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.