Monday, 3 February 2014

The Creation, Development of a successful small business initiative

"The Alvey's of Burton Joyce" (

"Elizabeth Cooke - Nottingham Lace " The story of the creation , development & history of a highly successful small business initiative into a national retailing project & the resulting demise created by a Foot & Mouth epidemic

The birth on "Elizabeth Cooke - Nottingham Lace" actually evolved from a promotional product design project undertaken for the English branch of the Italian company  - Golden Lady (Manufacturer of Ladies Hosiery) based in Huthwaite/Notts.

The company's English Managing Sales Director was looking for a small inexpensive  Nottingham Lace related "Give Away" incentive gift to accompany the launch of their Hosiery products in a major well known London Retail Store.

The reaction by the 259 lady consumers who received the "promotional gift" was so dramatic that my wife suggested she wanted to pursue the initiative further by designing and adding several other  "low value" Nottingham Lace products to a unique gift range for the tourist /visitor  market.

To achieved this -  " Elizabeth" approached several outlets in Nottingham to gauge their reaction. At this point the initiative was named “Georgio Romani” adopting a taste of the roman era within Burton Joyce.

 The next stage is still a little mysterious, in that we were approached to enter the products in the Nottinghamshire Tourist Authority to enter the range in the "Best of Nottinghamshire Product" competition.

 After several anxious weeks the event " Award " evening arrived, and to cut a long story short - our Nottingham Lace products ( Georgio Romani) were adjudged the winner amongst half a dozen or so others competitors
The very next day was if the world had suddenly become aware of the existence of our small Nottingham Lace interest , with press wanting to come and interview , Hodsock Priory and other  Historic Houses ringing up asking if they could sell our products. 
As a direct result of this initial interest it was decided to approach all local NT houses with a view to establish and consolidate our existence within the tourist sector. Every NT property we approached began to stock our product and achieved a small number of sales, however it quickly became obvious that there was a vital ingredient missing in our sales efforts – product merchandising

 Fortunately after a relatively short period we developed a unique SOLUTION  - this solution   spontaneously  developed and  was recognised by all our potential stockist as an effective  NO RISK WIN/WIN situation – a sales/merchandise offer which became impossible a genuine Gift Retailer to resist.

 Over the next couple of years we had established 141 retail outlets nationally all taking our goods when and which needed regular routine replenishments  - a scheme with ZERO redundant/obsolete stock for anyone 

First of all we realised that in order to create a successful small business in todays quick moving environment, we had to create a product or service with a unique selling point.

Regretfully the "FOOT an MOUTH" cattle decease and Tony Blair's decision to close the countryside down overnight created catastrophy for many small business as per ours 


However here is the background to our story and the thinking behind  our venture  

As per Bakewell Tarts, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, Stilton Cheese, Devon Cream Scones, etc  Note all food products with repetitive purchasing habits

What did we have at out finger tips ?  – Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood, .Nottingham Lace. All these 3 are world renowned and attracted interest nationwide.

Our obvious choice was NOTTINGHAM LACE because our research showed that this product appeals to the adult tourist though out the entire UK in cities  & a multitude of visitor centres/attractions and souvenir outlets

So we had the product !! ..  ..   

our should we say we had direct legitimate access to the genuine/authentic fabric to create a product

What should the actual products  be.

Manufactured from genuine Nottingham Lace –
created locally –
be individual in design/concept –
be offered  at a sales price which attracts tourists of all ages –
be offered direct to retailers at a price/acceptable margin –
does NOT require retailers to invest in stock -  
does NOT require retailer to merchandise –
be part of a package which stimulates retailers to agree and meet  PROMPT monthly invoice  payments –
provided with a merchandising system which give flexibility to retailer WITHOUT demanding counter/wall space –
provide a WIN/WIN situation for both Retailer and Supplier –
be part of an integrated range of products appealing mainly to children, the younger generation and Adults –
and MOST IMPORTANTLY be  capable of being manufactured locally ( by outworkers within local villages) promptly and in quantities of 100 off or so
be created from genuine materials constantly available from a Nottingham source at a really attractive prices
be part of a product range of some 20 plus designs

There must also be further points also which did not immediately come to mind however


Eventually..   and with 141 OUTLETS NATIONWIDE

- including 6 Hotel Receptions ,3  Local Council Tourism Centres, plus numerous Visitor Attractions and least 4 local Motorway Service Stations. In a short time we had giftware at Belvoir Castle, Belton House, Clumber Park, Rufford Park, also within all 3 CentreParcs operations.

Our early success in persuading visitor centres/locations to sell our products, presented new hurdles for us to understand and overcome

Initially we difficulty in persuading Managers/Buyers to consider our products .

The problem arose with stock levels/replenishing/merchandising/payments/margins/ non-selling stock/delivery scheduling etc etc..    Insurmountable hurdles for the vast majority of new small businesses.  Or were they?

A further problem arose in establishing an acceptable “Merchandise spot” within specific sales floor. A “spot” which satisfied the individual Departmental Sales Manager/Assistant  ( These staff are aware of the existing highly rated/ preferential sales spots within their “patch” - areas which invariably produce consistently good levels of product sales. As a result they will not jeopardised these sales with the introduction of a new and unproven product in that spot.


However you can see one result our further progression into retailing 

            Genuine world renowned Nottingham Lace at


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