The client

Howell Tomkins Ltd., Walsall, West Midlands WS2 8LH.

With a world-renowned reputation, Howell Tomkins designs and manufactures a range of high quality, traditional and contemporary candelabra, candlesticks and associated giftware, collectibles and bespoke products for a worldwide customer base.

The brief

The 50-year old firm of Howell Tomkins, formerly Ralph Tomkins, was acquired by Adam Howell in 2002 as part of expansion plans for his electroplating and specialist metal finishing business serving the automotive industry. Recognising that his newly-acquired company had not introduced a new product to its range for some years, Adam wanted to establish a new product development strategy to expand the business, creating a range of products that would appeal to an increasingly discerning customer base.

The outcome

Advanced Engineering Cluster Champion Jit Gatcha identified the opportunity for Howell Tomkins to add a contemporary range of high quality candle holders to the company’s traditional product portfolio. The Cluster team helped Adam create a new product development strategy and provided assistance with the design, modelling, rapid prototyping, tooling and the production process for the first products in a new contemporary range.

Additionally, Jit provided advice on marketing planning, including the development of a new distribution strategy, communications plan and packaging review. The team also provided advice on search engine optimisation to help Howell Tomkins in the development of a new, more user-friendly website and helped the company with a successful application for an Innovation Network Grant.


Continuing the focus on new product development, Sumi Appa Rao, a graduate with an MSc in Product Design and Management, joined Howell Tomkins under the Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme. Sumi continues to add to the Howell Tomkins’ contemporary collection, developing new designs following thorough market research.

Successful participation in both the 100% Design Show 2007 and the Restaurant Show 2007 in London resulted in an order for a London show flat and further enquiries.

Howell Tomkins was invited to co-present a seminar on the new product develop process at the Time Compression Technologies Conference 2007 in Coventry.

Existing clients in Germany and the Netherlands have expressed keen interest in adding the company’s new designs to their product catalogues.


“Lifestyles have changed and our product range has to do likewise if we are to remain at the forefront of the British-made giftware industry. The Cluster team’s assistance has been invaluable, giving us access to the marketing expertise we needed and in the introduction of new techniques and technology – I’m delighted that we’ve been able to introduce four new products during the last year.”

Adam Howells, Director