I started writing this weeks blog about a trade show that I attended in London last week called Meet the Manufacturer - it is a show that hopefully puts British Manufacturers together with clients who are looking to resource British products.
But as the blog developed it was obvious that it was turning into a rant about UK fashion brands, retailers and online businesses saying they wanted to resource British but in reality, most are not willing to do so because they were frightened the British buying public, unlike our offshore customers, couldn't (or more likely wouldn't) afford it.
As the rant went on I suddenly realised that what I was typing was totally inappropriate.
In the light of this weeks events, me moaning about lack of home grown consumer support seemed more than a little trite so I have decided to stop right here!
It's strange, I have been writing this blog regularly for well over a year, and as with a lot of women of more mature years, I have had to become comfortable with the many headed beast that is social media.
From being a disapproving cautious mother, worried about bullying, grooming, et al, I have had to embrace these channels (for my business, says she!) and it has undoubtably helped me become more in tune with the prevailing zeitgeist and global events.
Whilst there are always nutters, unfriend and unfollow are the quickest way to cull them.
There are also some really great posts that make you smile from ear to ear or just wonder in awe at the magnificent beauty of our surroundings, or in the case of Donald Trump, make you sit open mouthed that anybody can be that crass and ignorant and POTUS - how?
Whatever, social media is a window onto the world and as Mark Zuckerberg himself said earlier this week in his Harvard address:-
"Ideas don't come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You have to get started."
Which is what I do with this blog and ended up here !
I know Zuckerberg has his naysayers and "he" has undoubtedly taken a control on our lives for the foreseeable future - but some of his sound bites are quite inspirational and definitely worth a read, like Steve Jobs, the man started off with a bloody good idea, a drive and worked hard - you can't criticise him for that.
So back to a Facebook post I read last night -
"We live on an absolutely beautiful planet - it's just the world that's ugly at the moment"
British Made Bespoke bags – at no extra cost.
All Owen Barry current styles are available to order in huge variety of skins.
Every bag is handcut and made to order – so you can pair together any combinations/styles from the most sublime to the outrageous – let your creative juices flow.
It's great to be back in Somerset, this time last week saw me travelling up the M5/M6 to Scotland - visiting customers.
I do enjoy driving, although 1300 miles in 4 days was a bit intense, even for me - but being on the road gives me an opportunity to see and try many different hostelries and their restaurants.
When I return home, I am then bombarded by the review questionnaires, but, for me, having a son in the hospitality business giving the right review is important, so I do spend time considering whether my less generous ratings are true and fair.
Last week was a mixed bag from a mid range traditional independent tourist hotel that served the best scallops I have ever had, to a fully modernised independent inn that looked very contemporary but served food that was totally inedible (both for evening meal and breakfast!) and finally a very modern chain that had every facility including gym, spa & sauna (bugger I forgot my kit - phew!) giving the most comprehensive and fresh breakfast all for £57 !!.
Testimonials and reviews (good or bad) should be very important to every business .
Last week, when I was with Claire from The Herbary in Troon she read to me an excerpt from a cracking testimonial they had just received from a grandmother & granddaughter who had sadly lost their daughter/mother to cancer before Christmas and had visited Claire's shop recently whilst visiting that area on the occasion of the young ladies very emotional 21st birthday weekend.
During the visit to the shop none of the above had been mentioned, conversations had just ebbed and flowed as good shop conversations should - purchase made, thanks extended, done deal. It was only upon the receipt of a thank you card did the impact of the visit to the shop and the significance of the purchases and service received become clear.
Getting to know your customer, is an important but careful balance, the greeting, their preferences, needs and even their budget, but don't be nosey or push too far. A good shop assistant has a great balance of curiosity weighed with deference and a willingness to share their own knowledge and experiences.
I think Sarah in our shop is truly gifted with this - she knows and has a marvellous rapport with all our customers, she handles all of their special orders and requirements faultlessly, and personally, making sure that their service, delivery, product and Owen Barry experience is spot on.
I could have been boastful, and rather than talk about Claire, I could have mentioned some of our testimonials and thank you's (which we receive VERY regularly ) but apart from the ones we publish on the web or social media they are just gratefully received, cards are pinned up (in private) and emails filed for reference.
We, like Claire are thrilled to receive any feedback so please keep telling us what you think.
Ooh for the sake of balance (we're just like the BBC!) we did get a complaint last week about the postage charge and actually this was really worthwhile - we were able to investigate our charges/service/responsibilities and make sure we could be on point for the next time - a great example of learning from what was a pretty negative situation and hopefully improving our service for the next customer.
