After 110 years in the retail bakery business, with ever-declining profit margins, Lightbody of Hamilton bit the bullet and decided to sell its chain of 20 high-street bakeries in 1995. The Lanarkshire company had suffered a sharp decline in sales as supermarkets took an increasing share of the bread market, and it was in no position to slug it out with them in a price war. Martin Lightbody, the managing director, decided instead to focus the business on celebration cakes. The company’s sales plummeted from £3m a year to almost zero while it built a new cake factory in Hamilton. But today, Lightbody produces some 150,000 cakes a week, which it sells to former competitors such as Asda, Safeway and Sainsbury. Many of the cakes feature characters such as Bob the Builder, Pokemon and Harry Potter. Sound assessments of popular culture trends, combined with flexible, high-speed production, have driven up sales 67% a year from £3.3m in 1997 to £15.3m in 2000, when the firm employed 356 workers.
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