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A Colourful company

Julie Bonnar chats to Neil and Karen Morris, Managing and Sales Director from That's Original Ltd, about their business

What prompted you both to start the company?
Both our backgrounds are in retail consumer goods, but Neil also had experience of working globally within the art and craft sector, particularly in China, Europe and USA. We saw an opportunity with the resurgence of soft crafts, ironically during the global recession, and decided we'd like to lead the way with innovative, vibrant and colourful products that enabled crafters to customise and add personal colour to their clothing, accessories and home d├ęcor. Although setting up a company during a recession was a risk, it was also an opportunity for us to work together and build a business based on trading ethically and responsibly with all our suppliers, customers and consumers. We now not only trade within the UK, but also further afield in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The art and craft industry is an exciting sector to be part of.

What products do you distribute?
We've approximately 750 products, spread across two key areas. The first area is fashion art, and we distribute the whole Tulip product range from fabric and tie-dyes, fabric markers, glitters and paints to spray paints and 3D liners. The great thing about Tulip is that all products are developed with consumers in mind, they are easy to use for beginners but also technically brilliant for experts and professionals. Unlike other fabric colour products, Tulip products do not require ironing or heat fixing. We believe Tulip is a quality brand - for example, its markers come in the widest choice of nib sizes and colours, and all are high quality, permanent inks that air dry. Tulip one-step tie-dye is, like the name suggests, a one-step dye, just add cold water, shake and dye your fabrics, paper and more. People will recognise the Tulip 3D paint range; it's a brilliant array of 84 colours with nine different finishes with uses across the craft spectrum, from decoupage to card making. The second area that we focus on, with equal passion, is craft and hobby glues. We've brought the must-loved US brand Aleene's to the UK. This brand is 50 years old, and it is reputed that every home in the US has a pot of Aleene's Tacky glue! The Aleene's brand has a whole range of glues, with the latest additions being Turbo Tacky, which is the quickest drying and strongest tacky, and Clear Gel, a super bonding gel that dries crystal clear. Aleene's glues are brilliant for decoupage, jewellery, haberdashery, sewing and card making.

What are the best selling products at the moment?
That's a tough question! This summer has seen a boost in sales of Tulip one-step tie-dye in line with the vintage and retro fashion trends. With the exciting range of colours, we've also experienced a big demand for Tulip fabric dyes. People love the new vibrant colours and the ease of use. We always see an increase in our sales of Tulip 3D Glow in the Dark at this time of year, which is now available in nine open stock colours, and a six-pack starter kit. We've just launched a Glow in the Dark spray paint that retails at £6.99 and both products are great for Halloween crafting. This product can be used on multi-surfaces as a regular spray or applied to damp fabrics, when it works like a fabric dye. All our products are peg-able, which is one of the best ways for retailers to display them. However, if really short of space, retailers can opt for the spinner display with four sides, which will hold the entire range.

It's very important to you that crafters and retailers know how to use the products. How do you go about this?
We're extremely passionate about education, inspiration and working with our retailer partners to train staff and run demo-days for consumers. The ilovetocreate website (www.ilovetocreate.com) is a great tool and offers consumer support 24/7, while crafters will find a 'how to use' guide for every Tulip product. The site has thousands of projects, which you can search by brand, activity and event such as birthday, Christmas or Valentine's Day. Projects are constantly updated, along with blogs and forums and access is free.

What trade shows do you attend?
In the last 12 months we've attended CHA Winter, London Toy Fair, Creativeworld and Paperworld, CHSI and CHA Summer. As a distributor supporting wholesalers and retailers across Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Russia, it's important that we support as many shows as we can, in order to meet retailers face-to-face and also run our educational demonstrations live at the shows.

It's obvious how enthusiastic you both are about what you do, but what keeps you so interested in the craft industry?
Passion and enthusiasm - we love being ambassadors for the UK craft industry in overseas markets, it makes us feel proud. Crafting is infectious and fun, so being able to do it as our day job is brilliant! iLoveToCreate is such an exciting, fast-moving and innovative company to be associated with, and it fits perfectly with the That's Original philosophy to find new and exciting products that stimulate and inspire crafters. It also allows our wholesale and retail network to stock such creative products to grow and thrive in such a first-rate industry.

Are there any new products in the pipeline?
We work with iLoveToCreate on a six monthly, new product launch cycle in January and July, so there's always something new around the corner. Last month, we added the Tulip Beads in a Bottle, which is a fabulous product. It's a self rounding fabric paint for faux beadwork to create dazzling effects on textiles, glass, card and plastic, and available in a wide range of finishes and colour including semi-precious, gemstone, metals and pearls.

How can retailers buy from you?
We're pleased to support UK retailers of all sizes, from the small independents to the largest. We've recently moved to a new logistics centre, with state of the art IT order picking for greater order management. Maria Coleman, our Commercial Manger, leads the customer loyalty team who can speak fluent German, French, Spanish and English to pick and pack orders to other countries. We can invoice and accept payment in Euro and USD as well as GBP Sterling.

That's Original
T: +44 (0)2381 159 093
E: enquiries@that's-original.co.uk iLoveToCreate
W: www.iLoveToCreate.com

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