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Editorial blog

Innovating to stay ahead of a changing market

30 Oct 2018

Caroline Symonds, Marketing Manager at King Cole, talks to Mark Hayhurst about their brand, trends and plans for the future.

Tell me a little bit about King Cole?

Established in 1935, King Cole has always been a family business driven by strong traditional values, and a dedication to our chosen industry. We continue to innovate in yarn production and design support. A move to the current premises in 2014 helped to consolidate our position as one of the best-stocked suppliers in our field, offering a stock and order/ delivery service second to none. This reliable and responsive service is available to retailers throughout the UK and overseas, both specialist and non-specialist. Our comprehensive stock of hand and machine knitting yarns is available in hundreds of shades and in qualities ranging from 100 per cent Acrylic to 100 per cent Wool.

How has the wool market changed over the years?

At King Cole, we have seen a definite change, for many years our classic jumpers and cardigans for babies were very popular along with our toys. However, as times change so do tastes. We now have a market for a new class of knitters that are more interested in making clothes for themselves, with contemporary designs in more natural and modern fibres. Knitters are also interested in vintage patterns and timeless fashions. For example, our Christmas Scandi Knits book, which is based on traditional Scandinavian patterns has proven to be a big seller this year for us.

What innovations have you seen?

We have seen that social media, such as YouTube, have a great following, which a lot of knitters make use of for tutorials and guidance on knitting and crocheting. A lot of people have an interest in podcasts and vlogs and use them as a source of inspiration. We are utilising this by producing our own vlogs and posting about upcoming releases, mini tutorials and a brand-new Crochet-Along.

What trends will be big?

A lot of knitters are interested in more contemporary designs as well as traditional designs. We have found our Finesse Cotton Silk to be hugely popular; knitters love the bell sleeves, the smooth look of the yarn and subtle colours. We think there is a growing interest for more unique designs that are simple to knit, so that even a beginner can make something for themselves.

Throws and cushions are more popular than ever, people love to personalise homes with their own style. Knitting throws and cushions is a fairly inexpensive way to change up a room without having to redecorate it.

Our baby knits and toys are always popular and with yarns continuously changing and innovating, for example, our Funny Yummy, you can make some truly adorable soft toys for anyone for any age. Our Tinsel Chunky is still hugely popular and continues to sell well particularly at Christmas.

We also think trends like our new Crochet-Along will be more popular in the future, as we get a lot of requests from our customers for more online video tutorials. Not everyone lives near a yarn shop or has access to knitting and/or crochet lessons, so more and more people are using online tutorials to learn how to knit and crochet. At one time, parents taught their children how to knit and these skills were passed on from one generation to another, but this is not always the case now thanks to the internet, we are seeing a lot more self-taught knitters.

Which knitting patterns are popular at the moment?

Our Christmas knits, especially our latest Christmas Knits 6, Christmas Crochet 4 and our Christmas Scandi Knits are some of our biggest sellers. People like to knit now in preparation for Christmas.

We have also found that our new Big Value DK 50g yarn has been very successful along with the patterns. The garments are a little more challenging with a lovely range of colours and these are proving very popular.

Our Chunky Knits are always very popular, we think these are appealing to people who want a quick knit or are new to knitting.

z Is there anything retailers should be looking out for?

Our new Crochet-Along is definitely something our retailers should be looking out for, our first one features the new Big Value 50g DK yarn and we are expecting sales on this to go very well. The patterns will be available to download free from our website, www.kingcole.com, every fortnight and we will show step-by-step how to complete each section using written instructions as well as pictures, charts and how-to videos.

Has any style fallen by the wayside or do knitting styles never die - just transform?

Knitting styles never really die. Baby knits are always popular and lately we have seen a lot of people interested in more traditional knits, but knitted in more contemporary yarns. Knitting is a time-consuming process so people want to make something they will get plenty of wear out of that won’t date by the end of the season.

How important is sustainability and being eco-friendly to the business?

We consider these issues very seriously and we do have a range of eco-friendly yarn, such as our Big Value Recycled Cotton Aran, and we are selective about where we source our yarn from. While fashion is not as sustainable as it could be, we do know that knitting and crocheting your own garments is more so than the fast fashion from the high street. We also make donations of our yarn to charities rather than discard it as waste.

How has your business changed over the years and what is new for you next year?

We feel social media is very important to us as it allows us to have direct contact and feedback from our customers. We are able to respond to their needs and use social media to be more than just a name, but actually a face as well. We know that a lot of people use social media for a variety of different reasons, such as inspiration for knitting ideas and also for guidance when stuck with our knitting patterns.

We love to have our customers interact with us, share their creations and also, to help them when required. Our social media presence is growing daily so we are trying to do more with it to meet the requirements of our online community. We are posting more online tutorials - vlogs - and we have an upcoming Crochet-Along as well.

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