, that we should be able to push on to £1.8m, £1.9m (turnover), maybe even £2m (this year).”

Parkers Promotional Products plans to move to new premises soon and has recently launched a new website.

Charlie said: “We have seen an uplift of 15 to 20 per cent in sales since the new website went live. We’ve got our new catalogue out too.

“We are investing quite heavily in new data at the moment.

“We are buying new names and addresses to approach new companies, so at the end of January we are sending out another 500 catalogues to another 500 businesses with an offer in it.”

The company, which has a team of six, including Charlie, sources products from the UK and China primarily.