Hello Matthew, how are you?
It's a typical Friday David. Suppliers sending us items in
late and couriers turn up with pallets late in the
afternoon. Just the usual!
It's seems to be the age of last minute-ism now, doesn't it,
and everyone expects instant gratification too?
Yes, that's true.
You could turn them away, but it would just make more work
I had a delivery the other day and I was on the phone, so a
bit distracted. I just got to him in time as he was
offloading some radiators and a boiler destined for number
three two streets away! Honesty was the best policy. (Both
laugh) Can you please tell us a bit about your background
and the background to BettyBoop4u?
We were already a gift shop and were getting quite a few
enquiries for Betty and I didn't know a lot about her then.
So I started to research her and found out she had quite a
following. Then it went on from there and grew. We were the
first to do a dedicated website and I'm going back some
twelve years now. We were fairly pioneering at the time with
Yes, there wasn't an awful lot going on back then was there?
there was a fan club site but nothing too commercial. Since
then we've had people try to copy us and replicate what
we're doing. And failing miserably!
That copying was a compliment in a way.
Yes, in a way. For me I just look on it as an annoyance when
people jump on our bandwagon - they don't really know what
they're selling. This is where we've had to get very au
fait, because the fans are very knowledgeable and fussy
people. I suppose, from my respect being a bloke, it was not
the sort of thing I could really get into. But she does grow
Ah! I was going to ask you if you were a fan now.
I wouldn't necessarily say I was a fan, but as a male with
my other interests, if I had a partner who wanted to collect
Betty I'd understand why.
I was talking to your lady wife and told her that I am back
in touch with my youngest daughter, who, for reasons I won't
bore you with, I'd not been in touch with for a number of
years. And when I went to her house a month ago I was
delighted to see she has a collection of Betty Boop. I
didn't know she collected it. She's 24.
Ah! Our demographic is from Seven to 87.
Quite specific then?! (Laughs)
Yes right across the board with people from all walks of
life and I have met a few characters I can tell you. So it
does encompass a very broad fan-base.
What's the continuing appeal?
I think there's that bit about fashion and sex appeal. Men
collect Betty Boop too and when they get hold of Betty or
Betty gets a hold on them should I say they become really
avid fans. I think its because she's got that sex appeal.
Did you know that Marilyn Monroe copied her pose, funnily
enough? The cool, breezy, blowing dress was all from Betty.
So if someone like Marilyn locked onto her and thought she
was the business... The iconic following was as a result of
clever licensing by Fleischer and they made sure that the
product was out there in all different guises. If you were a
fashionable type you may buy a handbag with a Betty
attachment if you didn't like the figures.
Does it go from inexpensive T-Shirts to really expensive
Yes. We do everything - handbags, hairbrushes, figurines,
furniture, jewellery, clothing - some of the figures we do
can cost up to £300-£400.
What is the most popular stuff that you're shipping out
I would say the figures are the most popular. We've
probably got the biggest range, that's why. Followed by
initial mugs - they're very popular, cards and keyrings.
Is this all coming from abroad?
Yes. I'm racking my brains to think of anything made here.
I'm developing an idea for a very new Betty Boop product
range and that will be partly made in the UK. It's all a
bit hush-hush because I don't want anybody to grab a hold
of the idea before I get past the licensing aspect. It's a
bit scary. (Laughs) With Betty in particular, it's very
competitive, very strict and there's a lot of controls.
Fleischer have got it all bagged and tagged really. And
I'm all for proper licensed products because when you get
a genuine collector then you don't want rogue product in
the arena because that collector is going to pick it up.
You do get collectors who don't give a damn if things are
well made but usually the rogue stuff isn't well made and
not accurate to the Betty look. With the figures, for
example, the eyes have a certain colour and they have to
be that colour. So identifying rogue product is quite easy
for someone who knows what they're selling.
They don't bother to replicate it that well?
No, they just bang it out. (Laughs)
Are you shipping coals to Newcastle? Do you get a lot of
We're just now literally going into Europe. We've been
dealing with UK/Ireland for a long time and I resisted
simply because of cost to ship it. A CD or something like
that is not a problem, but when you've got a Betty figure or
something like that to insure and ship. It's not like you
can just chuck it in a box and off it goes. You have to be
aware of where it might get damaged. We've got a great track
record for that as well and we get glowing reports from our
customers on our speed of service, our knowledge and,
indeed, even our packaging. A lady emailed me just the other
day saying how beautiful the packaging was! She was
referring to how we sent it. (Laughs)
So you're doing business with Europe?
Yes, we just tied the deal with UPS and we're going to be
promoting in Europe soon. It's funny, because we get
enquiries from all over the World. We've found there's a
fan-base in Australia that we're trying to tap into at the
minute. For us that will be a real feather in the cap if we
can get that sorted out - the only trouble there is the cost
of sending it. That would be our furthest destination!
That's the blessing and the curse of The Internet really,
Indeed. We were talking about it today. The horrible bit
about The Internet is that fraud is on the upturn and the
banks and PayPal really don't protect the genuine seller in
any shape or form.
No, on eBay, when I was dealing in movie memorabilia, 99% of
autographs were fakes and eBay had no control over it nor
did they seem particularly bothered.
I think that's the real bad part of The Internet and why I
resisted it as much as I could even though my background
included it. I love that one-to-one and that face-to- face
with the customer. We still do get it in a way - we have a
lady who has now become a regular customer and this is down
to Chris - she knows everything there is to know on Betty
and tends to guide people if they phone up. You do get guys
who call and are not too sure - their wives or partners are
collectors and they might know a little bit about what she's
got. And that's where Chris's knowledge comes in with the
one-to-one with customers.
