Nebra Octarine Starmap and our love for 100% cotton !

  Where does the Firespiral love of cotton come from?

 

29034352441_17c8dc9cc4_o-minWhen we first started out, Tamsin and I sat at my kitchen table one Sunday morning (with good coffee and danish pastries to make us feel more professional) and we made a list of the things that were close to our hearts that we wanted our business to champion. Near the top of that list was to make really great 100% cotton wraps. This was at a time when the popular move was towards ever more complicated and exotic fibre blends, but we felt that cotton was massively underrated and had so much more to give to wrappers that it was given credit for. It was with cotton in mind that we developed our looser, Alchemy weave, which many other companies have since adopted and we take to be a big thumbs up for how well it wraps!

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Bolton is a cotton town. From around 1100AD it had a reputation for spinning yarn and weaving cloth and gradually it grew to specialise in cotton as our year round damp climate was ideal for processing the fibre. That is a pretty impressive history, and reminds us just how ancient a skill cloth making is. At one point the cotton industry was the main source of work for the local residents- working from homes at first and then mills as the industrial revolution took hold.

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There are two things that I find fascinating because they involve me at a personal level. The first is that as far back as we can trace our family records, my ancestors were working with cotton and living within the same few streets in Bolton. They were self employed home weavers, doublers, spindle & fly makers, ring spinners, with the trail ending at my Grandma whose working life was spent as a needle setter, fixing thousands of tiny metal needles in place ready to comb the cotton. For me to be part of the resurgence of the industry, to visit the places that they worked and continue their legacy is pretty humbling.

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The other thing that I always knew but failed to appreciate, was that our village is a ‘company village’. Although there are recorded settlements here as far back as the bronze age, the village as I know it today was built by the local mill for its workers. That was pretty commonplace in itself, but Egerton had a reputation for being radically enlightened and caring to its worker/villagers in stark contrast to the squalid and harsh conditions elsewhere. We’re going to write more about this because it deserves a blog post in its own right. We’ve tried to pick up this baton of doing business in a conscientious, equitable way and apply those progressive principles to the modern day workplace.

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So you can see how we are pretty enthusiastic about cotton here! It feels like something we have a responsibility towards.

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We want to chat more to you about the popular myths that surround cotton wraps and a give you more insight into what makes our own cotton wraps great to use, but those are both topics for another day- we know how hard it can be to find chances to sit and read, and our time is probably up!!
The wrap pictured is Nebra Octarine Starmap, 100% combed cotton, alchemy weave and available in our web shop from 6pm on Sunday 16th October.

Complete Sell Outs?

[sg_popup id=”2″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]We were asked recently whether our new releases sell out quickly, and the short answer is that they don’t.

 

We tend to get a flurry of sales at the release, then after that it tends to be quite slow and steady until they’ve all gone. We sometimes hold a little cloth back so that we can restock any sizes that sell out particularly quickly.

That answer is quite simplistic however, and doesn’t really address why it is that we manage to keep wraps in stock and how we’ve got ourselves to this point (it has taken quite a bit of work)!!

 

We’ve always worked at stabilising our sales market. The second hand market creates a bit of a feedback loop where we’re all involved in selling wraps, so this stabilisation benefits us all! Our focus has always been the long range forecast, guaranteeing that we each get ongoing reliable, steady sales/re-sales without any massive market peaks or crashes over time. Whilst a boom period can yield some huge returns (as we saw over the past few years where some resale prices reached values well in excess of retail prices), the resulting destabilisation can also create a very stilted market, where confidence in resale crashes and the whole market grinds to a halt, meaning that even ‘bargain’ prices won’t tempt buyers. “Why won’t my wraps sell?” has been a regular refrain this year across the wider resale market, whereas even with the current slowdown our wraps have been far less badly affected due to the more stable conditions we’ve created.
The ‘sell-out release’ doesn’t really fit with this more balanced model though, it is too erratic and it makes the market very confusing for new babywearers which we feel is self limiting. So we believe that having wraps in stock benefits both us as a company and helps to grow the industry for everybody.

But surely these things are out of our control aren’t they?

It is easy to assume that sales patterns are pretty self determining and that if you make nice, desirable things in relatively small quantities, you cannot stop them from selling out. When trying to understand how we manage to keep wraps in stock when others don’t, people tend to guess that we either massively increased production, or that we just aren’t quite as popular as other brands (neither of which are true!) We have made a number of subtle yet important changes to how we market our company- even the wording we use can make a difference to how the market behaves. We are careful to avoid any practices that encourage an element of competition or panic to releases. It is well documented that ‘intermittent reward’ such is as the case with ‘draws to purchase’ is a highly addictive mechanism.DSC_1040-min

So what happens when we release a new wrap?

We used to sell out at each release, and identified a pattern over time. A percentage of wraps that we sold would appear for re-sale on the second hand market over the next week or so, or be offered up in trade for other wraps. Some were already being offered up for trade before we had posted them out.
Nowadays we make more sales overall than we used to when we sold out on release. The difference is that the only people who purchase wraps at release now are those who are keen to own that piece of cloth based on its own merits. We still sell out in the long run, so our stock is always moving, we get very few returns and see a much smaller percentage of wraps come up for sale in the months following a release. They tend to spend longer with their original owner. Nobody panic buys the wrong size, and from the feedback we’ve received, this less stressful model is very popular with our customers.
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By changing the culture of hype that sweeps people along, any wraps that might have been bought speculatively or to trade remain available on the website so that you can buy them for retail price at your leisure. New babywearers can browse from a wide range of ever changing stock and make a considered purchase, there is no ‘crash of disillusionment’ as the hype passes on to the next new thing, resale prices remain stable and predictable.
It has taken work, but we have made it possible to keep wraps in stock without increasing release size too much, so that we can still offer the widest choice possible. Our growth has been in the number of releases that we can offer, not in how many of each wrap we weave. We manage to keep prices affordable as possible yet still weave within the UK and be hand sewing & finishing wraps locally and flawlessly. We don’t need to sell out on release to remain a vibrant and viable company. We can still play an active role in the hobbyist collector market without our wraps being an ‘investment purchase’.
Whilst our prices reflect the high costs of our local and ethical production, we remain at the lower end of the ‘small release – artisan UK company’ scale. Our releases don’t have the thrill factor, but with the money you save purchasing one of our wraps rather than a ‘high end’ model, you can buy yourself a white water rafting trip to appease your adrenalin seeking side!!
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One aspect of having wraps in stock that we are most proud of is that it allows us to run the fledgling scheme. This supports new wrappers to buy their first woven wrap at a greatly reduced price, to ensure that the start of their babywearing journey is a positive one. These new wearers become the next generation of wrappers, increasing the general awareness of woven wrap babywearing (which, if you are reading this, you are probably quite passionate about). We have already seen many of them blossom into enthusiastic wrappers, with broad tastes and wrap stashes that span many companies, so what we are doing here benefits the industry as a whole, as well as keeping the second hand market active.

 

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