Impact of COVID on Edinburgh Business (as published in the ‘Edinburgh Evening News’)

Our challenge during Lockdown

COVID has had a significant impact on many craft businesses, and Baigali Designs who produce beautiful handmade cushions and throws in Edinburgh, is no exception.

Although still a small business, our sales doubled last year through commissions, selling online, at craft fairs around Scotland and during the Edinburgh Festival. We focus entirely on creating original designs, inspired and influenced by Scotland’s evocative landscapes. From tactile velvet to soft multi-tonal tartans and wools, our original, colourful designs reflect the rich colours and gentle hues of Scotland’s unique hills and mountains.

But, by the end of April our sales were almost zero, most of our craft fairs across Scotland including the Edinburgh Festival were cancelled, and all our shop outlets had been closed, this had happened so quickly.

New Strategy

We worked on our longer-term marketing strategy and on overhauling our website. During this process we started to redefine what was important to us as small business. We concluded that we needed to increase our Scottish identity. By sourcing our fabrics, packaging, marketing, and website development locally within Scotland.

Lesley and her husband, Gary are passionate about making handmade cushion and throw designs that are exciting, classic and timeless. Lesley’s designs celebrate colour, Scottish design, originality and elegant luxury. Her designs reflect Scotland’s rich culture by using a premium Scottish wool fabric. However, we used a variety of other fabrics from around the world which diluted our Scottish identity and what we wanted to achieve with the Baigali brand.

The new strategy also fitted with our new ethical and environmental policies; all our packaging materials can be recycled; all remnants and end of line fabrics are also upcycled.  We do not use single use plastic carrier bags and our packaging is made from vegetable or recycled materials.

We have been researching and exploring Scotland’s wool manufacturing heritage and had a great afternoon with ‘Scottish Linen’ company in Kirkcaldy, established in 1825 and continues to weave bespoke linens and natural fibres. As the last linen manufacturer in the country, the company prides itself on its long history of traditional weaving in Scotland. This is exactly the type of business we want to work with. We have found that there are a lot of companies with an evident love affair with Scotland’s heritage crafts, Scottish nature and our landscapes serving as inspiration.

Growing up in Kelso

Growing up in Kelso has given me a pride in the history the woollen and cashmere industry of the Borders. Before the late 18th century, this picturesque region of Scotland. With its rolling hills and valleys criss-crossed by winding rivers, was essentially rural. From that time onwards the population of its towns grew as workshops and mills were established to focus on woollen goods.

The reason that Borders towns became so prominent in the woollen industry is largely due to their geographical position. Firstly, they all lie on fast-flowing rivers, allowing waterpower to be used to drive industrial machinery and to wash wool. We plan to revisit some of the mills that remain to explore their latest products.

This change in Baigali Designs identity has given us me stronger sense of direction and has inspired me to create new designs using a lot more Scottish woollen fabric, such as bed throws and intricate bed runners.

The warm weather and our garden have been a life saver in keeping me creative. My friends have been great in giving me encouragement and good feedback on my new designs.

I sold almost all my throws at our first craft fair near Inverness at the end of August and new orders have started to come in. I am positive about the future and would encourage other small businesses to review and invest in their marketing strategy and support local suppliers.