Peterborough’s Ideal World sets sights on top five e-commerce market places

The boss of a Peterborough-based TV and online shopping retailer has unveiled ambitious plans to turn the business into one of the UK’s top e-commerce market places.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 11:42 am
Jamie Martin, chief executive of Ideal World.

Jamie Martin, chief executive of Ideal World, in Newark Road, where it employs about 600 staff, says the company will be among the leading five businesses of its type in the next four years.

It will be made possible by a hefty investment in a state-of-the art IT system to handle the 30 million products that will be available to Ideal over the next two-and-a half years.

Other key factors will be its partnership with ITV, which has just been given a lengthy extension, providing Ideal World with a high profile on a prime viewing platform plus the growing public enthusiasm for crafting, catered for by Create and Craft, Ideal’s Shopping Direct’s crafting division.

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In the studio at Ideal World.

It will be a dramatic transformation of the company, which while it is currently celebrating its 21st anniversary, can actually trace its origins to the 1980s when it began as a mail order catalogue business.

Mr Martin, who was appointed by owners Aurelius in December 2018 to turbodrive the company’s fortunes, said: “The company has had its up and downs since 2000.

“But there was not the necessary investment in its IT system. The focus was on other matters and the IT system was just patched up.

“We have just made a seven figure investment to install a new IT system that will go live next year.

“The new system will be able to handle the 30 million products that we plan to be able to make available within the next 30 months.”

“It will allow over the next four years for Ideal to become one of the top five largest market places in the UK and that will secure the future of the business.”

Another investment that will add a new dimension to Ideal’s offering is a new £250,000 studio in Peterborough for its American audiences that will be ready to broadcast in four months creating 10 jobs.

The glittering future that seems to be on the horizon for Ideal has not been tarnished by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Martin said the health crisis had acted as a tailwind for the company.

Forced to stay at home under lockdown restrictions, people have sought new ways to fill the unexpected spare time. The appetite for more materials and equipment for hobbies and exercise has seen people turn to Ideal as a convenient and reliable source for the products.

Mr Martin said: “When the pandemic broke last March, my initial thoughts were only for the survival of the business.

“It didn’t occur to me that sales would go up.

“I created a £250,000 Covid fund to ensure the safety of staff at work. I placed 10 pods, containing a sleeping area, desk, offices and ensuite facilities in our grounds, for our guest presenters to use as all the hotels were closed. I also turned my office and some others into bedrooms.

“Shifts were reorganised but only 10 of the 600 staff were furloughed.

“Early on the company’s call centre in India pulled out but within three hours 10,000 inbound calls were diverted to Ireland - a task that would normally take three months.”

The Covid-19 crisis wrought havoc with Ideal’s supply chain which stretches to China.

Mr Martin said: “I decided to buy several months stock in one go - an investment of £5 million. The real problem was a lack of containers because of fewer staff at the ports.

“We usually have about 80 or 90 containers at sea at any one time. With the extra stock we had 200 containers which allowed the stock to get through regularly despite delays of about 70 days.

“The price of containers also shot up - from a normal price of $2,200 to up to $10,000.”

Incredibly Ideal World saw its sales during 2020 rise by £40 million to £170 million - with about 50 per cent due to Covid and the other half due to planning.

Mr Martin said: “2020 was the biggest trading year in the company’s history.”

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