Case Study:

This January Emergents/XpoNorth Crafts, Fashion and Textiles supported a group of Highlands and Islands Makers to visit Scotland’s Trade Fair Spring in Glasgow. Read a report from The Hebridean Design Company about their time at the event.

hebridean design co

Doug & Kate Blake, The Hebridean Design Company
Go & See Report, Scotland’s Trade Fair Spring,
SECC, Glasgow, 22 – 24 January 2017

Based on the Isle of Harris, our business, The Hebridean Design Company, incorporates machine embroidery and creative design.

We relocated to Harris in October 2015 from North East England, but had owned a small house in Tarbert for 12 years and had spent all of our possible free time here, always with the view that we would one day make Harris our permanent home.

On relocating, we decided to start our own business, and are about to celebrate our first birthday.

We have several branches to the business – including embroidered art, pet portraiture, quality gifts and souvenirs and embroidered clothing. Dougs design background and are joint artistic creativity allows us to take machine embroidery to both new and existing markets.

The opportunity to accept a bursary from Emergents to attend The Scotland’s Trade Fair came at the ideal time for us to explore the possibility of exhibiting for ourselves in the future.

Rarebird at Scotland's Trade Fair Spring

Rarebird at Scotland’s Trade Fair Spring, Jan 2017

This was the first time that either of us had attended a Trade Show representing ourselves and we found the experience to be invaluable. There was a huge array of businesses exhibiting – from large companies to individual businesses. Some with years of experience at exhibitions, but many attending for the first time.

Stand layout and visual impact – we were very interested to look at stand displays, which ones caught our attention and made us look at the products. Initial impact was important, but then what kept us looking at the merchandise in more depth. One of the stands that really impressed us was Rarebird Harris Tweed Designs. Beautiful colour combinations of their Harris Tweed products that made full use of the display area without appearing to be cluttered whilst also publicising the provenance of being made in the Outer Hebrides.


Exhibitors body language – once the products caught our attention, it was then the exhibitors themselves that needed to engage with us. Over the full day that we spent at the SECC, it became apparent how important this was to us. Exhibitors who were seated did not seem to engage with visitors as well as those standing. Even more notable were the exhibitors who were seated and looking at the phones or tablets were almost completely ignored – the irony being that they would not have seen this for themselves as they were otherwise occupied! These observations reinforced what we had noticed at the craft fairs we attend in Harris and Lewis – if customers are engaged with, then other customers are attracted to your stall to see what is so interesting!


bakka stf


Literature and information – we were also very interested to see what types of literature and handouts exhibitors had. Business cards, flyers, price lists catalogues varied greatly in quality, content and style. We collected quite a number to review in greater depth in the coming weeks. However, since attending, we have already developed our existing paperwork to include a QR code.

orb stf

Logistics – lots of the exhibitors were extremely helpful in talking to us about the logistics of exhibiting. From what to exhibit and how to get it to the exhibition hall, through to how to utilise the display area and where IKEA was for all of those bits and pieces you either thought you had or hadn’t realised that you would need!

Physical demands – There is no doubt that exhibiting is both physically and mentally demanding. Whatever your products are – they will not sell if you don’t present yourself in a friendly and professional manner. Looking after yourself so that you can perform well is essential. Good shoes and comfortable clothes need to be considered when planning your overall appearance. Plan how and when you will take a break and when you can eat and drink something. And a repeated recommendation was to have good accommodation arranged to be able to relax in at the end of the day.

Thank you Emergents for giving us this great opportunity. We will be exhibiting at The Ideal Home Show Scotland this May with Pink Sheep Studio. This experience could not have come at a better time. We now have a plan as to what we need to do. We know what to expect. And we feel confident that we will do a good job!

Doug & Kate Blake
The Hebridean Design Company, January 2017


Photo courtesy of Scotland’s Trade Fairs

Photo courtesy of Scotland’s Trade Fairs