MALA LEATHER 103 supplier base that would consistently offer the quality and finish we required. I have been lucky in working with the same factories since I started, and because of that relationship, we have evolved together. Without good suppliers, we would not have good products – we use audited factories to ensure that everyone throughout the chain is getting a fair deal. What sets you apart from your competitors? One of our main points of difference to our competitors is creating a product that is distinctive and not already in the market. We are strong in creating appliqué designs, and each season, we develop something new that no one else has. It is annoying when a competitor takes one of our ideas and reworks it for themselves, but I suppose it is the highest form of flattery to think that our designs inspire others. Another area where we do not compromise is with our leathers. We do not look to be the cheapest in the market, so we keep our leather selection high throughout all our collections. We also created another brand, Cactus Canvas, which developed from manufacturing own-brand products for a customer. We could see the popularity of this type of product and realised Mala could do a version with a good-quality canvas and leather. Since launching this range, we have established a new customer base that we would not have had from our full-leather ranges. How has the product offering changed over the years, and how would you describe your current collection? We are always trying to evolve the product – from offering new designs to new concepts that we pick up while on our travels overseas. We were one of the first customers to offer RFID in our products, and that put us ahead of our competitors. The Cactus brand has also introduced RFID- protected bags into the range, which keeps passport and card chips safe when travelling. We have a few other ideas we are working on and hope to have them to market later this year. How often do you launch new lines, and what are your best-selling designs? Tell me about your recent campaigns. We aim to introduce new collections twice a year. As a lot of our products suit the gift industry, the second half of the year is a much stronger selling period for leather goods, especially our high-end Italian bags. What trade shows do you attend and which ones work best for you? We attend the major shows such as Spring and Autumn Fair and Harrogate. We like to keep a presence at these shows even though footfall seems to be down in recent years. That said, we always open new accounts, and it helps us keep the face-to-face relationship with our existing customers, which is so important. When was the website launched and how does it support the business? We launched our website about six years ago as a trade-only site. Since then, we have had numerous sites, and we are happy with our current offering. We now offer to trade and consumer from the one site – the difference from us is we will never undercut our trade customers online. What have been the key milestones in the business? There have been a few; we have won awards in the BTAA Fashion Accessory awards for some of our collection. It is fantastic to receive the recognition from industry experts for our products and gives us the confidence to keep doing what we do best. We moved premises about four years ago, and this enabled us to increase our product range and to handle larger shipments ourselves. This was a turning point for the business. This year, we have also taken on the distributorship for Tony Perotti Italy. It is great to have this fantastic brand as part of our portfolio. How do you view the current market, and what trends – in both product and business – do you see emerging over the current months? There is a big change happening in retail. We have noticed that a lot of retailers are buying little and often, something that we embrace as a stock-holding business. For us, it does not matter how many go out in an order, and we would rather retailers felt comfortable with their spending. We actually find that our attitude to little and often encourages our customers to place more orders with us, and our website provides them with the resource to do this at their leisure.