I just hope the inn in Penrith with the inedible "homemade steak pie ! and veg" think my remarks are equally informative !!
Have a good one.
So yesterday (Saturday) saw me supporting a local community event! I know - bonhomie is not my strong suit.
In fact, I am the woman that 24 hour supermarkets were invented for, places where I can shop alone in the twilight zone, thereby avoiding interaction with anybody I know - Brett says that the other shoppers actually hide from me !! Probably because of my flannelette PJ's and wellies, but I feel my tactics are sound.
Sorry, I digress, Street Parish Council launched its inaugural Somerset Day celebration and the organisers caught me at a weak moment, so up I turn under duress!!
But actually, it was great fun for all who attended and contributed - we had every thing from Morris Dancers to Brass Bands, Buskers to kids Country Dancing displays.
It was all overseen by a very regal King and Mrs Alfred, who (aided by an exceptionally generous Bob Burns OBE - master baker ) gave away to the children over 300 scrummy chocolate muffins - and not one of them burnt !
Owen Barry was asked to attend as Street has been the home of our factory for over 70 years, with our leather links going back even further than that. All of the stalls were proudly selling local Somerset products and produce.
On the walls of the break out area in the factory we have a selection of the old images of my grandfather, his brothers and the staff dating back to the thirties when we were still tanning leather in the Tanyard.
Actually, It's surprising when I was nattering to folk today, about the factory and the fact that we are one of the last (if not the last) sheepskin manufacturers left in Street, just how many people (or their family and friends) have been involved with the company over the years - you forget how many tendrils reach out - it's a small world!! Well it is in Somerset anyway and for someone with the worlds worst memory (me!) it was a fascinating opportunity to recap old stories.
The only thing I did find a little strange....why did everyone I met look so much older - most bizarre.
Surely they couldn't possibly think that about me, could they????
To help us celebrate our glorious county on Somerset Day please use our discount code SOMDAY11 to receive an 11% discount that can be used against any of our Handbag Collections, Factory SALE Page, Accessories and Gift Vouchers.
“My name is Lorna – I am an Owen Barry addict”
That isn’t an attention-grabbing Cindi strap line, that is the actual title that Lorna has suggested for this week’s blog.
I met Lorna and her husband Jim a couple of weeks ago whilst they were having a few days break and “doing a bit of a tour” of the West Country.
As part of their sojourn around Somerset, Lorna made a special pilgrimage (again her words) to the home of Owen Barry, here in Street.
For Lorna, the owner of 31 (and counting) OB bags, to have a full tour around the factory, learn about the skins and see our products being hand cut, made and finished was a bit of a thrill.
I’m not so sure Jim could see that much merit in it, like all fella’s he thoroughly enjoyed the manufacturing bit – but an hour into our natter about colours and shapes his eyes glazed over. Jim escaped to check the car and never returned – last seen, shaking his head at the cash point whilst watching the balance clicking down!! – JOKE.
Sorry Jim, but I was having a whale of a time talking to your lovely wife.
Lorna originates from Islay a stunning rural island off the wind swept West Coast of Scotland (known as Queen of the Hebrides), before moving south of the border after finishing university in Edinburgh.
I think it is because of Lorna’s roots in such a rich colourful landscape that she has a massive love and appreciation of colour, and that delight reflects in her fascination with toning outfits, and accessories.
Lorna is an amateur artist, making fused glass jewellery and enjoying landscape photography, and it is there that her collection of Owen Barry bags sit, amongst the art in her leisure come dressing room.
No storing bags in a wardrobe here, Owen Barry has become part of a fluid art installation, in fact, they have their own hand carved pegs (note I didn’t say hooks) these specific wooden pegs have been sourced and positioned to enable the change around of display and easy access, as Lorna explained to have all her bags easily available and interchangeable is part of the enjoyment.
Lorna does in fact change her bag daily, she only carries her essentials and the constant change over keeps her disciplined with the contents, a lesson I could certainly learn from!
The love of OB started about 12 years ago with a Large Z Top Sac in Apple Green, “which is just as good today as it was then”…..I promise, I have not paid any kind of backhander for these remarks.
Which styles are best? “Iggy, Z Top, Dudley, Puppie, Dillie all the signature styles, but then I do love the individual limited edition ones, I have a stunning one in Faberge that is very very special”.
