June 2023 celebrates 10 years of the Retro range. We sat down with our Marketing Director, David, to learn more about the origins of the range and how it has grown over the last decade.
How did you decide on the first few colours?
To start with, I think it was down to the limitations of the fridge factory. There was only a select number of colours that the fridges came in to begin with, so SDA was designed to match the fridge colours.
When you first started selling them, where did you sell them?
So I think we launched our SDAs even before competitors, but the actual first orders for the fridges in 2013 went direct into Shop Direct and then we listed them ourselves. Then once they started moving, we got them into AO. So we had Shop Direct and AO, which are the two biggest retailers, or two of the biggest retailers, for refrigeration. And then, in 2016, we pitched for the housewares licence on Swan, got that, and then the first thing we did was Retro 1.0 on housewares which is, after seven years, still selling well.
How did you decide the other colours?
The first big, new colour we did was grey because we saw it was an emerging colour. It was around 2017.
Plenty of products have come and gone. We used to do a blender, a stick blender, and a hand mixer, but the best selling colour for those is white, so that was a real shame to lose them.
Were there any learnings you got from the Retro range?
I think Retro is probably the range that kickstarted phase two of Swan. Before that, we were kicking around, doing cheaper products, not really doing a lot of coordination. Retro was the first coordinated range we did before we even thought about social media. And then with the burst onto the scene, let’s say 2016, 2018, of Instagram, they became really Instagrammable products. That’s what really started it for us, getting people associated with colour. We had done colour before, but it’s the first time we’d done colour ploughing our own path, whereas before it was like ‘oh, this competitor is doing red, or this competitor is doing this’. It was the first time we’d done something ourselves. And off the back of that, by 2018/2019, everyone was doing their own version of Retro.
2021, Swan launched Very Peri and Mellow Yellow, why did you do that?
Because they were the on-trend colours at the time; certainly the yellow was. We used trend forecasting for that and yellow was a massive success.
Going back now, Swan brought out the coffee machine in 2018, how do you think bringing out a coffee machine in different colours changed the way?
So up until 2018, Swan was known as a tea brand and we dabbled with a few coffee machines and filter machines and stuff like that, but it hadn’t really worked for us. We thought if we can find a really nice espresso machine that hit £99.99 with the right colours and the aesthetics, it would work really well. It was very similar in idea of what we did with the stand mixer which was £79-£99. It was something that people could buy without it being £400-£500 that looked nice that you could leave on the side. It was the same with the espresso machine, it opened up to a whole new market at a lower price point. I think that’s the product that really puts Swan on the map with Retro; it’s a bit of fashion in the kitchen really.
2020, Swan launched, during COVID, the air fryer, before the air fryer pandemonium. Why did you do that?
Well, we still knew that air fryers were important and there was more and more people launching air fryers, but it was more the style of that one that we really liked. We didn’t design it, the person who designed it came to us and we said it would fit Retro perfectly and I still think it’s probably, aesthetically, one of the nicer looking air fryers out there.
Why did you do Retro 2.0?
Because it needed refreshing. We’d done it for five years in the housewares at that point and the refreshed look was designed off of a new kettle.
Where do you see Retro going forward?
Retro never goes out of fashion, it’s just about making sure you catch it at the right time. I think, if anything, what I’ve learned over the last ten years is, don’t just change something for the sake of it. Before Retro we probably tried something and in a year it didn’t work so we tried something else. What I’ve learned from Swan is it takes about three years to bed the product in, to make it just keep going. For us, it’s just about sticking to the colours and evolving the products as and when we need to, really.
Featured on TV:
The Swan Retro range has even been popular with TV shows. It’s been featured on Eastenders, Coronation Street, Bake Off (microwaves), X Factor, Gogglebox, Sunday Brunch, and Saturday Night Takeaway.