Hiho are a jewellery company who are regulars at all the big events in the UK. They specialise in beautiful pieces of jewellery with a country lifestyle twist.
Andrew Ransford (a.k.a. ‘The King of the Road’) says he spends 6 months of his life attending events and the 6 months of winter hunting with the Cotley. He describes the lifestyle as fun but very hard work.
Hiho tends to have to book pitches a year in advance for the big shows. Once they get home from Badminton they will have till around June to book up for the following year. It took seven years for Hiho to get into Badminton in the first place and this would be standard for both Badminton and Burghley. Now that Hiho as a brand are much better known, Andrew admits it is much easier to get into bigger shows, but it still took ten years to get into Chelsea Flower Show. As long as you behave and put on a decent show then events tend to be very loyal to good supporters, and we try and do all our product launches at Badminton and Burghley. This year we have new products launching at Bramham which is a first for us. Essentially the big events are launch pads for us.’
The lifestyle of being on the road at fabulous events might at first appear glamorous and exciting but the days are long and a typical day will start at 6.30am and finish when customers stop shopping around 7pm. For Badminton, Hiho arrived on the Sunday and will spend Monday to Tuesday setting up followed by five intensive days of running the stand and selling products.
The weather is a big influence on trade for Hiho as sunny weather means people have necks and wrists on show more and are more willing to try on jewellery. When customers are wrapped up in scarves and coats then it makes sales harder. As Andrew admits, ‘if you talk to boot companies they are quite happy for the weather to be wet!’ Events are hugely important to companies like Hiho because they drive brand awareness and the website will increase in traffic following a big event. It also means the shops will often get more trade so it all works together to promote the company.
They do socialise in the evening and though Badminton has not got such a party reputation, Burghley, being towards the end of the season, does. Andrew says those on the trade stands all get to know each other going to many of the same events together. It was through a fellow stall owner a couple of stands down who they became friends with over the years, Belinda Sellars, who sorted out the opportunity for Andrew to take Hiho to Rolex Kentucky, including the accommodation so that Andrew stayed with friends and had a more social experience than staying in a hotel.
This year was the first time that Hiho attended Rolex Kentucky and it was different to what they expected. ‘the tradestands and attendance was more like a large event like Barbury. There is not the variety in terms of lifestyle and clothing which both Badminton and Burghley have. Rolex needs to come and see what Badminton and Burghley are like. The numbers are different for a start with Rolex seeing around 30,000 people while Badminton will see 250,000. It’s a big difference.’ Andrew did say that the people were wonderful and very friendly.
‘It is the customers who make an event and we find them incredibly friendly and very loyal.’
Burghley is a favourite event for Hiho because of the end of season feeling. Hiho now have an annual competition with trade stands such as Timothy Foxx, Dubarry, Oxford Shirt and Joules where they participate in three challenges such as creating animals out of vegetables. Brand ambassador Mary King excelled herself with creating the Loch Ness monster out of celery and radishes. This year September is a busy time for Hiho with Burghley, Blair and Blenheim in quick succession. Andrew explained that it will take 8 hours to get to Blair from Burghley and then 12 hours from Blair to Blenheim.
It appears a tough commitment to be out on the road so much, but it gains you face to face contact with your customers and helps get the brand known, so the benefits definitely outweigh the tougher aspects.