Life at J&S took an unexpected upturn in enhanced marketing opportunities when out of hundreds of U.K direct mail companies, we were shortlisted to go through to a grand finale of Direct Mail Order companies at a gala evening at the Gloucester Hotel London on 31st January 1997.
Judges from the Institute of Direct Marketing and Royal Mail selected the finalists’ entries based on the success of the mailing as well as its originality, effective communication, personalisation, creativity, and style. It came as a great shock to us all at J&S when we were informed that we were shortlisted in the final ten companies. We were one of two Scottish companies and one Irish company nominated, a great honour indeed.
Jim and Eva nominated Catherine and I to represent the firm at the event. It was the Friday morning, and the last week in January, just after Up Helly Aa, our all night long fire festival and I was not feeling the best after partaking in the event! We set off for Sumburgh and our flight to London, and the roads were treacherous and covered in ice. This was our first trip to London, and in itself a great experience to see it in real life.
We arrived at Heathrow with no mishaps and eventually found our way to the Gloucester Hotel, our place of residence and venue of the event.
On the Saturday morning we made our way toward the smell of bacon to a room laid out with all kinds of mouth-watering food on making our way toward the breakfast buffet we were stopped by this gentleman and told politely this was in fact the venue for breakfast for Scotland’s rugby team visiting to play the old enemy, England.
We had some time to spare before the presentation event at night and so hit the streets of London. No surprise we visited many clothes shops in one of these establishments Catherine pointed out the designer of Lady Diana’s wedding dress I suggested to Catherine she seek advice from him to advise her on a dress which went down well!
At 6pm we made our way to the presentation venue, passing a display of the finalists marketing information and there was our distinct logo and shade card on the display board. I think it was then I realised, this was for real.
Entering the function room we were shown to our table which turned out to be the top table and included the after dinner speaker Lance Percival, past actor featured in the Carry On films. The Chief Executive of Royal Mail, no less, also another 3 companies one of which was an Irish online hearing aid director and owner, and for me the star of the entire show- his mannerisms and jokes calmed me down completely. When it was announced we had been placed third in the whole of the U.K. it came as no surprise to me, as we had been doing mail order since the 1960s and it seemed natural to be acknowledged by Royal Mail.
Our reward was a glass trophy and also an all expenses trip for us to attend a Royal Mail Direct marketing seminar in Birmingham. I was very pleased with this, however I had a request it would be of great benefit to Shetland companies if the marketing seminar could be held in the Islands and I was very pleased when the Chief Executive agreed.
I was extremely delighted the event took place in Shetland and approximately 1 dozen local companies attended. This was J&S being true to its philosophy of being fair to all.