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Background to Stitch in Time

Introduction

When she became pregnant Jane Edwards soon discovered that her usual clothes no longer fitted. She found that her favourite skirts and jeans were uncomfortable and as the baby's delivery date approached she could not even get into most of her clothes. Dismayed with the available choice of maternity clothes ("too expensive and they make me look like an over-made bed") Jane looked around for alternatives. Her husband John was very understanding about her wearing all his sweaters, but she still had trouble finding something to fit her expanding waist. It struck her that leggings would be ideal. However, all the leggings in the shops were overpriced, too short (Jane is six feet tall), or both. Added to that, they would only fit for a couple of weeks and then she would need a larger size. So, Jane decided to make her own stylish leggings and to make them with a waist line that was expandable so that they would last her for the entire pregnancy.

Jane bought suitable material (with Lycra) from a local haberdashery and made herself half-a-dozen pairs of very comfortable and expandable leggings, and at a fraction of the high-street price.

After the twins were born, Jane decided that she did not want to go back to her old job but neither did she want to spend all her time looking after the twins. So she took a part-time job as a cashier at the local supermarket where she could work two evenings a week. This helped to supplement the family's income and also provided Jane with what she described as "something to stop my brain rotting away".

Whilst working at the checkout she noticed many expectant mothers in the shop. She got to know a few of the regulars to talk to and discovered that many of them were also looking for alternatives to the available maternity wear. Jane asked a few if they would like her to make them some leggings at £15 a pair. The other women agreed and a week later were sporting their very comfortable new clothes. Word spread and soon Jane was taking orders from mothers-to-be from all over the town.

The process of making the leggings was very straightforward and it took no longer than one-and-a-half hours to make a pair. Before long, Jane was finding that her legging business was bringing in three times as much as she made at the supermarket and so she decided to set up a business which she called "Stitch in Time".

The present…

It is now five years on and the business has been a great success. Now that the twins are in school and Jane has the daytime free, she wants to expand the business. Stitch in Time sells a range of leggings in all sizes and a variety of styles. Although she began just making maternity leggings, many of her customers liked the leggings so much that they wanted to carry on wearing them after their babies were born. Consequently the company now makes both maternity and every-day leggings. The surprise element was Jane's husband John. They both discovered that he had a natural flair for finding new fabric prints which sold very well. Also, he had a hitherto undiscovered talent for the sewing machine and could make the leggings 50% faster than Jane. Jane and John feel that if they could expand the range even more then the business would soon be able to support them both and he could give up his job as a Sales Manager to work full-time in Stitch in Time. John has had the idea of selling self-assembly legging kits as well as fully-made garments. The kits would comprise the material panels cut to the right size, a quantity of thread and elastic for the waist band and instructions for assembling the leggings. These could be sold for less than the finished garments as they would take less time to put together. The couple is also in the process of establishing direct supply of materials from textile firms as their expansion would allow them to buy material in sufficient quantity. This would reduce their costs and consequently would allow them to review their pricing policy.

John is also pursuing the idea of designing his own patterns for the legging material and is talking to several textile firms about this possibility.

Since John started helping out Jane has been able to focus on managing the business which she particularly enjoys.

Presently, the company sells products to order. Orders are placed either directly by the customer visiting the house or by mail-order (which includes telephone orders). If the workshop is very busy then answering the phone becomes very time-consuming and inefficient.

The Edwards keep a list of legging types and styles available, but have not got round to organising a proper mailing list of regular and potential customers. Also, the product list is purely descriptive and contains no photographs of the fabric styles available. This means that even more time is spent explaining things to people over the phone and usually results in the customer coming to the house anyway to look at the designs. This seems very inefficient to Jane and John. Furthermore, if they are to expand the business beyond the local environment then they will have to have a better way of getting detailed information to potential customers.

The product list is given to anyone who asks for it and is displayed in strategic local positions (such as in the library and the newsagent's window). Adverts for Stitch in Time appear each week in the local press. Adverts placed in national women's magazines have also met with some success and even a large high-street department store chain is making enquiries about carrying stock of the company's products.

Whilst the Edwards' are very enthusiastic about the developments, they are also slightly apprehensive. For John to give up the relative security of his present job he has to be sure that the expanded business stands a realistic chance of prospering. They are also concerned that if they don't improve the way they do things then Stitch in Time could become a victim of its own success and not be able to meet the increased demand.

As they are keen to make the most of the new marketing opportunities, Jane and John feel that the necessary reorganisation will be greatly assisted by the introduction of a computer system. They would also like to explore the possibility of setting up a site on the world-wide web.