Saturday, 15 February 2014

Crufts 2014 - the preparation... Hall 2, Stand 12

Crufts is, as for everyone else who attends, our biggest dog show of the year!  So much thought and planning goes into it but we are quite professional about it now and start early.

It is not just about getting ourselves and our collars there - it is about advertising and display and new designs and lighting.... and where to stay.... and who will come and work at the show...  and who will look after the shop.  AND who will look after Holly and Augustus and Nixon, my own animals.
The tortoises are not such a problem as I plan their hibernation around Crufts so they snooze through and get their wake up call on my return, in mid March.

The first thing to do is book the stand, that usually happens in Autumn the year before, with final payment in the January.  We were very lucky to get accepted in our first year of business.  They try and balance out who is there so even competition.  Truly and as modestly as possible, I do not think there is that much Made in England collars of our originality and quality there.  Many people will come to us at start of the day and think they will check out the rest of the show and find something as nice and maybe cheaper... They never do and come back.
We never agonise as to where to go as we have always been HALL 2, STAND 12.  It is not the busiest Hall but with only 3 of us it suits as Crufts can be a shark attack.  Crufts has to be one of our favourite shows too as it is for real dog people - who GET US and our quality.  They may have been buying cheaper collars for years and can get through 3 or 4 a year!?!?!?  That does not happen with Holly&Lil so they seem to love us.  We try and get to the Hall before the show opens as many people want to buy before their classes and the day gets too busy.

Then we have to book our advertising.  We tend to use the same ad with variation each year.  Same idea as the stand number really.  Change and freshness is vital to Holly&Lil but tradition is important too and often things can get changed simply because we feel it is old - not the customer.  This year we have added on to our ad the fact that we have won the Kennel Club award for Somewhere on the High Street 2014.
This is the ad that will appear in several papers.
And this will appear in the Show Guide. Getting the balance on spend is crucial as, though we seem a huge brand, we are not. If the chips are down buying leather is more important the an ad. BUT we do need to spread the word.

In days gone by when we first started Sarah and I would sit together and make our plans.
Then we would often pack up the dogs and run away to Scotland for long talks, price breakdowns, Collar making and picture taking.  Holly and Lily adored it there and would have fabulous walks then crash in front of the aga while we worked.  What fun we had!

Now El's Angels do all the background prep whilst I sit and sew as many collars as I can.  We never have all we would want but I do try to do a wonderful display.  This may be the first time people have had a chance to see and touch the collars they have seen on the website so important.  As once you see and touch them people GET the quality.

Chelsea takes the brunt of it with checking we have everything from light-bulbs to till rolls to dusters to chairs to window cleaners and ladders.  In days gone by we would hire everything from lights to night sheets to muslin roof.  Now, except for the electrical socket we are 'all our own work'.  Which saves us money but adds to the pressure.    And Alex has the huge responsibility of ensuring we have the balance of stock at show and in the shop just right.
So this week we hit the final 2 week countdown... and the loading of floats begins and the list tick off starts.... and the big question DO WE HAVE ENOUGH VELCRO....?