It is always interesting to know how other businesses plan for Christmas and in retail there is a lot more forward planning than most.  I talked to one of our designers, Lorna Syson, about how she plans for Christmas and  the pitfalls and challenges she faces.

Tell me a little about yourself?

I’m a textile designer for home interiors, I love being inspired by nature and the hidden beauty of everyday we often miss. I live in rural Oxfordshire with my husband and my dog Jenkins; I love animals and would have more than one dog – if my husband let me!


How did you get started?

I started my textile business in 2009 with help from the Princes Trust.  In 2012 I moved into Cockpit Arts studios and transferred my textile designs on cards for our open studios, these were really popular and this is where my greeting card collection started!   A year later we adopted Jenkins and he was my first pet portrait. The pet’s collection called Jenkins and friends is now one of my best selling.

How do you come up with your Christmas designs?

I think it’s really important to be different when it comes to Christmas cards, there are so many out there you need to know who you’re designing for. I concentrate on the individual cards you send to those closest to you at Christmas, and Jenkins in a santas hat was my first Christmas card just sent to family and friends. I also look at what’s been selling well in our everyday, some of my favourite characters get a Christmas revamp of santa hats or antlers!

How long in advance do you start to plan for Christmas?

I like to think of designing Christmas a year in advance so it is cold and Christmassy when I’m doing the illustrations. I once tried to design a Christmas card on a sunny day in April and it didn’t feel right. So I always put a bit of time aside for Christmas card in that last week before Christmas to design the new collection.

What challenges do you face around Christmas?

Christmas is always a busy time and deciding what stock to have in for orders can be hard, thankfully I’ve changed the printing system so that we now have a fast turnaround, I get them printed to order so I don’t have to guess my best sellers and bulk buy before they’re tested in the market!


How do you create a Christmas photo shoot in July?

I learnt the hard way after my first Christmas shoot in July that it’s impossible to buy Christmas trees, decorations or even Christmas looking ribbons in the height of summer so I now keep a box a side of my favourite Christmas bits that I can bring out in the summer. Thankfully lots of the plants you associate with Christmas such as ivy and hollie are green in the summer too so you can grab them from the garden.

Who is your go to designer / maker at Christmas?

I always try and spend my money with indie shops or designer makers, I like to think that my spending with them allows them to carry on  with their business and goes towards them living their dream. I love to go to Christmas markets and meet the people who make the work!  Small Business Saturday, which falls on the 1st Saturday in December every year, helps to promote small businesses like mine, and encourages people to shop small for their Christmas presents and in general throughout the year. 


What advise would you give someone just starting their own business?

Designing is only a small part of running your own business, be prepared to look at the bigger picture and be aware that once you’ve done your amazing collection the challenge is to get it out there! Visit the shows and your favourite shops where you dream to one day be stocked and learn as much as possible before you launch.

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