Trader Profile-The British Blanket Company

This year we’ve been continuing with our behind the scenes Trader profiles, offering you a glimpse into life behind the scenes of some of your market day favourites. This week it’s The British Blanket Company, run by brother and sister team Bethan and Joe in North Somerset.  We caught up with Bethan at the start of the summer when she told us all about her passion for British weaving, the importance of keeping the British wool industry alive, and the perks of trading right in the centre of Market Place each month!

Tell us a bit about you and your business.

The British Blanket Company sells colourful wool throws woven at traditional mills in England, Wales and Ireland. We’re about giving an old-fashioned product a contemporary twist with eye-catching designs that instantly add a pop of colour to your home and bring a smile to your face. It’s a family business run my me (Bethan) and my brother, Joe. We’ve been open for nearly four years now and we’ve been selling at The Frome Independent since the beginning, as well as on our own website.

Where do you get your inspiration – what motivates you to do what you do? 

There are two main strands to our ethos. The first is to help revitalise the wool industry, which was once the beating heart of Britain. The rise of synthetic fibres and mass production in the 1960s meant wool blankets fell out of fashion and sadly there are only a few traditional woollen mills left. Our mission is to reinvent wool blankets for today’s homes with exciting colours, beautiful patterns and the same wonderful quality. In doing this, we support the last remaining British and Irish mills that still use traditional methods to weave beautiful blankets from pure wool. Britain’s weaving heritage is precious and The British Blanket Company is about making it future-proof by introducing their wonderful craftsmanship to a new audience.

Secondly, we aim for The British Blanket Company to become well-known brand people really love, selling one product and doing it really well. The British Blanket Company stands for quality, design and heritage, wrapped into a neat rainbow-coloured package. A blanket is such a simple product, but a warm and cosy home helps us feel safe and comfortable in a busy world: a blanket helps us to slow down, be together and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

Why did you choose to come and trade at the Frome Independent?

The Frome Independent is actually where The British Blanket Company was born, almost by accident! We originally traded with our first brand, called Decorator’s Notebook, selling a mix of ethically-sourced home accessories. Blankets were just one of a myriad of products on our stall but we got great feedback about them and it turned out to be accidental market research for us. Over the next couple of months we started bringing more and more blanket designs to Frome, until we realised they deserved their own shop and branding. The British Blanket Company was created just like that!

What do you like about market trading  – why not just sell online or through retail outlets?

The lunch options! Seriously though, we mostly sell through our website and work from home, so we can feel quite detached from our customers sometimes. Coming to The Frome Independent is really refreshing for us and we get the chance to chat to our customers, show them new designs we’re working on and get immediate feedback. You can learn a lot from just watching what catches people’s eye and listening to what they say to their friends.

We get people coming to find us at the market because they follow us on social media, and vice versa, so it’s exciting to bridge that gap. We now have ‘regulars’ who come back to our stall every time they have a birthday or wedding gift to buy, that’s pretty cool. The atmosphere at Frome is always so lovely. Despite the early morning starts, the sight of people wearing flower crowns or lounging in deckchairs for Frome-on-Sea could never fail to cheer us up.

Tell us about your own favourite or best-selling product. How much work goes into creating it, why do you think this is your strongest product?

We have quite a range of different blankets on our website, with throws made from merino lambswool as well as pure wool, different size blankets and luxury picnic rugs with leather straps (which make a brilliant gift). At the market though, we try to keep things simple – we only sell our full-size wool throws and all the same price. This works well because customers don’t have complicated choices to make on the spot, they just have to decide which design they love best!

The blankets at the market are made from soft pure wool and traditionally-woven at a family-owned mill in North Wales. Our best-sellers really depend on the season – in spring and summer we sell lots of yellows, pinks and blues, then in autumn and winter cosy colours like orange, red and charcoal are popular. My favourites are the Crossroads and Cobweave designs, which are closely inspired by traditional Welsh blankets. Joe’s favourite is the vibrant Yellow Semaphore throw. We bring different designs along with us each month, so there’s always something fresh to incorporate into our signature rainbow display!

What is your favourite Frome shop, or stall to visit at The Frome Independent?

Getting away from our stall isn’t easy on busy market days, so we mostly visit our near neighbours at the bottom of Market Place. We love the modern perspex jewellery from Jules & Clem, quirky framed treasures by Hannah Brown, eco-friendly cloth lunch bags from Bric and soft hand-made satchels from Badger House Leather. There’s always brilliant camaraderie between the traders and it was really helpful in the fledgling days of our business to have a group of like-minded sellers to bounce ideas off, share successes and offer support.

And finally, some quick fire questions….

  • Favourite book?

Bethan: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Joe: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

  • Describe your dream day off.

Bethan: I’m crazy about Lindy Hop, so you’ll almost always find me dancing.

Joe: Surfing on a sunny beach somewhere.

  • What are you listening to right now?

Bethan: an Audible podcast called ‘The Three Day Effect’ about how spending time in nature actually changes your brain.

Joe: The latest Vampire Weekend album ‘Father of the Bride’ – whimsical indie-pop tunes.

  • What are you cooking/ eating / drinking at the moment?

Bethan: I’m working my way through the awesome Anna Jones cookbooks. 

Joe: Touring Bristol’s brewery taprooms enjoying craft beer favourites from Lost & Grounded, Left Handed Giant and Moor Beer Co.

Thanks Bethan! You’ll find The British Blanket Company in Market Place on Sunday 3rd November and Sunday 1st December, or check out their website if you just can’t wait that long!