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Case study: helping a costume manufacturer expand their premises

21st May 2024
Brought to you by
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Allica Bank is Britain’s award-winning business bank focused exclusively on supporting established...
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If you’ve ever attended an event at which a costumed mascot was present, you more than likely know the work of Rainbow Productions. A brilliant example of the colour and variety of the UK’s established SME landscape, Rainbow Productions has produced over 20,000 characters in its 41 years of trading. 

Rainbow Productions
Allica Bank

Their work brings to life well-known characters from popular culture (e.g. Peppa Pig and Bluey), but also iconic mascots for world events like the Olympics and world cups in most sports. 

Helmed by Managing Director Simon Foulkes, Rainbow Productions is a British business success story – and their growth is continuing apace, with a little help from Allica Bank

Adding some context and colour 

Trading since 1983 and based in Colliers Wood, South London, Rainbow Productions employs 30 full-time staff with upwards of 350 freelancers across costume design, performance (wearing the costumes themselves), and road management. 

As well as its manufacturing and production work, the company also manages the personal appearances of over 140 licensed children’s characters. 

The business is not just a UK stalwart, but a global one. Trading on 40 years of success and good reputation, the company produces a huge amount of economic and social value in what is, ultimately, a niche sector. 

Surviving (and rebounding from) an existential threat 

There will be few businesses that were hit as hard by the pandemic as Rainbow Productions. With live events representing a huge amount of their revenue, lockdowns and restrictions put a huge strain on the business. 

Simon Foulkes (Managing Director) worked diligently to preserve and support the business throughout that period and his efforts have proven to be entirely worthwhile. The business has since bounced back and landed in its busiest period to date, with demand extending far beyond its pre-pandemic peak. 

From teetering on the precipice to breaking new ground, Simon has had to shift gears at remarkable speed. The next step, after settling into this period of sustained growth, has been to make sure that all elements of the business have caught up with the accelerated demand. 

Premises, undoubtedly, are a key part of that equation. 

A stroke of fortune, long overdue 

Simon had navigated the business through an incredibly difficult couple of years, only to face a new challenge. With the continued growth of the business, Simon needed to source additional premises to both house their costumes and make space for further production. As chance would have it, a unit on the same business park as their existing premises became available for purchase. 

Rather than risk spending a huge amount of capital outright, Simon chose to pursue a commercial mortgage – a decision that brought him to Allica Bank. Remarkably, just 10 days after his application, he had a commercial mortgage agreed. 

Speaking on the speed of decision, Allica Bank relationship manager Martin Parker said: “It is a relatively straightforward trading business with good numbers and a really clear, demonstrable repayment capacity from the annual accounts.”  

Securing the property and growing into the future 

The purchase itself wasn’t as smooth as the commercial mortgage application, thanks to some legal complexities that emerged in the conveyancing process. Martin was closely involved in the conversations and helped Simon see the deal through to completion, keeping him updated regularly over the phone and with in-person visits. 

This was important to Martin, as he believes “the key to any relationship, whether it’s banking or anything else in business, is communication. At Allica, we have really short lines of communication.” 

“They cut through an awful lot of the bureaucracy,” Simon confirmed, “and very quickly we realised they had the same ethos as we did. We chose Allica because they saw the bigger picture.” 

Now that the business has caught up with itself – and has space to grow further – the future feels more secure. “We’re going to be relocating our events team and our wardrobe department over there,” explained Sales & Marketing Director James Barlow. “It’ll also help our production department, as we’re going to have more space to expand.” 

The right bank can help you ride the waves forward 

Rainbow Productions’ story can be an inspiration to any business or accountant. They weathered the storm, stayed nimble, and have seized their opportunity to grow as the world got back to normal. 

Looking ahead, Simon explained that “having Allica on board will not only help us now with the infrastructure we’ve got but, equally, drive business for the future. Allica listened to us – we’ve got a very close relationship with our relationship manager - and they’ve continued discussions about how they can help us finance acquisitional growth as well.” 

Martin made a wonderful point to sum up the relationship. “Rainbow combines a really world class product, fantastic manufacturing and performance capabilities, but it’s a business that exists to make people smile.” 

“For every pound we’ve loaned we’ve probably generated about 100 smiles and that makes this one of the best things I’ve done.” 

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