Jim Mather MSP, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, visited Skyeskyns on 28th July 2009, as part of his fact finding summer tour to the Highlands.

Seen here (left) with Clive, Lydia and Jess Hartwell, he visited Skyeskyns to hear about running a business on Skye, management efforts to differentiate the business and its growth plans and to discuss the Highlands and Islands role in the Scottish government’s economic recovery plan. He was accompanied by Robert Muir, Highlands and Islands Enterprise area manager.

After lunch and meeting the staff, he was given a tour of the tannery to see how sheepskins are made before seeing the new showroom and range of products on offer to visitors, including the newly launched sheepskin hot-water bottle snuggles.

Clive Hartwell, owner and director of the company, raised some of the challenges facing small businesses in the Highlands and Islands and highlighted the importance of creating an infrastructure capable of supporting development in such historically fragile areas. There were however huge opportunities for sustainable developments too, and particularly in the current economic climate. He emphasised the enormous advantages of working together in a spirit of co-operation between local businesses, as in Waternish for example, which not only has mutual benefits but encourages visitors to stay longer in that area.

“A key principle in any business success is customer retention,” he said. “This is most likely to be achieved by offering an interesting experience, good perceived value and high quality personalised service.”
With the UK currently making up 83% of the tourism market and fewer travelling abroad, indicators suggest the shift to favour domestic tourism is likely to continue. Mr Hartwell confirmed that his business had seen a significant growth in visitor numbers and turnover over the last twelve months which had endorsed the decision to commit to a major investment in the business last year. He outlined a development plan for the next three years which included an expansion into an ambitious national exhibition programme and growing the e-commerce side of the business, both of which would help to promote the business and area in the wider national and international marketplace.

Mr Mather said afterwards, “...It was a delight to witness such great enthusiasm and forward thinking from staff on the island...” and described Skyeskyns in the Visitors Book as a
“Role model Scots business – going places!”