Companies from Orkney are experiencing a pre-Christmas sales boost after mounting a creative and culinary invasion of the nation’s capital.
Orkney Villages were set up at two prestigious exhibitions in London, triggering big interest in the products and produce displayed by businesses from the islands.
Now the firms are counting the cost in the best possible way – with many reporting an increase in orders as a result of the strong Orkney presence at the Country Living Magazine Christmas Exhibition and the BBC Good Food Show.
“We experienced colossal interest,” said Thorfinn Craigie, who used the Good Food Show to launch Orkney’s Best, a new web-based outlet for top quality meat from the islands.
“We were one of six food companies from Orkney and, by working alongside each other, we made a really big impact at the show.”
Barely able to keep up with demand for the Aberdeen Angus beef, sausages and other produce he was showing, Mr Craigie also made invaluable contacts with senior figures from a major supermarket chain, hotels and catering companies.
“All the feedback, both at the show and since we got back, has been tremendously positive,” he added. “We are confident of a big increase in sales as a result.”
Ten companies from across the islands exhibited a wealth of high quality jewellery and other crafts at the Orkney Village at the Country Living show.
Funding for both events came from Orkney the Brand, a marketing drive supported by HIE Orkney and Orkney Islands Council.
Martin Fleet, from Sheila Fleet Jewellery, said: “This was the first time we’d been to a retail show and we’re delighted with the increase in orders we’re experiencing as a direct result of being there.
“It’s such a busy show, but the stand we shared gave us the space to build a really good rapport with people who were looking for products they’d never normally see on the High Street.
“It was a really positive experience and I’m sure a lot of the people who were buying from us – and talking to us about Orkney – will also want to spend a holiday here as a result.”
Westray-based Hume Sweet Hume, which creates clothing and a range of interior and fashion accessories, is a regular presence at the Country Living Show.
“But there’s no doubt that having so many Orkney firms exhibiting together made a much bigger impact,” said Lizza Hume, who set up the business almost a decade ago with her sister Jenna.
“I felt we provided a welcoming, refreshing space where visitors could catch their breath, absorb the variety of quality products on offer and meet the people with the stories behind those products.
“In that respect, it was just like Orkney itself.”
Lizza Hume added: “We’ve made a lot of new customers and we’re delighted with sales, both during and after the show.”
The Country Living Magazine Christmas Fair attracted more than 25,000 visitors.
Guy Foreman, head of shows at Country Living said: “The Orkney feature area was a chance for visitors to see products which are simply not available in London shops.
“It also gave them the opportunity to witness, first hand, the intricacies, time and effort which go into making each handmade item.
“Orkney is known as a centre of excellence for jewellery and other craft businesses and the products showcased this year reflected the passion that these companies have for quality and design.
“Bringing together ten businesses in one feature area provided maximum impact and gave visitors a real taste of Orkney culture.”
He added that he looked forward to welcoming back the Orkney Village, after such positive feedback from show visitors.