Minster Giftware

Alibaba.com has helped Ian to ensure a healthy level of growth for the business despite the challenges thrown up by the current economic climate.


Minster Giftware is a family business employing 22 people in Southwell, Nottingham. With a product range encompassing everything from chinese porcelain and reproduction antiques to exquisite hand-painted trinket boxes, Minster Giftware is no ordinary homewears supplier.

Established in 1978, Managing Director Ian Guise first heard about Alibaba.com three years ago while on a business trip to China. He has enjoyed sustained and steady growth ever since, developing and consolidating trade links across Europe, India and the Far East. Minster Giftware imports direct – and supplies to companies of all sizes throughout Europe – a selection of elegant, fine quality and often unusual furnishing accessories.

Ian built his business in resins but after this sector reached its pinnacle in the nineties, it was time to take all that experience and diversify, steering the business in a whole new direction. A growing reliance on internet retailing and the existence of Alibaba.com in particular have helped Ian to ensure a healthy level of growth for the business despite the challenges thrown up by the current economic climate.

Ian’s business in the Far East has been transformed since he discovered Alibaba.com: “We’ve just launched a brand new product line sourced entirely through Alibaba.com. As a member, I was able to research product samples and suppliers during the course of one day and subsequently arranged three factory visits off the back of this to secure an exciting whole new product range at extremely competitive prices.” In this economic climate, Ian firmly believes that the efficiencies afforded by Alibaba.com not only helped him to gain a competitive edge but also to maintain it. And to be able to pass significant cost savings on to customers for products that are extremely stylish and often highly specialised, is an added bonus.

Ian believes Alibaba represents a simple way to start trading in Asia and sourcing quality suppliers but says that traditional communication methods also play a significant factor: “It’s vital that communication channels are always open with suppliers. With Alibaba.com I can tell if a suppliers are “live” which means I can talk with them instantly.

Everything happens so quickly without the need for time consuming emails and faxes which can traditionally overcomplicate the negotiation process. “Alibaba represents a totally different concept as far as researching products is concerned yet still allows all the traditional elements of business practice which are important to me as a businessman, such as talking and physically travelling to visit suppliers – wherever that might be – to ensure quality and craftsmanship is still preserved.”

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