Real Business #2 - Henry Kaye

  • Real Business is a series of posts that analyses the marketing opportunities and challenges of real businesses in the South East. The articles are also appearing in The Courier.

    Sevenoaks-based Henry Kaye recently opened a showroom at its headquarters in Dartford Road so that members of the trade and the public can view the company’s wide range of wedding accessories, which include bridesmaid dresses, wedding shoes and boots, hosiery, gloves, jewellery and wedding umbrellas.

    Sharon Gavin bought the business in 2006 from Mr Henry Kaye, who aged 82, wanted to retire. The company was then based in Eastbourne, but Sharon moved it up to Sevenoaks and, for the first year or so, operated it out of her home. Sharon moved the company into its premises at 47 Dartford Road in November 2007.

    Henry Kaye had been operating for more than 20 years and one of Sharon’s first moves was to update the range, as well as introducing new, more modern, colours moving away from pastels to include shades such as plum and coffee. The company already had a website, but Sharon made a priority of building a new one and getting it fully optimised.

    While sales have continued to grow, customer behaviour has changed during the current downturn.

    People are still getting married, but they are spending less perhaps having one less flower girl, or not buying as many extras, she explained.

    Today, company sales are split 50:50 between the trade and consumers.

    Sharon said: We sell nationwide to the trade and are successful because we are affordable and hold everything in stock, while many other companies make dresses to order.

    Sharon has recently expanded into girls’ dresses and dressing-up outfits and has launched a dedicated website for this range called The range is also available in the Sevenoaks showroom.

    Sharon is currently looking for ways of building the Henry Kaye brand.

    We are well-known within the trade and our sales are continuing to grow, but we want to be a recognised brand outside of that, she said. We exhibited at the National Wedding Show in London this year and our stand was swamped. However, most of the visitors were planning weddings for 2011, so that was a profile-building exercise for us, rather than one which resulted in lots of sales.

    Now that the showroom is open, Sharon wants to build on that and is looking to form partnerships with others involved in the wedding industry in the local area.

    The Marketing Eye says:

    Before embarking on a brand building exercise, Sharon should define the brand she wants to build.

    There are two very distinct markets for Henry Kaye: the trade and the public. The trade wants low prices and ready availability. The public wants a wide range of choice, an attractive and easy to use website and good service.

    Now could be the time to think about updating the brand, or even running two brands side by side. The Henry Kaye brand could be retained for the trade, as there is good recognition in this area, and a new identity developed for the public something aligned to the proposition rather than the name of a previous owner. This will allow appropriate marketing to be delivered to each audience without creating conflict.

    While search engine optimisation is one tactic to maximise visitors to the website, it is important to find other ways of building the brand and driving traffic to the business. A Google search for wedding accessories doesn’t bring up Henry Kaye very quickly, so pay-per-click advertising should be investigated to supplement the optimisation activity. Sharon shouldn’t overlook off-line marketing, such as advertising, events and direct mail either.

    The fact that the stand was swamped at the National Wedding Show is a good sign that the proposition is right. These visitors are only likely to return if they are re-marketed, so capturing data and building a marketing database to stay in contact with potential customers is vital. Local shows might be more successful than national ones for consumer business in future.

    With thanks to freelance journalist, Angela Ward, who is interviewing the businesses featured in these posts.

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