A Trade show visit – good and bad…

From time to time I visit trade shows, sometimes it’s all British companies , sometimes Worldwide, but with either there are only ever a few stands, mainly weavers, that grab my attention. Today I went to a show in London – Make it British, https://makeitbritish.co.uk/ , and there were a couple of companies I wanted to have a look at their new ranges, but it was also an excuse to have a trip up to London and away from the sewing table for a few hours.

Almost immediately I saw one of my favourite weavers – Marton Mills
https://martonmills.com and I had a great time meeting and chatting to one of the sales staff who I had never seen before but had placed many orders with her over the telephone. I know that I’m not a particularly large consumer, but there was no feeling at all of being the little guy, she was charming and friendly and suggested a few things that might be of interest, which will be followed up over the next few weeks. This meeting on it’s own would have made the whole trip worthwhile, thank you Rochelle.

Walking around the stands , stopping from time to time and having nice friendly chats and even a little banter – would I like to make a kilt out of quilted cotton from Bolton, and one stand recognised that the cloth of the jacket ( https://www.islemill.com/ ) I was wearing was woven by them – and would I like to sit on the stand and advertise it for them, all good humour and very pleasant as well.

The reason, I suppose for even mentioning the trade show, it is after all hardly earth shattering for most people outside the trade world, was the response from another stand, which surprised and even bothered me a little.

I make kilts out of Harris tweed, a rather special cloth with a great history, it’s fairly heavy and a little bit casual and outdoor, but it’s great to work with, and the end product has a very unique look. It’s a little expensive, and is only woven in the homes or garages of weavers on the Hebrides which makes it rather exclusive. I deal with a few weavers and an independent outlet on the Island. The whole concern is coordinated by another and larger body which helps to supply the yarns – dyeing and spinning , some of the orders, finishing of the cloth and generally navigates the business side of things, so a very important part of the whole enterprise. To be met with a rather superior attitude, indeed a rather patronising one is never going to engender a happy response from me.
I’ve been working with Harris tweed for over 20 years, even through some rather rough times for them on the Island and am very familiar with the manufacturing processes, indeed when I mentioned that I spun as well the reply was one simply delivered with a sneer that their spinners were so much bigger than mine. Perhaps they were trying to be amusing, but they failed in a rather monumental way, and it wasn’t the only dispiriting reply.
For an organisation that seeks to represent the wider face of Harris tweed they really were doing a very poor job, however it won’t stop me using the cloth, frankly my buying power is very small but I do have a list of several different weavers who will happily sell directly and I’d like to think that they will benefit a little more directly .

So it was definitely a show of different approaches, a very worthwhile event in many ways, and I’m glad I visited. It did show very much how different sales staff approaches dramatically change a customers feeling towards a company, and how a simple friendly face can make a huge difference.