My 1st Years rises from the ashes with rebrand and new Northampton home just months after devastating fire

Bosses are determined to take positives from a gutting situation so are relaunching the business with more products

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 7:20 am

A business which burned to the ground earlier this year has relaunched in a new Northampton home.

My 1st Years - a personalised children’s gifting company - was based in Caswell Road, Brackmills until the unit was subjected to an arson attack on May 1.

The firm lost more than £3 million in stock, £1 million in equipment, its 100,000 square foot warehouse, a photography studio and its head office. Staff were left heartbroken.

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My 1st Years co-founders, Daniel Price (right) and Jonny Sitton (left).

At the time of the devastating fire, which nobody was hurt in but took the fire service a whole day to deal with, bosses of the company assured customers they would ‘bounce back quickly and stronger’.

Today (September 22), less than five months later, the company is launching a rebrand from its new home in Grange Park, which is secured on a ten-year lease.

Daniel Price and Jonny Sitton, co-founders of the My 1st Years, told Chronicle & Echo: “It’s quite well known in the market that there is a commercial property shortage, but we found that landlords were sympathetic to our situation and we signed the lease on June 8 less than five weeks after the fire.

“The warehouse is around the same square footage as our old one, but the ceilings are a lot higher so it’s almost double the size.

Some of My 1st Years' newly rebranded products.

“Whatever we grow into, we have the room there to do so.”

The duo, and the rest of their team, were keen to make something positive happen from a gutting situation, so they have rebranded and are now stocking new products.

As part of the relaunch, the company will move into toddler products, licenced products including Disney, lunch boxes, bigger backpacks, suitcases and in the future, even adult gifting.

Although the company has always shipped internationally, bosses are also using the rebrand as a chance to start marketing worldwide and invest in other countries.

The fire in Caswell Road, Brackmills on May 1.

Daniel and Jonny added: “As soon as it happened we were thinking ‘how can we now do things that we’d spoken about before that we’d never got the chance to do?’

“That’s how the rebrand came about. We’re changing products, designs and our gift boxes.

“We’re looking at new categories we’ve never been in before and new customers, with older ages.

“We want to grow bigger and quicker.”

The devastating damage caused by the blaze.

All staff - around 120 people - who worked for the company at the time of the fire, retained their jobs, as insurance helped to keep paying wages while there was no business.

Those employees are now back at work, after having a few months off bar a couple of ‘keeping in touch days’.

The founders say they are now hiring more staff on ‘almost a weekly basis’.

It is also the staff which Daniel and Jonny credit the quick bounce back to as they are ‘passionate and want to work’.

Daniel said: “Now is the emotional time for me.

“When the fire happened my brain went into overdrive about how we’d get back and how to fix everything.

“But now we are seeing products being produced and that’s emotional.”

Jonny continued: “For us we have a massive emotional connection to the business, but it was Richard Parkes - our head of operations - and his team that had an emotional connection to the building as that was their second home.

“I went from gutted, to confused, to empty, to frustrated, to now being excited; just so many emotions.”

“If this had happened five years ago, we would not be in the position we are in now,” Daniel added.

“We have the most incredible team, who are passionate and want to work.

“They are so excited ahead of the relaunch and ahead of, hopefully, an influx of orders.

“It’s tough to gauge how the relaunch will go, but we’ve had good feedback on social media and we have a lot of loyal customers.

“This might not correlate to order value and we can’t guess how it will go, but we are hopeful.

“We are buzzing to get back.”

Both the founders were also keen to echo Richard Parkes' sentiment from the time of the fire, whereby he thanked the fire service and police for the quick response all the hard work, as well as the community in Northampton for their well wishes.

A Northamptonshire Police spokeswoman confirmed the fire is being treated as arson. Nobody has been charged as yet.