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Robin Horsell, co-owner of market-leading schoolwear company Schoolblazer, looks back at a successful ISBA conference

✥ Independent Education Today: What were your impressions of the ISBA conference? Robin Horsell: The ISBA conference can be a powerful way to meet new clients and market the company. The schoolwear market is an industry dominated by businesses which are run by the grandchildren, or even great grandchildren of the founders. When we started Schoolblazer in 2004 we had a simple vision – to offer beter uniforms and a beter service to independent schools and their parents. ISBA have been very important in helping us showcase our innovations in both garments and service.

✥ IET: What are the main atractions of the event for your company? RH: The opportunity to build on our existing client relationships and showcase our service to potential new clients. We know that bursars are busy people and are bombarded with suppliers. ISBA gives them a chance to meet the companies and us a chance to chat to them quickly and efficiently.

✥ IET: How well did the event go for your company? RH: We had an excellent conference. We were lucky enough to be selected as a headline sponsor and recognise that this additional exposure is helpful.

✥ IET: How are things going for Schoolblazer at the moment? RH: Schoolblazer are 10 years old this year and we have signed up our hundredth school, making us market leaders to the independent sector. We are seeing an increasing demand for real innovation in product and service and so are very busy. Our Squadkit sportswear brand is

also performing well and has now been adopted by over 100 schools. We had Olympic hockey bronze medallist Chloe Rogers on our stand at ISBA and are delighted that she is joining our team to help us develop the brand further. There is a wide recognition that school

ABOVE: Schoolblazer continue to grow, both in the uniform and sportswear markets

sports kit need to look as good and perform as well as that produced for elite Olympic athletes and Chloe has been very helpful in the development of our unique product range. We’re sure that she will be an asset to the team.

✥ IET: What are the key trends in your sector at the moment, and how are you adapting to changing market conditions? RH: We’ve seen some big changes in the uniform sector in the last few months. One of the major ‘traditional’ suppliers has fallen into administration, leaving a number of schools with real difficulty. We think this will prompt a greater focus on the financial stability of uniform suppliers. Fortunately Schoolblazer are very well funded with an ‘A’ credit rating. We are also seeing schools recognising

that they do have a choice in uniform supply and an increasing trend to re- tender the business. As customers’ service expectations rise then life will become increasingly difficult for companies that cannot meet or exceed these expectations.

✥ IET: What future changes do you anticipate, both for the sector, and for your company? RH: We see continued growth and innovation. We recognise that the existing supplier base has begun to copy a number of our innovations, and therefore the pressure is on for us to keep innovating on both product and service. We’re introducing new blouse and shirt fabrics this year and a new ‘text based’ delivery mechanic so are staying on our toes, but competition is always good. iE

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