A post from Clare about her recent trip to the Liberty Open Call:

On Saturday I made my way down to London to go to Liberty’s Open Call. This is a chance for designers to show their products to the buyers from Liberty’s. If you’re lucky then they’ll place an order and you’ll see your designs on the shelves of one of our most famous shops! If your work turns out to be not quite what they’re looking for then you’ll still get some top tips from the buyers and really useful feedback from the people in the know.

So after registering for the Open Call a few months ago I headed off to London early on Saturday morning. There was quite a long wait in a queue, outside then inside the building. I had a looong wait (4 hours!) but luckily I had the company of my brother who now lives ‘down south’ so it was a great opportunity for us to chat chat chat!

Liberty’s had emailed me with some questions to be prepared for. These included questions about my trade prices, the RRP for the products, my ideas for where my products would sit in their store and who my ideal customers were. When the moment came for my 3 minutes with the buyers it seemed to rush by in a bit of a blur! Luckily I know the answers to the questions like the back of my hand as I’ve been selling my products for over 3 years now but for someone new to the business I would recommend making sure you really know you’re stuff before you go as there is no time to look things up or to hesitate over answers. Another top tip is to have a trade pack ready to leave with the buyers, I was told that not many people had prepared for this.

The feedback on my products was that they were great but not the style that Liberty are currently looking at, they are moving into contemporary, graphic styled designs for their ceramic ranges. Emily Simpson, the buyer from the Home department who spoke to me, recommended a few stores who might be interested in my designs and told me I was doing the right thing by attending the Country Living Fairs because she believed that was just the right audience for my products.

I was asked to leave my trade pack with them, with all the details of products, prices and how to order so they had the info if they decided it was a range they’d like in the future. Emily also gave me her business card and asked me to keep in touch with any new designs, or new ranges which I develop. So I see that as a success! Although there was no order on the day I did receive great feedback and now I have a contact at Liberty who is interested in my designs!

So it was a valuable experience for me with the only downside being the long wait, just take a good book with you (especially jewellers, there was a very large queue of jewellers) or take a friend that you haven’t seen for a while and have a good gossip while you wait!

I would recommend it to other Designer Makers as it’s great to get the feedback from the buyers, just make sure you’re ready for the 3 mins, it’s fast and you need to make the most of it.