To the UK handmade fashion and accessories industry,

My office receives hundreds of letters, phone calls and e-mails every week from enterprises of all shapes and sizes asking for my advice.  Between running my own business, writing columns, lecturing, filming my shows and working with Save the Children, as well as looking after my two children, I am not usually in a position to help.  I am responding to you because your campaign to get my attention was so well co-ordinated, and because I genuinely love the concept of handmade goods.  So here’s my advice to you.  Honest and direct.

If you want to compete with the big boys, you need to step up your game and act like sophisticated retailers who just happen to sell handmade products:

1.    If you’re selling online, look at Topshop, Asos and Liberty – these are your competition for share of £'s spent.  Then look at Etsy.  Spot the difference.

2.    PR – if you’ve got a product that deserves space in magazines, you’ll get it.  Write a list of the ten magazines you want to appear in.  Then call them.  But add your point of difference. Tell the press why you are unique.

3.    Think about product adjacencies on your sites.  Yours are all over the place.  I noticed an absolutely gorgeous necklace that was placed next to an odd glass painted tile – what is that saying about the necklace?  Segment the range to lifestyle and end use.

4.    Pricing – you say in your letter that you’d like handmade to be a “viable, affordable choice”.  If I am honest, at first sight some of the pricing seems quite premium.  I find £25 for three egg cosys a bit steep.  However if under the product there was a beautiful design, fabric and source story which I as a customer can pass onto my friends, then I might not shirk at that cost. Remember Status Stories are the new Status Symbols replacing logos, brands and general bling.

I love handmade products and I think they have a real place in the future of retail, but I want handmade in a modern, sexy environment, not handmade in a Church hall.  Take a trip to Liberty, they sell handmade products in a premium, fabulous environment and make the perfect case study for you.

I’m sorry if I’ve been a bit tough, but you wanted my honest opinion and there it is.  I hope you feel this helps.

Good Luck. I shall follow your progress!


Mary was responding to an Open Letter that can be viewed here.


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Tel: +44 (0)121 507 0994

Company number 07258309

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