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HISTORY OF LINEN
a lecture by W. H. WEBB, F.T.I.
The Old Bleach Linen Co., Ltd., Randaistown, Northern Ireland.

Introduction

At the conclusion of the war, as President of the Irish Linen Merchants' Association, I initiated a campaign of publicity and propaganda on linen, for the benefit of the Irish Linen Trade.

BEING of the opinion that "selling" in the Linen Trade, including that of our own business, was not all it should be, I personally, for several years gave up a considerable portion of my time to visiting distributors in Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada and elsewhere, with a view to studying distribution generally and finding out how we might better serve our customers.

EARLY in the course of this research I discovered that the heads of linen departments in almost every store I visited were troubled with the fact that, owing to the upset of the war period their staffs had become depleted, and that many of the assistants they had since employed were inexperienced and knew little about linen. This suggested the idea of an illustrated lecture on linen as a service to customers and this was prepared and delivered in a number of the larger cities of Great Britain, the U.S.A., Canada and Denmark, and also at the Drapers' Summer School.

THE requests to lecture became more numerous and as it was obviously impossible to give all my time to this work, I had the lecture produced in printed form, about twelve years ago, and widely circulated to linen salesmen everywhere.

THIS was sent out in monthly sections and at the conclusion, on the idea of the correspondence course, a questionnaire was circulated covering the whole series, and a diploma for "PROFICIENCY IN KNOWLEDGE OF LINEN" was awarded to all those salesmen whose replies came up to the necessary standard

THIS appeared to be appreciated especially by the ambitious type of young salesman who wished to better his position.

MUCH water has flowed under the bridge since then, a new generation has grown up, and several linen buyers have in the last few years suggested to me that it would be appreciated were this lecture to be re-edited, brought up to date and re-issued to their sales' staffs.

SINCE the first series was issued there have been many developments both scientific and otherwise in the linen industry, and I shall again endeavor to direct the new series particularly to such points as have "sales interest" rather than to produce a purely technical treatise which would be of little service in selling.

IN this connection, I have not been in such close contact with retailers during the last few years, and therefore in the earlier stages would invite correspondence from salesmen suggesting subjects which might, from their point of view, usefully be dealt with.

Department of Store Practice
DEPARTMENT store practice is more advanced than is production practice and I have learned considerable that has been of value in our own business.

THE system in our own organization here is based, partly on the retail system, from which we have picked up many useful ideas applicable to a producing organization.

THE most important lesson of all, however, has been that any business, if it is to be prosperous and make profits in these days, must be properly organized, controlled, and have before it, at all times, the idea of supplying customers with the goods "they want" and endeavoring to give them the service "they desire."

Quality Appeal
NOW one could not carry out such an exhaustive research as I have done, visiting the principal linen buyers and merchandise managers in these important countries, without picking up a good deal of information regarding retailing and the linen department, and one thought that particularly struck me in investigating Retail Store practice was that in the diversity of merchandise handled by a Department store, different types of salesmen and different methods of selling for the different classes of merchandise were essential.

THE following is a note I made on this subject at that time-
"In Retail distribution it would appear that the selling of merchandise requires to he divided into two different categories-(l) Where the appeal needs to be mainly on quality, and (2) where the appeal should be mainly on price.

No description of merchandise more clearly comes under category (1) than does linen.

Linen is a fabric made from the fiber of the flax plant and almost every article made in linen is also made in cotton, so were it merely a question of price, there would be no place for linen at all.

Linen from the highest grade to the lowest, requires in varying degree, a quality appeal, and no salesman who does not recognize this can claim to be a good linen salesman."

FROM time to time we have been asked by the management of Retail Stores to recommend linen buyers and in every case, without exception, the request has been for a "quality man.

IT is, therefore, clear that the stores' managements recognize this fact, and require salesmen in their linen departments who are not merely "price specialists, following the line of least resistance," but men who have a flair for quality and the ambition and application to improve themselves.

THIS is no doubt the type of salesman to whom this series will appeal, as it follows logically that a knowledge of the product one is handling is an essential basis.

LINEN is in a peculiar position in relation to cotton, as right through from the growiag of the flax crop to the finished linen it requires more prolonged and complicated processing which builds up a higher cost.

ON the other hand it possesses distinctive physical properties and characteristics which render it desirable.

LINEN therefore requires specialized selling and a salesman is bound to be more effective if he is armed with a thorough knowledge concerning those properties and characteristics which make linen desirable, and should therefore logically form the basis of appeal in selling. His knowledge and confidence will react on the customer he is serving, and this will result in better sales.

THIS series is directed primarily to the younger salesmen and in order that they may reap a tangible benefit from it, a questionnaire will be sent out at the conclusion and a diploma for "PROFICIENCY IN KNOWLEDGE OF LINEN" will be awarded to those whose replies reach the necessary standard.

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