When asked whether she received many as gifts, Lorna seemed quite aghast at the prospect, “NO they wouldn’t presume to choose for me” she remarked “the correct Owen Barry is very important, so whilst my family will gladly pay, I make the choice of style, skin and colour”.
Favourite? – no, Lorna won’t commit, but Iggy is “amazingly easy to wear”.
What is the best bit about OB? – British Made? Colour? Bespoke? Light weight? Life time guarantee? –
“All of those are important but the main thing is the quality, you know you can rely on OB, the quality is always there, year after year, without question, just look at my original Z top”.
So, cuppa finished we hit the shop, which bag did Lorna choose in Jim’s absence? – Mathilde, the back pack/shoulder bag combo, with all the walking they do around the South West Coastal path and carrying her photographic equipment – it seemed like a no brainer.
But, we just couldn’t decide between Mermaid or Cobalt Blue, so guess what…………. well it would be rude not to wouldn’t it ?
Ahhh – just one more thing, in case you are thinking Lorna is just a crazy collector – I asked, “Do you collect any other handbag brands? “ “NO, I only have 2 other handbags, they are Blondie Mania, which I bought years ago, but since finding Owen Barry, I have stayed 100% loyal”.
WOW – that’s all I can say WOW - Lovely lady with the best possible taste, it was so great to meet Lorna, we had such a good time.
If you have any anecdotes about your Owen Barry collection, I would really love to meet you and hear your stories – perhaps we could start a club ??
Here at Owen Barry we love colour.
As you know we launch two vast palettes every year with approx 80 individual colours and skins offered each season enabling our customers to assemble bespoke combinations of colours and textures to their hearts content.
So yesterday (Saturday) was an exciting landmark day for Owen Barry, we presented a joint event along side of House of Colour -the UK's pre-eminent colour advisory stylists. Gilly Montgomery our local HOC representative and her colleague Annabelle were both on hand to give us an overview of the principles and origins of House of Colour system. Each of these very stylish ladies has approaching 16 years HOC experience, so they were well qualified to show us how HOC works.
The principles originated at the Bauhaus School of Art in Germany, and it's rules of colour theory are now taught in art and design schools throughout the world. It was fascinating to see that every person has either a Blue or Yellow inner hue, which is eminated from their internal "chemical makeup", that is then divided into 4 sections named after the annual seasons (Autumn, Spring etc) and then further analysed by texture and finally by style.
This use of colour when demonstrated and explained can really help us from making the wrong choices, We have all made the mistake of loving a piece of clothing in principle - but when we get it home , in reality it just doesn't work and despite multiple "tryings on" never comes out of the wardrobe.
You may recall I have had trouble with that Fuchsia Satin Catsuit - it now transpired that is nothing to do with the fact I should have bought the size 24 - it is actually shiny satin doesn't suit me - in frankness if it had been a textured Cerise I could of rocked it - bloody obvious when you think about it - right ?
Seriously, we do all have an inner sense of when we look really good and HOC explains why and helps us keep within those guidelines, therein not wasting time, effort and most importantly money on things that are never going to really work for us.
I have to say I was a bit sceptical but when I saw just how raising the hemline of my tunic could change my whole look (for the better) I thought there is something in this.
Gilly, who is based in Catcott, has very kindly offered an introductory discount to Owen Barry "recruits" so I know I will be taking advantage of that - and of course you can as well, as OB F&F members - just contact us for the introduction.
Several people who attended yesterday were Owen Barry virgins, and didn't realise just how important colour is to us as well, so following the factory tour they were fascinated to see the portfolio of colours and skins from which they could make their bespoke selections at no extra cost. This, together with the vast array of styles meant that the perfect bag could be assembled.
Several of the clients also took away swatches, to check against specific outfits. This is a service Sarah our Shop Manageress actually does daily for customers from further afield, we prefer to send cuttings, so that we can ensure your choice is perfect.
It was interesting talking to one couple, yes, guys have their colours "done" as well, and I must say with this fella, very successfully! Anyway, they were saying how you would think that limiting your spectrum of choice would be restrictive, but actually the reverse is true it makes you embrace colour with confidence, and over time that individually strengthens your inner confidence and personality.
I love that sentiment because that's what Owen Barry is all about, variety of choice and confidence to be individual, far too many people use a boring black bag day after day and week after week, STOP - have a change, brighten your life - whether it's an OB or not - to paraphrase Trainspotting :
Choose Colour, Choose Style, Choose Individuality - CHOOSE LIFE.
Hopefully next weeks blog will be about a lady who really has done that - 31 OB bags and counting - wait until you see the photos !!
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