Chris has got that good friendly chatty style as well which
is exactly what you need.
Yes, I think from our respect there are a number of sites
out there that you can't even phone. There's no contact
number and maybe a mobile that you ring between 10 and 2.
Yes, and all communication is via the dreaded email. I'm not
impressed when a business dictates to the customer how they
should be communicating.
It's very impersonal. And with us we're transparent - you
can come along to the shop if you want and you can phone us
up when you want. We don't hide from doing a deal and if
we've sold you something, we're here.
What are the best things about what you do and what are your
always had a passion for films, pretty much everything but
Sci-Fi and Old Black n Whites are my favourites, because my
father was a chief projectionist and so it was instilled
into me. I would go along at weekends and sit in the
projection room watching the big screen through the
little spy window high up.
Wow! What a wonderful way to grow up.
Yes, it was.
I don't suppose you have a hoard of the old movie posters do
A few. At that time it was more going in to watch things
like Flash Gordon and I used to do the ABC minors - the J
Arthur Rank thing. My dad was visiting other cinemas and
making sure that everything was being done right and if
there was a break in the film there was a certain time
allowed to put it together and get it back on the screen. He
was passionate about that and Rank actually wanted to
promote him up into a suit but he turned it down. He
shouldn't have done that because we would have been very
well heeled. But I take my hat off to him because his words
were "I don't want to be a stuffed suit, I want to get
on with the job." So I had that film bug built in.
And everything has led to this.
Yes, because we have the MOSS247.COM website which aims to
reflect the whole of the current shop. Betty is one of our
strong arms followed by the film items like Harry Potter,
Star Trek, Star Wars and some of the more popular
collectable stuff like Alien, Predator, Halo and so on...
Are you thinking of 'doing a Betty Boop' with any of the
There's a small concern - if you walk into our shop we've
got 3,200 stock items generally on display and there's
fourteen double display cabinets full up to the brim.
Putting the MOSS247 site up which we have only just started
doing is a mammoth task... The idea is that we replicate the
shop with the MOSS247 site. We did think we might set up a
couple other dedicated sites like Betty Boop 4U - but I've
decided to get the two main sites up and running before
that. We are 185% on last year on our website and I think
that's simply because I've given my attention to sorting out
the web and increasing the range of products. There's a part
of me that kicks myself and says "Why didn't I do that
before another shop and all the other stuff?" But
having a shop I truly believe gives you so much credibility
and makes you stand out from the rest.
A lot of people don't even have physical premises anymore
apart from somewhere to store the stock.
I think that our shops will be a bonus for us in the
long-term. There are a lot of dodgy traders that don't even
give an address or a landline telephone number so you don't
know who they are!
That's a big plus.
It is. The bottom line to us is we've had a solid background
and providing we have a bit of good luck ...
Well, you're riding the economic storm which is good.
One of our bank managers popped his head in and said hello
and he actually said "Matthew, you're still out there
and a lot of them are going." I'm pleased to say I do
have a good relationship with my bank. Banks are banks and
they're all the same but this individual attention is
encouraging. I go along and say "I'm going to do this
and that" and they say "Yes, okay Matthew."
We do seven days a week, twelve hours a day, so it's not the
sort of thing where we're just putting our feet up.
Where would you want to be with the business in five years'
Retired mate. (Laughs)
My window cleaner came round the other day - he knows what I
do and he asked me if I was going on holiday this year. I
told him "I can afford a holiday, they're actually
quite cheap, but I can't afford the two weeks of not being
here and the work not being done." His mate replied
"Why don't you just take your laptop with you?"
And I said "Okay. I'm sitting on a beach in Tunisia
with a drink by my side and the sun beating down and my
girlfriend by my other side. And I've got a laptop in front
of me and I'm sending and receiving emails, updating the
website, doing interviews, sending invoices and chasing
payments and making a stream of sales calls or receiving
enquries all day from 8 in the morning to 6 in the
evening." "Oh, I see your point" he said.
Yes, not really the right thing to do. Chris and I have only
had a couple of days off in the last four years and we're
about to try and change that this year. I don't know how.
You just have to make it happen. I make sure I have a few
A busman's holiday is not really a break. My health is an
issue and I want to get to a point where I can say
"Take a seat." I've worked since the age of
fourteen. I haven't stopped, been there, done that, broke
I've got a good feeling about this business. I think
although you and I are both a little bit cynical about The
Internet, because we come from that sort of background, I
think you've got a winner here. Although The Internet is
having a bad impact on traditional retail, what you've done
is chosen a niche and it's a good one. I think you could do
extremely well out of it.
I'm confident, David, that I've done it right Betty Boop is
Timeless - Her popularity never wanes.
You're a trier. There are so many people who think about
doing things and they don't get off the mark. You have, and
that's the difference.
I think, as well, if you're of that type, then you press on
and get on with what you want to do and it's no good in
thinking after only five minutes that it's not happening.
You've got to chip away and make it happen and it's hard
You are so busy and I understand that. These days we're
being torn in so many different directions as businesses and
that's why I appreciate how hard it has even been to arrange
this chat. It's your business and it's up to me to try to
help you schedule it in.
I also have very good relationships with the reps of
companies I deal with because they know how often to hassle
or nag me but also that I haven't really got the time. They
balance it right and they don't say "He can't be
bothered so I won't be bothered." Then they
wouldn't get the orders. You've only got so many hours in
the day and we work twelve of them and every so often I say
to Chris "Enough. Let's go and get something to eat and
It sounds like a great business Matthew and I'm confident
that after all the hard work and energy you've both put in
to this you'll be retiring to somewhere exotic before too
long. Thanks Matthew for talking to us.
Thank you David.