Celebrating a decade in business this year, Herdy recently expanded its remit beyond gifts, homeware and accessories with the launch of Herdy Baby. CWB speaks to Spencer Hannah, the brand’s co-founder and creator, to learn more about the company inspired by the Lake District’s Herdwick sheep.
Laura Turner: What’s the story behind The Herdy Company?
Spencer Hannah: Myself and Diane, my wife and business partner, created Herdy back in 2007, so it’s our tenth anniversary this year. As designers relocating our commercial design practice to the Lakes, we wanted to complement the cultural and heritage offerings with something new, fresh and contemporary. A brand that represents its birthplace and thinks progressively about how business from this background should recognise responsibility, as well as commercial enterprise.
LT: Your branding featuring a Herdwick sheep is very distinct. Where did the concept come from?
SH: The Lake District’s iconic Herdwick sheep is the inspiration behind the brand. Herdy has become an icon for our region and was recently licensed to support the World Heritage Status Campaign. After a trip to Helsinki back in 2006 (myself and my wife both love Scandi design), Diane and I returned home, went for a fell walk, met a Herdwick staring intently at us, took its picture and realised this was the face of the Lakes.
LT: What does The Herdy Company offer in terms of products?
SH: Originally, we offered a core range of giftware, homeware and accessories. As the brand has evolved, so has the offering. Herdy Baby offers clothing and accessories for babies and young children. Herdy Country offers bags and accessories made from natural materials, handmade in Britain. Herdy Sleep, meanwhile, offers a pocket-sprung mattress made with Herdwick wool supporting the Lake Districts Upland Fell Farming Shepherds, and again, handmade in Britain.
LT: Baby is the newest addition to the Herdy family – what led you to expand into this sector?
SH: Interaction with our fans, followers and consumers. It’s so important to listen and act on behalf of your audiences. On social media, parents and families have played about with Herdy for a long time. Parties, cakes – even weddings. Herdy is cute, so it was the perfect fit for babies.
LT: What does the Herdy Baby collection comprise?
SH: We have a single, unisex style – great for gifting – across two-way top and pant sets, hoodies, sleeping bags, a cuddle robe, beanie, bib and soft toys. Booties and a baby-changing bag will shortly be available too.
LT: How do you see the Herdy Baby collection evolving?
SH: We aim for it to extend and develop into a broader range that can become its own concession. This will help our retail partners as well as us.
LT: Who are you targeting for stockists of Herdy Baby?
SH: For now, quality conscious SME indie retailers looking for something unique to complement their other ranges and who are looking for a long-term relationship with Herdy. They can help us to nurture Herdy Baby.
LT: As a business, what is your stance on social responsibility and environmental awareness?
SH: The day we set up The Herdy Company, we launched The Herdy Fund. Created to give back to the birthplace of Herdy, we support upland fell farmers, rural communities and help protect the Herdwick breed.
For Herdy, it’s always been about creating practical support for the area and people who are intrinsic to the brand. For instance, our Herdy Sleep mattresses use a whole Herdwick fleece – we pay the farmers double market value for the wool, which would otherwise be a waste product for them.
In 2010, we won the BITC (Business in the Community) Small Company of the Year for responsible business practice. Receiving our award from HRH The Prince of Wales was a proud moment for us all.
LT: A number of your products are manufactured in the UK – what’s the percentage and are there plans to increase this figure?
SH: Presently it’s around 40 per cent, but that will always fluctuate. It’s our company policy to make Made in the UK work – when we can. Unfortunately, we have no influence over political, financial and foreign exchange fluctuations. This can be a disruptor for a business like ours, which sources many raw materials for a wide range of applications.
LT: As well as wholesale and an ecommerce website, you also operate own-brand stores – where are they located?
SH: We have five shops in total – Kendal (our latest), Keswick, Grasmere and Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District National Park and one in Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales.
LT: How many stockists does The Herdy Company currently have?
SH: In total, we have around 230 retailers across the UK. We also trade internationally with a handful of retailers in the US, mainland Europe and Japan.
LT: What are your plans for the business?
SH: In the short-term, to continue establishing our UK footprint. Long-term, to become the most lovable brand personality in the world.