There’s a long winding history behind the GPO brand, which is short for General Post Office. The short of it is this: The GPO dates back to the mid 1600s when Oliver Cromwell’s Parliament established the sole postal carrier for the U.K. More than 200 years later, the GPO took control of Britain’s telegraph network, and similarly the telephone network in the early 1900s. GPO remained the sole supplier of both until 1982 when the first carrier was licensed in competition.
GPO eventually faded until it was picked up by ProTelX, a U.K. based manufacturer of all sorts of electronics that was established in 2009.
Today, GPO produces all kinds of retro electronics, including telephones, cassette recorders, record players, vinyl carrying cases, portable analog radios, and more.
At IFA 2018 in September, GPO showed off a brand new Brooklyn boombox that takes its design straight out of the 1980s while incorporating a little 21st Century flare. The Brooklyn boombox plays cassettes, has a USB port for playback and recording, a CD player, DAB+ and FM Radio, and Bluetooth compatibility, all matched wtih two 40 watt speakers for booming performance. The speaker plugs in, but does incorporate a lithium ion battery that makes it portable for three to four hours of playback. The Brooklyn speaker will launch in October and will come in two color options: Silver and Black.
Ahead of the launch of the speaker, Dealerscope had the opportunity to sit down with GPO CEO Gary Basso to talk about the brand’s retro product line, some of the challenges the company faces, and more.
Dealerscope: What attracted you to the consumer tech world?
Basso: It’s a truly vibrant and a sector that is constantly changing and evolving. We began the GPO brand designing and manufacturing retro inspired telephones. We launched our first turntable in 2013, just as the vinyl revival was starting to swing into action. Within two years we had sold thousands of music players and record players represented half of our business. We launched our first cassette player in 2017. From being a UK based company, we now have stockists from New York to Dubai, and pretty much everywhere in between. Consumer technology is an industry that changes so quickly, as consumers are so savvy and know what they want. The challenge, and the skill, is to stay one step ahead. That’s a real attraction because you’re not just making a product and launching it in the market, there’s a constant dialogue with your customers to make what they want.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
All of the above! Keeping an eye on the latest trends is incredibly important. Who would have thought, five years ago, that a consumer technology company would be making cassette recorders and ghetto blasters, like our Brooklyn boombox, as we are now? Yet cassette sales have grown by 100 percent in 2018. You have to have your finger on the pulse and that’s rewarding but it’s also a challenge to know what’s coming next.
What do you think is the most important thing that you are working on right now, and why?
As GPO has grown we’ve attracted stockists and distributors across the globe. One of the most important things we’re working on is how to communicate effectively with all of those stockists, wherever they are. Our global business has grown incredibly quickly and we’ve built personal relationships with all of our distributors. That is, I believe, a real strength of GPO. When we work with a company they become part of our family. Continuing that ethos as we grow is an important part of our planning and strategy moving forward.
How is your industry being disrupted right now, and what are you doing to stay ahead of that disruption?
In the retail industry it is definitely the digital revolution that is transforming the sector. How can you get products as fast as possible from one side of the world to the other? How can you manage stock levels easier and make sure a customer in Lebanon is having the same experience as a customer in Chicago? Right now we’re working closely with our distributors and we’re really open to their experiences and their solutions as they stay ahead of digital trends so we can always be at the cutting edge.
Where do you see your industry heading in the next 5-10 years?
Consumers are not prepared to limit themselves to one music platform, or one particular style. What we’ve seen in the past five years is a demand from consumers to be able to have a music system that lets them play whatever they want, on whatever they want, be it Bluetooth streaming, cassette, converting vinyl to digital, records, CDs, DAB radio. I can see that developing more and more in the next decade as the music industry evolves. Consumers like having a physical record or tape, but that doesn’t mean they’re turning their back on streaming. Flexibility will be the biggest trend we have to cater for.
What advice do you have for retailers to help them better position your products to consumers?
We work with our stockists on various points of sale, both online and offline to help them promote our products. Our products, with their distinct retro style, are very eye catching and playful, so they do a lot of promotion by themselves. We’ve been included in really eye catching window displays, in a Christian Louboutin exhibition and at major stores like Liberty’s, to Italy’s Summer Jamboree and exhibitions at the National Gallery. So the one piece of advice is probably let your imagination run riot. Come to us with your ideas, with something different that’s fun and creative and chances are we’ll go for it!