Maypoles, Morris dancers and a whole manner of weird and wonderful spring entertainment will be coming to a town near you this weekend, thanks to yet another bank holiday celebration.
But who supplies the bells for the Morris dancers? Or deckchairs for lounging on the seafront?
And where does all that ribbon for the village maypole come from?
For many small businesses, bank holidays can be their busiest times of the year.
Whether you decide to enjoy a day on the village green or an afternoon at the beach, spend the hours sightseeing, or cower from the rain in front of the TV with a takeaway fish and chips, a huge number of British firms will have contributed to your May Bank Holiday entertainment – and there’s money to be made.
This is Money has had a stab at highlighting some bank holiday favourites that have turned our leisure time into a money-spinner.
The deckchair king
Chillax: Founder of Southsea Deckchairs gets comfortable
Stephen Davies started off as a ‘deckie’ in his local town, before launching his own deckchair business in 1987. He has since worked on partnerships with the likes of Tom Ford and Clarks shoes.
Southsea Deckchairs produces and supplies deckchairs, fabrics and related products for the UK and international markets. The business was started in 1987 by Stephen after several summers of working as a deckchair attendant.
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After graduating from university, Stephen quickly decided to work with what he knew, and started designing and producing deckchairs.
Although setting up a manufacturing company from scratch was a challenge for Stephen in the early days, the business has quickly grown to be the UK’s sole producer of deckchairs.
Stephen said: ‘The May Bank Holiday is not only a great British tradition, is also great for our business.
‘The lead up to the Bank Holiday is definitely one of our busiest times – usually given an extra boost if the weather is looking like it will be on the sunny side. It’s hard to put an exact figure on these things, but I’d say we see an increase in orders for our product of up to 200 per cent over this period.
‘The Bank Holiday is a lot like the Christmas season for us. This last few weeks we’ve been really busy manufacturing enough deckchairs to ensure we meet our customer orders.
‘Once the actual Bank Holiday is upon us, the factory is closed down for the whole period and staff are allowed to enjoy their hard earned break!’
Where can you find a decent deckchair this weekend? Stephen supplies to pretty much every beach on the UK coast, as well as parks and urban beaches. Look out for his trademark designs in Eastborne, Brighton, Margate and Scarborough.
The advertising ice cream van that gives out free treats
Ice cream: A popular bank holiday business
Even when it’s pouring, ice creams are a must-have accessory during UK bank holidays.
Promotional Ice Cream Vans provide ice cream vans – complete with ice cream – and supporting staff for promotional work. Previous clients include Marc Jacobs, Facebook, the National Careers Service and Old Spice.
The business was founded in 1999 and is owned and run by mother and son team Margaret and Daniel Donovan. The company was the first to specialise in promotional work on ice cream vans
Margaret explains: ‘By giving away ice creams, you’re far more likely to be able to engage with customers than just giving away leaflets. Ice creams are a treat that can draw people in – and everyone wants a free ice cream!
‘Bank holidays are our busiest weekends. Demand for our services increases by as much as 40 per cent. From promotional shows to country fairs, we see the biggest uplift in enquiries, and therefore sales, around these dates.’
Despite the fun nature of the job, there have been challenges for the company. ‘The winter months and classic British weather have a huge impact on our business, so you have to be ready for that,’ says Margaret.
‘You have to persevere – there are times when it’s really hard. The first five years were particularly tough for us; building up a client base, funding the machinery and vehicles – it’s not easy.
‘Having said that, if you’ve got the right formula, and you stick at it, running a business can be a fantastic experience.’
Where can you find them this weekend? The duo have been snapped up for a private event.
The fish and chip shop of the year
Family business: Quayside Fish and Chip Shop in Whitby
Days at the beach are not complete unless they’ve been rounded off with fish and chips – a British seaside classic.
Quayside is a fish and chip restaurant and takeaway in the seaside town of Whitby. Owned and run by the Fusco family – alongside two sister restaurants and takeaways – Quayside Restaurant has recently been named Fish and Chip Shop of the year 2014.
The company, a family run business now in its third generation, has been operating since the 1950s. The Quayside premises were acquired in 1999 and the restaurant opened in 2000 following a complete refurbishment.
Adrian Fusco says: ‘As a family, we never stop thinking about the business, although we don’t always consider it work – it’s more of way of life. My grandmother started making fishcakes back in the 1950s. We think she probably made over 1.5million fishcakes in her time. The recipe has been passed down through the family and we still use it today.’
During bank holidays the Fusco family can all be found in one of their shops.
‘As a family business we think that on days like this it really works to lead by example, all the family will be at work from open to close. As we work side-by-side with our employees in all roles, we find some of the enthusiasm and passion for the product rubs off on them.
He adds: ‘All Bank Holidays are really busy for us. If the weather is favourable, what else better than to head for the coast on your day off to enjoy fish and chips by the sea? This is the kind of thing us Brits do on Bank Holidays, and subsequently we are much busier than usual. It’s days like this that really sorts the workers from the shirkers, and most employees see it as a challenge.’
‘We do a lot of preparation in the run up to a bank holiday weekend – we need to closely monitor the weather forecast and make our best judgment of how much stock to get in and staff to organise. Without a doubt, the profit margins on a Bank Holiday are greater, but the work is harder. A bank Holiday weekend can account for 5 per cent of our annual turnover if the weather is in our favour.’
