In the 140 years that James Hare Silks have been operational, many challenges have faced Britain's textile industry, but James Hare have managed to survive the peaks and troughs thanks to the quality of their products, excellent customer service, and their adaptability and determination.
In 1865 James Hare Ltd were merchants and manufacturers of woollens and Worsteds for the tailoring trade. The company expanded greatly in the early part of the 20th century - occupying 30,000 square feet of factory space in Armley, Leeds in addition to extensive warehousing and office space in Leeds city centre.
However, it was not until the 1980s that the company decided to specialise and James Hare Silks was born. Now occupying 6,000 square feet in Queen Street, Leeds, the company is proud to be the only surviving cloth merchant in Leeds traditional textiles quarter.
The company currently employs a staff of 25. They quote customer service, in particular the quick turnaround of orders, as the key to their enduring success and credit the Mertex system from Reflex Data Systems with helping them achieve such prosperity.
The textile software enables James Hare Silks to keep a close eye on stock levels and maintain a comprehensive range of stock on the premises with great efficiency - something they believe gives them the edge over competitors.
Financial Director, Brian Luty, says:
"The Mertex system allows us to monitor our stock very closely, and handle the goods with speed. We hold a wide range of stock but this would need to be much greater to ensure there were no stock-outs if it wasn't for the Mertex system. The system can tell us exactly what we have, how much of it we have, and whereabouts in the warehouse it is. In fact the system is so efficient that stocktaking now takes around six hours - it used to take three days. Mertex tells us what we need for each order, and what the forecasted requirements are so that we can manage our purchasing accordingly."
With a keen interest in technology, Brian was quick to acknowledge the importance of computers and how they could be used to his advantage in the textile industry. He computerised the company's sales ledger in the early 1980's using an Amstrad system and moved onto Sage accounting software as equipment became more accessible. In the early 1990's Brian decided James Hare needed a bespoke system which would provide a variety of management functions. He chose the Mertex system from Reflex Data Systems as, according to Brian, 'the system was flexible and would fit around what James Hare needed rather than vice versa'.
He worked closely with the Reflex team to develop a system that would work for James Hare, and his experience with the Mertex product over the years has helped Reflex develop their complement of software solutions. Brian's willingness to offer advice and feedback on new software continues to be a real benefit to Reflex.
In fact, Brian's IT skills are in such demand that he is about to visit the US and implement a special Virtual Private Network connection to Mertex for one of the company's American distributors. This will allow them to log on to the Mertex system at James Hare to check stock availability and place orders, in real time and without the need for verbal communication - a major bonus for two companies trying to work together across different time zones.
Other technological additions to the James Hare warehouse are the bespoke cutting benches, which were designed by a local company with Brian's assistance to cope with the unique characteristics of silk. The machines have built-in lightboxes for quality checking, and can roll the silks tightly without damaging the delicate and expensive fabric.
The silks themselves are sourced globally, from countries such as India, Thailand, and to a lesser extent, China. However, most of the dyeing and finishing is carried out in Europe - dyeing is completed in France, whereas cloth is embroidered in both Austria and France.
Brian is quick to praise the textile industries of Asia and the Far East. He believes that technological advancement and improvements in the manufacturing infrastructures has helped these countries compete with Western businesses and produce silks of a very high standard.
James Hare has enjoyed great success for many years supplying silks to the bridalwear industry and this has been mirrored in the export market which now accounts for a growing percentage of turnover.
The company has recently ventured into the furnishing sector and has a number of lucrative contracts with interior designers. This has brought new challenges for James Hare as traditionally their products are designed to have lasting appeal, in fact, ranges such as tartans and dupions may last for years, with occasional changes made to the selection of colourways.
The demands put upon the company by furnishing retailers and designers mean that they must keep abreast of trends in fabric, pattern and colour variations - something in which the company has excelled. Today, alongside the more traditional fabrics, customers will find cutting-edge dupions, silks and taffetas fit to decorate the most contemporary homes.
"The future looks very positive for James Hare Silks", concludes Brian Luty. "We are looking forward to the challenges and achievements that this ever-changing market will bring, and we are confident that with the right combination of staff and systems, and a strong customer-focused approach, we will continue to provide beautiful fabrics for many more years to come."
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