Wild Cards & Gifts owner tells: How I sold my $30 million business to WH Smith

Giftware franchise Wild Cards & Gifts has been bought by UK newsagency giant WH Smith.

Wild Cards & Gifts founders Sandra and Lawrence Boyle told SmartCompany they sold the 42 franchise business for an “undisclosed sum” which was between $5 million and $10 million.

Wild Cards & Gifts has turned over $250 million since it started trading in 2002 and currently has revenue of over $30 million a year. 

Lawrence Boyle says the couple decided to sell after conducting a review of the business last year looking at what was needed for continued success by Wild Cards & Gifts’ franchisees.

“We did that by visiting all the stores and reviewing them and our competitors. We came up with a short list of things to be achieved to give that gap to the marketplace. We decided it was a long-term program, and we decided after 30 years it was best handled by someone else, so we then set about finding that party,” Boyle says.

“What’s needed now is determination and a tremendous game plan, and WH Smith has a tremendous game plan.” 

WH Smith plans to continue to operate the Wild Cards & Gifts brand under its existing name but Boyle says the UK-based retailer plans to grow the business further.

“The intention, as I understand it, is to maintain the brand in terms of what the customer sees and to look at the way the business is supplied, the marketing and the support structure of the group,” Boyle says.

“[Wild Cards & Gifts] is going to grow through profit improvement programs that WH Smith has planned from increased critical mass and being part of a worldwide network.” 

During the global financial crisis, Wild Cards & Gifts continued to grow both store numbers and turn over, but with only 2% to 3% market share, Boyle says there is plenty of room for WH Smith to take the business further.

“It can be an 80-store group, it can be a 100-store group, but we were not the right people. I think in business we should all understand our own limitations,” he says. 

“We have removed our main competition from the market place through that time, Kenny’s Cardiology, it’s a business model based in the 80s that is no longer relevant.”

Boyle says the sale to WH Smith was prompted by the need to expand Wild Cards & Gifts rather than the existing market conditions.

“This is a nice ending to a good tale of retail, retail like every industry is not easy, it has never been easy, claims of competition and rents being difficult have always been there, only nostalgia says things were easier in years gone by,” he says. 

“For a little business that started in Perth back in 2002, we had no idea that it would grow anywhere near as big as it did.”

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