Where can you find them this weekend? Whitby.
Britain’s oldest manufacturer making money of morris dancers
Bell maker: Minister for Skills and Enterprise, Matthew Hancock with Peter Trick from Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
A May Day celebration without Morris dancing is like fish and chips without salt and vinegar.
And, although Whitechapel Bell Foundry is better known for manufacturing the great Big Ben bell at the Houses of Parliament, owner Alan Hughes admits that it’s actually morris dancers that make up a hefty proportion of the firm’s customer base.
The church bell producer, based in East London, is the UK’s oldest manufacturing company. The business was founded in 1570 and has a glamorous past, given that as well as Big Ben the organisation created the legendary Liberty Bell and the bell that Bradley Wiggins struck in the Olympic Park at the London 2012 opening ceremony.
Today the firm is owned and run by husband and wife duo, Alan and Kathryn Hughes, with Alan the fourth generation of his family to take the helm.
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As well iconic bells, the firm also supply thousands of smaller bells to people across the UK – with morris dancing troupes representing a key customer base.
The company employs 25 staff, and has had to overcome numerous challenges in order to maintain its existence.
Kathryn says: ‘Bell production is a continuously shrinking market. With that in mind, we’ve had to plan incredibly well and diversify our product portfolio in order to take advantage of new opportunities.’
One example of the business’ evolution was the opening of its online shop last year, allowing customers to order bespoke bells at the click of a button. On top of this, Kathryn and Alan make numerous trips abroad to maintain and expand Whitechapel Bell Foundry’s international client base, without which Kathryn says the company could not survive.
“There aren’t many countries in the world that we haven’t exported to,” she says.
“Running a small business is not for the faint hearted. Anyone who is thinking about starting up a new company needs to go into it with their eyes open – every day throws up new challenges and it can really take over your life.
“But, having said that, if you can plan efficiently while delivering outstanding customer service and great products, running a business is a fantastic and hugely rewarding adventure.”
Where can you find them this weekend? This May Day, with the UK’s morris dancers catered for, the owners of the firm, Alan and Kathryn Hughes are in Miami to discuss supplying some of their larger items to American cathedrals.
From maypoles to Mary Berry – our ribbo0ns are a winner
Ribbons: Specialist craft company owner Keith Edwards
Without ribbons, a maypole is really just a lamp post. So it’s lucky that Fantastic Ribbons, a family run business based in Exeter, is on hand to supply the key May Day ingredient.
With the UK’s passion for crafting in the home continuing to boom, Fantastic Ribbons which, as its name suggests, specialises in ribbon – including those used in maypoles – has been a runaway success. It even counts national treasure Mary Berry among its customers.
Established in 1999, the company originally started out supplying wholesale florist provisions.
However, having done some research, it quickly identified a market for supplying rolls of ribbon. The new venture was so successful that in 2009 the company launched a new craft division, supplying products for knitting, stitching, textiles, card making, cake decorating and home décor,
Keith Edwards, one of the co-founders of Fantastic Ribbons, says: ‘We are only a small family business but we’ve managed to achieve some great successes in the last few years of trading. Not only are our turnover and profits have grown but we’re also meeting the demands of our customers, whose advice and feedback we are always taking on board.
‘We’ve been delighted to have supplied some of the big players in the industry with our ribbons, these including QVC and Ideal World TV. Recently Amazon has also asked us to supply them with our products too. As well as these great endorsements, we’ve also been able to count the queen of home baking herself – Mary Berry – as one of our valued customers.’
According to Keith, this year’s most popular colours for maypole ribbons are orange, lime, pink, purple, spotted and gingham.
Where can you find Fantasic Ribbons this weekend? Across the country! Before every bank holiday there is an average spike in business of around 15 per cent as families and local communities ready themselves for fetes, cake sales and other local celebrations.
I made the perfect cup of tea my mission
Tea? Michael Harrison brews a knock-out cuppa
Any great British occasion is instantly improved with a cup of tea.
Mad Hatter Tea Company is an importer, blender and packer of premium quality tea, based in Richmond, North Yorkshire. The quintessentially British company is owned and run by Michael Harrison, or ‘Madison Hatter’ as he’s known in the industry.
Taking its name from the popular character in Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, the idea for Mad Hatter Tea Company started to form back in 1999.
A decade of research later, Michael was finally ready to unveil his tea business. Now, as well as selling in the UK, he exports his teas to countries as far flung as Japan.
He says: ‘In 1999 I left my home in Richmond Yorkshire where Lewis Carroll’s genius was first discovered and embarked on a quest to find the ultimate blend of tea.
‘After 10 years of painstaking research I developed a combination of Indian and African teas which produce a unique richness of colour and exquisite depth of taste.’
For Michael, bank holiday periods mark a big boost in business.
He explains: ‘The Easter and Bank Holiday breaks are really good for our business. As we supply our products to lots of museums and gift shops, we tend to find they stock up in advance.
‘In real terms I’d say we do see an increase in sales of around the 12 per cent mark as a result. As you can imagine, we are huge fans of the May Bank Holiday and its impact on the business.’