Over the last decade, around a half-a-million bespoke Devon made map jigsaws have been shipped to America, including 40,000 last year alone.
The rising demand for Map Marketing’s handiwork both on home soil and across the Atlantic, has played a big part in the company’s decision to relocate its head office from London to Exeter, reducing the distance to its production unit in North Devon.
The company’s office and production factory were both based in London since its establishment in 1978 until the late 1990s when the expanding firm moved its warehouse to Hatherleigh, while the office stayed put in London.
But with soaring rents and plans to grow the company year-on-year, it made economic sense for the acclaimed business, which produces framed maps and charts for the stationery trade as well as gift maps, jigsaw puzzles and geography teaching aids, to relocate their head office to Matford Business Park.
“The decision to move the production unit to Devon some 20 years ago, enabled us to branch out into jigsaws as well as maps,” explained managing director Brian O’Donnell. “Our decision to move the office to Exeter will also enable us to grow the business further.
“The price premium in London just wasn’t worth it,” added Brian who said the move to Exeter will generate significant savings for the firm in business rates alone.
The move to Exeter has seen the company recruit a cartographer, a graphic designer and an e-commerce assistant locally, and the business hopes to become part of the existing Exeter business network.
“It’s easier to partner with companies in rural areas than in London, partly because there’s a smaller pool but still of a high quality,” said Brian. “Obviously you meet brilliant people in London, but it’s easier to find more dependable and relatable partners and build long-lasting relationships in smaller communities.”
Map Marketing is the leading supplier of UK postcode maps and its specialist mapping division made up of skilled cartographers is often called upon to create one off, custom made maps for businesses and leisure purposes.
The company employs around 20 production staff and 10 office staff. Last year sales increased by 10 per cent and the firm is on track for similar growth this year.
The company’s best seller “by far” is a map jigsaw with the location of the recipient’s house as the centre point.
“We make thousands of jigsaws, one by one in the warehouse, all hand finished – you couldn’t do everything we do with a machine,” explained Brian.
One of the most popular map gift products is the Wedding Drop Box, which constitutes a heart shaped map in a glass frame, half of which is a map from the bride’s birth town and the other half from the grooms, with room for heart shaped message tokens from wedding guests which are dropped in alongside the map.
Plans are afoot to expand their gift range in keeping with the growing demand for jigsaws nationally and internationally.
“Jigsaws for adults is such a growing market that they were added to the Consumer Price Index last year,” said Brian, who appeared on BBC Breakfast at Christmas and spoke about the surge in interest for this traditional pastime.
“We chose an office space bigger than our needs, so without a doubt we expect to grow the team as we grow the business,” continued Brian who joined the company two years ago.
“Economically and practically, it made sense to move out of London. Myself, the sales director and the head of marketing all live in Exeter so we were splitting our time between north Devon and London. We briefly considered Plymouth and Tiverton, but Exeter seemed to have the biggest talent pool.
“However, it was a difficult decision because we had to close our London office before we knew if people would apply down here. But the quality of the people we’ve found has been exactly what we’d hoped for, and we have a fantastic office team to work alongside our production team.”
Cllr Rachel Sutton, Lead Councillor for Economy at Exeter City Council, added: “It’s good news that Exeter is becoming an attractive alternative to London for businesses looking to ensure future growth. Exeter has a lot to offer the business community, including highly competitive rents and rates.
“The arrival of internationally in-demand businesses like Map Marketing to the city can only serve to strengthen Exeter’s reputation and inspire other firms to follow suit.”
VIDEO AVAILABLE: Why Map Marketing’s MD Brian O’Donnell chose to relocate the business to Exeter from London. https://youtu.be/mKQL8gfxwio