This week we spoke to Iain Wilson, MD of IBC Trading, and enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation covering issues including product development, supply, environment, staff welfare and the music he loves.
Tell us about the beginning of IBC and your motivation in starting up?
IBC started in September 1993 as a consultancy company to help MI brands find the correct routes to market, whether through distribution, direct to retail or the early days of the internet. That is still a key part of our business
In 2006 we then added the sourcing side to the company. I, as MD at IBC, had carried out research in China for G7th Capos in 2003 and between 2003-06, visited a lot of guitar, ukulele and accessory factories over a 3-year period. During that time a lot of companies asked IBC to help them find and source OEM and ODM product. Initially we refused, but as time went on we had a light bulb moment – if they keep asking maybe we can actually build our business.
So IBC was born and has become one of the leading sourcing companies for brands all over the world. We supply many brands in the USA (our number 1 market), Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Scandinavia, UK and S. America. We’ve also greatly expanded our reach and use factories in China, Indonesia, S. Korea, Japan, Eastern Europe, UK and Mexico.
What do you do, and how does that fit into the wider MI industry?
IBC specialises in the manufacture of OEM and ODM guitars, ukuleles, amplifiers and all guitar related accessories. Our core focus is in our company title. We are truly ‘International’. 95% of our business is outside the UK. Our main customers are in the US, Europe, S. America and developing in the Middle East..
As IBC sells to the brand owners, we take care of the distribution of their products and we drop ship finished product from manufacturers to customers all over the world.
In addition, our 30 years’ experience in international sales and marketing for many brands, including G7th Capos, Fishman, Larrivee, Lowden and may others, gives us a unique perspective from sourcing right through to market development.
Our unique position in the industry is truly our USP.
Where does the UK fit into your worldwide business?
Last year through the pandemic we picked up some new UK customers on the sourcing side. Honestly, we’d love to have more. We believe in bricks in mortar and on-line, but margin becomes key and finding the correct sourcing partner is a must.
Also, I believe there are many great UK brands that need to find the correct routes to market. They often struggle with a ‘suck it and see’ approach. At IBC we try to be more strategic and with our network from 30 years in the industry, we can help shortcut a lot of the time, pain and expense. It’s all about driving sales, and IBC would relish the challenge to build more UK brands and help MIA members.
Are there any products you are particularly proud of being involved with the development of?
There have been many over the years. On the sourcing side, a lot of what we do falls under NDA’s so we can’t name brands, products etc.
However, IBC has had the privilege to represent some of the best and most innovative products across the world, with home grown brands like G7th Capos, Lowden and US brands such as Fishman, Larrivee, Breedlove and Timberline. Over the last 30 years IBC has managed to help them all build an effective sales network throughout the world.
How do you ensure that the factories and companies you work with operate with an eye to good staff welfare and environmental practises?
First we visit them. That is key. Until COVID we were visiting 50-70 factories a year. We know who is good, bad, financially stable and where and how they look after their staff. At the request of some partners, we carry out audits at the factories and if improvements are needed, work with the factories to implement these.
We’ve worked with many of our partner factories for decades, so we are not only a customer, but a key partner for them and they respect and indeed often look for our input.
Thankfully governments have required factories to implement good environmental practices. It’s not perfect but its night and day compared to 20 years ago. We both drive and react to change regarding lacquer, plastic, sustainability in wood etc. It’s a key part of our offering today.
What instrument(s) do you play yourself, and how much playing time do you get?
I’ve played and own many acoustic guitars. I bought my first Lowden when I was 16, using the insurance money from a bad car accident. I still have a bad back and that Lowden and because of the role I’ve had at many companies, have been able to add a few more decent high end acoustic guitars over the years.
Unfortunately it’s more of a collection than active playing these days. I’ve got two young kids and most of my spare time is dedicated to them now.
Tell us about your favourite music.
I still love Irish musicians like Paul Brady, U2 and recently Ed Sheeran. My wife and I listen to a lot of jazz and classical musical late at night over a nice glass of red wine.
Find out more about IBC: