The Early Years
By the early 1950’s Ramon was making stockinette cloths and rolls which were in heavy demand. Stockinette cloth was known for many years as ‘mutton cloth’. Frozen New Zealand lamb was wrapped in stockinette cloth to prevent the carcasses from freezing together during shipment. Discarded by butchers, the cloth was sold off in pieces, being especially popular for polishing. The discarded cloths, however, occasionally contained fragments of bone which caused scratching and before long hosiery manufacturers were being asked to make similar cloths which would be free of pieces of bone.
During these early years the firm’s most important customers apart from the wholesalers were Woolworth’s and British Home Stores. Both contracts were very hard work since Ramon had to deliver cloths to the individual stores within each chain.
These early Ramon advertisements display the ever popular stockinette rolls and cloths made by the company. The rolls are wrapped in a polythene bag of ‘striking design·, illustrating the company’s flair for innovative packaging . The Quickwipe was the best-selling prepacked dishcloth in the country.
Selling was much more formal in those days. Salesmen were expected to dress sombrely, in dark suits (never brown!), black shoes and, of course, a hat. Such modish accessories as loud ties or suede shoes were considered inappropriate.
On seeing his new brown suede shoes, one of Peter Simon’s customers pointedly asked him if he was going on holiday! Peter often found selling difficult. He could never get to see the buyer in one large Bristol wholesale firm, being told that ‘We’re fully stocked in whatever you’ve got’! But Peter and Hans were able to sell everything that the factory could produce.
As pressure on Peter’s and Hans’ time grew, the firm began to employ commission agents who were paid a commission of five per cent on sales. These agents often had several related agencies in brushes, for example, or plastic ware. One of these agents, Cyril Sharp, who covered London for the firm for many years, never learned to drive. He covered the capital on foot, sample case in hand, sprightly bounding from one bus to another. He also covered the Channel Islands, by ferry and public transport, eventually passing the area to Peter Simon with detailed instructions and the comment that ‘The walking will do you good, Peter!’. Although customers were visited regularly by the agents, it was a principle of the company that they should also be visited at least once a year by one of the directors. This cemented close relationships between the company and its customers.
Even though Peter, unlike Hans Rappolt, was never an enthusiastic salesman, his entrepreneurial spirit kept breaking through. He discovered that hardware stores kept dishcloths, sold in bundles of a dozen, under the counter rather than on display. Peter changed all this by putting them in polythene bags and providing display cartons, the designs of which were changed regularly. Displaying dishcloths on top of the counter led to a sharp surge in their sales. Sales were also helped by the evolution of the kitchen not simply as place where food was prepared but also as a more sophisticated living space. Peter and Hans took advantage of this change by producing coloured cloths which would ‘blend with every colour scheme’ in the modern kitchen.
A flair for innovation was matched already by commitment to value and customer service. In the late 1950s Ramon proclaimed that ‘As Specialists in the manufacture of Cleaning Cloths and Stockinette we can offer outstanding value’ and that ‘we pride ourselves in giving unsurpassed service to all our customers’. These are commitments which have been integral to the company ever since.