Cow-crazy collectors love
black and white stuff
Business is a decidedly black and
white affair for Peter and Carol
Dickinson and as Tessa Gates
discovered, it is positively booming
IF IT is black and white or has cows all over it, chances are that Peter and Carol Dickinson will stock it, sell it or know where to get it for Peter has gone from dealing in cattle to dealing in stock for cow-crazy collectors.
It is a business born from Peters trips abroad to secure stock for a farm he managed in Cheshire, close by the house he lives in today.
"I was farm manager at Crewe Hall for 10 years and in that time built up a herd from nothing to 350 head. I went to Germany and Holland to buy heifers and was approached by other farmers to do the same for them. Carol used to collect things to do with black and white cows so I used to bring back gifts for her and our friends," recalls Peter, who runs Cowtraders from his home at Crewe by Farndon, near Chester.
* Suitcase full
"Friends liked the stuff they saw in our kitchen and started asking me to get things and I ended up coming back from trips with a suitcase full of merchandise."
Sensing there was potential in this he sought out wholesalers and suppliers two-and-a- half years ago and took a gamble. "I bought enough to fill the sleeper cab of the cattle wagon, brought it home, photographed it and put an advert in farmers weekly. We had a tremendous response," he says.
A test run at three shows in the summer of 1997 and requests by the hundred for their catalogue convinced the couple they were on a winner and when Peters employer decided to sell off his quota, Peter took the opportunity to give the business his undivided attention this summer.
The couple, often accompanied by their three children, took stands at shows around the country and found a public anxious to buy. From Daisys Dollop – a Devon cream toffee cow pat – to a mooing cookie jar; cow-shaped money boxes, udder-shaped mugs, loo roll holders, car seat covers, and telephones, there is always something new that the avid collector simply must have.
"At one show a boy came to our stand and rushed off to get his girlfriend to come and see it. She took one look and burst into tears, then spent £90," recounts Carol, who makes some of the products herself from soft fur fabric.
* Off-beat humour
Ties, with both cartoon and realistic cattle on, are big sellers and when the couple are looking for stock they forget their own tastes and go for something off-beat, humorous or attractive. "It is not necessarily things we like. When we got the Daisys Dollops, we thought no one would want them but we sell loads of them," says Carol, adding that bathroom and kitchen china are steady sellers, and they now do a range of cow jewellery.
Already the business is expanding into manufacturing and wholesaling and they will possibly add Jersey and Guernsey cattle to the range.
"Having spent virtually all my life in dairy farming this is like a new lease of life. The timing has been very good for us," says Peter. "I have been buying and selling cows for a long time so dealing is second nature to me – I love it ."
But for Carol there has been one drawback. "I see so much black and white cow merchandise now that I have given up collecting," she say.
Peter and Carol are always adding new lines to their black and white merchandise. Son George (above) tests
out an inflatable chair and