Down to Earth: Earth Squared Company Profile

Alison and Simon Henderson took a leap of faith and launched Earth Squared following a redundancy in 2001. Stronger than ever, the company keeps an eye on trends and listens to customer's needs with its popular products

Earth Squared bag When did you start up and why?
I started the business in 2001 with the aim of creating a fair trade business that was contemporary and commercial and that made a difference to producers. At the time I didn't know what direction it would take – we initially started by opening a gift shop in a brand new shopping centre in Edinburgh before moving into fashion accessories, and becoming a wholesale brand – but we have stuck to our core aim throughout.

What prompted you to launch the business?
We are a husband and wife team, and both had professional jobs that didn't fulfil us – and we wanted to do something different, with a sense of purpose. When I was made redundant in 2001 it seemed like a great time to try to see if my idea for a business would work. We were delighted with the response to our products and ethos, and as the business grew, Simon was able to join full time in 2007.

What challenges have you overcome since the company's launch?
As with any business, every day is a learning day! We have faced (and overcome) lots of challenges but the main one has probably been establishing a reliable and long term relationship with our production partners in Vietnam – who we have worked with almost since the outset. They share our vision and focus on quality and we continue to value the ways we support each other and the artisans that work with us.

Tell us about your product offering.
We design fashion accessories, with two seasonal collections a year – comprising handbags, purses, scarves and other accessories. We know how important quality and value for money is for customers, particularly at the moment, and we listen carefully to feedback so we can provide what customers are looking for. We have a number of ranges that appeal to different customers, making it easy for stockists to select a number of collections from us.

What are your most popular products?
Our Oilcloth backpacks and messenger bags have huge appeal. And we design our own tweeds in-house that sell exceptionally well no matter the location, or indeed the season! Have any styles taken you by surprise with their popularity? In 2022 we introduced a collection of printed velvets, with bold, vibrant colours, which have proved a massive hit. AW23 will see us take this to another level with in-house designed prints and new styles.

How do you keep your designs fresh and current? Do you follow trends?
We obviously keep an eye on trends and listen to customers' needs, but look to create classic designs that stand the test of time – so the products can be used for many years to come. We also work with some lovely print and tweed designers who bring their own input to the design process, which means we always have something new to offer.

What sets you apart from your competitors?
It's a competitive environment and we never lose sight of that, so we don't ever take our customers for granted. We have a great back story which resonates with customers, our products are fantastic quality, giving retailers confidence when selling Earth Squared, and we do our very best to support customers in various ways including fast delivery, easy ordering, low minimums, protecting existing accounts from anyone to close, promotional bundles, point of sale materials and generally being as helpful as we can. Plus, as former retailers, we have an insight into the challenges of retail, and what businesses really require from wholesale brands.

How are you finding the current climate in the UK? Is it affecting business?
Times are certainly tough – the cost of living is affecting everyone and impacting confidence, which means consumers are understandably giving more thought to what they spend their money on.

How do you view the future of independent retail post-pandemic?
We are lucky to work with independent shops across the whole of the UK – who all work exceptionally hard to serve their customers as best they can. We think the end consumer is thinking more about where they buy things, and why – and that independent shops that can offer great service, a personal experience and who themselves innovate in terms of product offering, will do well. We remain very confident that shoppers still want to use and support independent shops.

Are you active on social media?
How is this important for the business? In all honesty, social media is something that we need to get better at. Both Simon and I find ourselves lagging behind the curve on this one and our priority has always been to support our retailers (as opposed to ourselves per se). We do appreciate that promotion of the brand can itself support our retailers and have recently invested in more proactive social media activity to promote the brand generally but more specifically our stockists, which is already making a big difference.

Do you have any advice for new businesses starting out in the world of gifts?
Balance vision with reality. Nurture good ideas, think of the end user and in what way the gift will benefit them – the world doesn't need more useless 'stuff'. But don't be afraid to listen to feedback and adapt if other opportunities become apparent.

What can we expect in the future from the company?
As well as brand new collections for Spring and Autumn, we have a number of new sustainability initiatives in the pipeline including the use of recycled fabrics (the linings for all of our products as well as some distinct collections). In 2022 we introduced entirely recyclable/compostable packaging for all products which has been really well received but we know we can do more.

T: +44 (0)1620 892 289

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