Spotlight: Oxford Limited
"I think the advantage of being a small business is that you’re nimble. You’re not bogged down by process, structure and procedure."
At OX we love small, local businesses who display a true passion for attention to detail, artistry and pride in what they do.
Each month, we shine our Spotlight on a small- to medium-scale enterprise who we think embody these values and celebrate the best of Oxfordshire’s small business. For January, we’ve spoken to Chris Evans, managing director of Oxford Limited, who look after licensing and merchandising for the University of Oxford.
Hi Chris, how and why was Oxford Limited established, and how did you become involved?
Oxford Limited is a subsidiary company wholly owned by the university. It was established in 1991 as part of recognition that the trademarks of the university at that time were being used freely across the city and elsewhere, on merchandise that had no official commission on the part of the university.
Oxford Limited started to address that by opening the first University of Oxford shop, selling official merchandise. Then, the company licences our brand on to appropriate products that others on the high street could sell. We now operate as far afield as China, Japan, North and South America and all points in between. For my part, I was headhunted to join Oxford Limited ten years ago, following the death of my predecessor in service.
How have you seen your industry change over the years?
I think, particularly in the last two years or so, the weakness of the pound and the growth of tourism to the UK have seen a transformation of the retail business here in Oxford, which is reflected online also. We’ve seen a significant uptick in performance in our retail businesses. The industry overall has become more crowded, of course, mostly due to the same factors. We’ve seen a big increase in the amount of tourist shops here in Oxford and in other major tourist cities – more people want a slice of the pie, so to speak.
What, in your opinion, makes a good small business?
I think the advantage of being a small business is that you’re nimble. You’re not bogged down by process, structure and procedure. There’s a great ability to identify opportunity and quickly reorganise your resources to address that. Of course, whilst Oxford Limited is a small business in our own right, we still work closely with our parent, which is a behemoth of an organisation. We are slowed down in some respects by that, but we generally have an autonomy which enables us to respond to opportunity. I think the sign of a good small business is not being set in your ways and doing the same thing year in, year out.
What makes Oxford Limited the best at what you do?
It’s the people. An organisation is only as good as its people, and I’m very proud of the team I’ve built around me here. We have specialists in e-commerce and shop management, and even the financial support structure we have here is fantastic – we may be a small business but we’re also a complex business with hundreds of thousands of transactions a year. You’ve got to have the right people.
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