Harris Tweed makers target India and America

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By Michael MacLeod

SALES of Harris Tweed are soaring in India, but the famous Scottish wool still can’t crack America.

An unprecedented surge in demand has seen Scotland’s largest tweed producer appoint a dedicated agent in the sub-continent.

And now a promotion drive will see Lewis-based Harris Tweed Hebrides try to re-awaken interest in the USA.

The firm scooped three major orders from India by complete surprise and want to cash in on the country’s “burgeoning middle-class.”

Brian Wilson, the Harris Tweed Hebrides chairman, said: “Obviously people won’t be wearing Harris Tweed all over tropical India but there are areas, particularly in the north, with a much cooler climate.

“And there’s a burgeoning middle-class; a massive growing market with plenty of potential.

“Harris Tweed has a certain image of class and quality they want to buy into.”

The material is exported from the Western Isles to 50 countries.

Increasing sales made 2009 the first time Tweed was woven all-year round.

Now – alongside the drive to build on success in India – the company is targeting America, which was once its biggest market.

Mr Wilson said: “Harris Tweed clothes were once “must have” items in the States but sales have steadily decreased since the 1970s.

“No-one is sure why.

“The fabric still has a great reputation there, but just not the sales to match.

“When Senator Ted Kennedy died the media carried a photo of him and his brothers John and Bobby all wearing Harris Tweed.

“That’s a measure of the standing of the product in the States 50 years ago.

“It’s what stylish, well-bred Americans were wearing and we want Harris Tweed back where it belongs in the States.”

The firm will target major trade shows in the US this year in a bid to solve the Stateside sales slump.

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