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Whiteleys gets with it!


Whiteleys had been situated in Garden St. (not a green leaf or blade of grass insight…) for 12 years when I started, knowing nothing, in September 1987. There was a black, Bakelite, platted cotton coated cord, rotary dial telephone with a slider switch to the one extension. There was a wet photocopier (what??) and foreign communications were made through a telex office 2 miles away.

Invoices were typed by hand, statements were hand written, accounts were kept on the Kalamazoo double entry ledger system, all hand written.  There was no internet banking, no technology at all!

Shortly after this, electronic faxes entered the business universe, they could only be rented then and were £1000+ per year, but we got one and it paid for itself very quickly, not least in cutting trips to the telex office.  Then, shortly after THAT we bought a dry photo copier, also very useful.

Computers came into view about three years later and with them the ghastly, traumatic experience of putting the accounts on Sage, so ghastly that our auditor’s bill quadrupled trying to understand it! Imagine not having instant electronic banking, daily snapshot views of how the company was doing – it doesn’t bear thinking about!

However, the scissor making process carried on as it always had, hand-made by craftsmen and not really any new technology to speak of. We fought off the Far East incursion into the scissor markets in the UK by not competing on price and keeping our stuff at the very top quality it could be, not dropping our prices, supplying industrial customers with scissors for doing specific jobs which most other scissors couldn’t do. Some of the stranger uses being: left-handed hat makers’ scissors (for the brims), toenail scissors for cutting shocking ancient old-mens’ toenails ( one came to the door to give them a try!), scissors for trimming the holes on golf-courses, sheeps’ bum scissors, all manner of difficult textiles, public transport seating, rubber underwear…..

Some inept attempts to emulate our scissors were made! Firstly, a gentleman came to visit and tried to strong-arm us into supplying at cost or lower, issuing threats to undercut us by having better versions made elsewhere. We said “off you go and do it, then”, so he did! Except that when he threw the offending item across the table at us in a beat-that-if-you-can gesture, we picked them up and bent them with our hands……  Not a great start …. No happy customers for him!

Secondly, another company tried to copy our Xylan coated, Aramid (bullet proof material) cutting scissors in the following ingenious manner: He made some ordinary 10” scissors, bought some spray-on non-stick for home-spraying of frying pans, roasting tins etc. He lined up the finished scissors in a large tin tray and sprayed both sides. He sold them below Whiteley’s price to a large industrial facility making the Aramid. In double quick time the Aramid factory were on the phone in desperation as they could not cut the Aramid and their production had stopped, so, we had to fly our scissors there that same day to get them out of trouble.

This is what happens if you buy cheap scissors !

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