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17/12/14 - The Power of the Glovers (remember the hashtag)

If you know about hashtags in social media there is only one to watch for a week or two and it is the #glovers  It has to be linked to another for this period which is #ytfc since this refers to Yeovil Town Football Club. Anyone involved in the glove trade and many in the leather industry will know that the southwest of England, in particular the area around the town of Yeovil, where the Pittards group are headquartered, is an ancient centre for gloving. So naturally the football team is called the Glovers and last night we (I am a season ticket holder, of course) beat Accrington Stanley in a cup replay to win a home tie against Manchester United on the 4th January.  

Gloving has greatly declined in the area and most of the factories have been pulled down or converted to fine apartments, but it is still alive and some of the companies involved are doing well in the region. Pittards itself has had a rebirth in the last few years most especially since it invested in a plant in Ethiopia which has secured its raw material long term but more importantly opened up a host of new opportunities.  Its Yeovil HQ has become an exciting place to visit.

The other glove companies in the area all small to medium sized family businesses and have had a battle as a result of a change in the military purchasing approach, which really is designed to cut out such small companies. The days are gone when skilled craftsmen and highly technical designers can work with marginal costings in a world of changing exchange rates and fluctuating raw material prices.  A business that is decades old and family based is rarely set up to take such risks. Nevertheless the new urge for luxury, or perhaps better described, quality has opened up new opportunities. If consumers are determined to buy quality that lasts, not high volume at low cost to throw away, they have a chance to prosper.  

Like little Yeovil Town Football Club which was founded by and has been strongly supported by glove companies (Norman Burfield was a director and President for many years and his son Clive played centre half) the smaller companies have a chance to survive and thrive through sheer grit and determination, just as long as they remain faithful to their basic skills and quality. And never give up.


06/12/14 - Learning never ends

This has been a week of travel and of learning. Time and again I discover that when I teach or present I live just as much or even more than my audience. This week more than most.

One of my undergraduate groups at Bath University gave brief presentations of their project work. There are a lot of teams so we spread it over two mornings. After only ten weeks of marketing one might suspect their would be little depth but undergraduates are bright these days and constantly get ahead of you. More than anything, though, they look at companies that you think you know well from quite a fresh stance.

One of the first things you notice is how important leather companies - in the widest sense - have been in marketing. Nike as a virtual corporation, Hush Puppies in giving us the "Tipping Point", Converse and Adidas teaching us about consumer ownership of brands and LVMH changing the world of luxury. And having watched these companies for years thoughts and opinions about them evolve in a similar way to resource based theory. Suddenly you sit through a fifteen minute presentation and find yourself learning about a different business.

The initial response is to correct what the students are saying, using your "superior" knowledge but in fact given a presentation or two you realise that they have not "got it wrong" but they have researched the same facts as you know, but analysed from a different perspective. This us pertinent as we are moving fast into a world where the concept of marketing as "doing something to the consumers" with a great advert, pricing policy or distribution setup is passed, replaced by concepts of value in use, or service dominant logic.

For older marketers understanding this change is complex, and alien. But my undergraduate students have grown up with it, and are buying less from companies that stay in the old world, trying to remain in control.

We can help with the theory and the approach, to allow the students to develop and apply their skills, but never ignore their judgements. They are often closer to the real world than you think.

We are all students at the end of the day. Learning never stops


13/11/14 - Thinking ahead

Leather is losing out around the margins to competitive materials. It may not feel important but in due course it will make it hard for tanners to sell all the grades profitably and the top end will not generate enough income to cover the bottom. Look at what others are doing. Icebreaker are a wonderful company using a great material - merino - but they never sit back. Read this article about them and remember we sell no leathers that can be properly defined as biodegradable's+latest+trend?'s+latest+trend?

23/10/14 - Chinese consumers




02/03/14 - Luxury in leather. Some of the big trends

The link below takes you to a webinar I ran from the University of Northampton