Wednesday, 28 February 2007

NEWS: FIBRECRAFTS Wins ECMOD Mail Order Business Award

Allison, Jennie Bond and Ian

Last night Ian Bowers, MD of FIBRECRAFTS and Allison Farlow, our designer, were at the annual award dinner of the European Conference of Mail Order Distributors (ECMOD) - sounds exciting doesn't it? We had entered the Fibrecrafts business for an award as a mail order business in the category 'Home Based Hobbies & Pursuits'.

The assessment is based on the catalogue, e-commerce web site, customer support and business development in the year. The event was in the Natural History Museum in London along with all the dinosaurs, and 500 others from the mail-order industry. We were rather chuffed to have been short-listed along with John Lewis Direct (a huge chain of classy and effective UK department stores and a mega web site, rated 8th of the national leaders) and the leading Irish mail-order business selling nice 'tat'!

The first surprise was to find that we were seated on the top table with the organisers and the celebrity, Jennie Bond - obviously this was a consolation prize for effort. However WE WON and we're delighted to share our news with you.

Thank you to all our customers and friends who have supported us for these 25 years. Now, to find the next mountain to climb!

Central Hall at the Natural History Museum where the event was held

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

FIBRECRAFTS - under attack

Monday 5 February 2007 will be remembered at FIBRECRAFTS for some time to come.

We opened up, as usual, and as a part of our normal routine, checked the emails for orders from the web site. On the previous evening 16 identical orders had been placed by an individual with the name of ‘Sad’. After a few more minutes we realised that a file on the site which held some credit card details had been completely wiped.

More research, particularly using a free Google tool, told us that over a period of 2 hours the site had been attacked from a computer in Hanoi, Vietnam. The technique used is known as ‘SQL injection’. This attempts to trick the web site into giving away its structure so that, through a series of intelligent guesses, the data can be extracted.

All the key data on the site is, of course encrypted, using strong processes which we understand should take 30 years to crack. The evidence on the site suggested that the attacker had only been able to delete a data file. However we thought that the responsible way to handle this was to email everyone whose data could have ever been on the site. We told them of the attack and that our estimate of their credit card data being accessed was a ‘moderate’ risk.

We immediately closed down the web site and over the following days worked to harden it to ensure that no more damage could be done and we will remain ever vigilant of future attacks.

The site was re-opened on Thursday 8th February. On the following Sunday the site was attacked again, again from Hanoi, with two individuals working simultaneously. However this time the attack lasted only six minutes and there was no damage. Again we emailed all those who had registered on the site saying that we believed that this re-attack suggested that no data had been extracted.

There have been two lessons from this for us; never to assume that a site is safe and therefore to make sure that no valuable data is held there, ever. Secondly, just how cheered we were by the very many positive responses to our emails thanking us for the warning, and assuring us that they admired us for being prepared to admit that the attacks had happened.

Over the past two weeks orders through the site have continued to flow in at an ever increasing rate.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

MEMORY LANE: FIBRECRAFTS

FIBRECRAFTS was founded by Anna Bowers. She trained as a Physics and Maths teacher, learning to spin on her great grandmother’s wheel when her two children were ‘at that stage’. With others in the village in West Essex she set up a Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. The difficulty of finding good quality reliable supplies at the end of the 1970’s led to seeking out suppliers and, by default, becoming a ‘table-top’ retailer.

The first, typed catalogue was sent out in the Spring of 1982 to 1,000 names bought from Tim Willcocks at Hedgehog Equipment (who still exist). Later the Textile Book business developed by Miss Whittaker was acquired to support the product range. You can click here to see a potted history of how the catalogue evolved.

A family move to Godalming in Surrey shortly after was greeted with “well, I’ll give it a year, and if it doesn’t work, then it’s back to teaching!”

In 1986 a merger with Barnhowe at Elterwater in the Lake District was agreed, bringing in weaving and dyeing skills. The business progressed and during this time Anna spent 5 years as Chairman of the National Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.

In 1994 Anna died suddenly of Legionnaire’s Disease. After a short period her husband, Ian who was also hospitalised by the same illness, took over the full time running of the business, and bought out the Barnhowe partners.

The ‘cottage’ industry from their home at Style Cottage has continued to grow incorporating a number of other businesses including George Weil & Sons Ltd, Suasion Ltd and the Papershed and FIBRECRAFTS is now run from a warehouse in Peasmarsh just outside Godalming.
The Warehouse & Showroom in Peasmarsh Surrey

Monday, 19 February 2007

NEWS: FIBRECRAFTS shortlisted for ECMOD award


FIBRECRAFTS have been short listed for the 2007 ECMOD Awards for mail-order businesses, alongside industry giants John Lewis Direct and 4giftsdirect.com. The major elements sought by the Judges were the quality of the Catalogue and web-site, customer support policy and the business strategy.

This picture of the FIBRECRAFTS Team and a press release were featured in the Surrey Advertiser on 16th February 2007. Well done to (left to right) Jo, Ian, Dave, Allison (the designer), Julie, Coralie and Susan. Also to Ruth, Howard and Rosina (not pictured)