Lilac Blue: Antoinette Hunter

The present company set to cause big surprises


Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, or Grandma’s birthday, the chances are that Lilac Blue could be the company to help in your hunt for presents. Or that’s what founder Antoinette Hunter is hoping.

It’s little over a year since the personal shopper business was started with £175,000 of personal investment, and it’s already establishing a niche in the busy concierge-style services sector. Unlike other firms, which offer plumbing today and skiing tomorrow, Hunter has chosen to concentrate efforts purely on gifts.

She spent much of 2003 networking, building a customer base and compiling an offering of 2,500 luxury and novel gift ideas from 150 suppliers. The company is now looking to eke a higher average spend out of existing subscribers, sign new clients and develop lucrative business-to-business relationships.

It has teamed up with highbrow concierge company Quintessentially, which has 6,000 members, as its gift partner, and has made arrangements with Classic Car Club and another concierge company, Ten UK, to add value for members.

Its clients pay between £120 and £180 a year and purchases are turned around in three or four days.

The concept may appear reminiscent of the ‘cash-rich, time-poor’ propositions that flooded the market during dot com hysteria, but Hunter says Lilac Blue won’t become a statistic. “We’re certainly not a dot com. We speak to most of our customers and only around 2% register online.” However, she admits the site, www.lilacblue.com, is crucial. She also pushes some of the £90,000 she might otherwise have spent on high street premises and carrying stock, into marketing.

While the company’s first year turnover amounted to £150,000, Hunter expects to see that double every 12 months for the next couple of years. “Initially, we opted to grow organically to prove the business works, but we’ll still be looking for investment of up to £500,000,” she says.

In five years Hunter expects a minimum of 1,000 direct customers with an average spend of at least £800. Existing customers already spend £500 on average, representing 30% of revenues. If anything that figure should go down, so by 2007 Hunter hopes her venture will have a turnover exceeding £3m.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Lilac Blue

Activity: Gift buying service

Founded: 2002

Investment: ?175,000

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