Knitting a new direction for the Morris & Sons family business

In a hectic, technology-driven world, people are looking more towards meditative practices, such as knitting or crocheting.

On public transport on any given morning, there’s bound to be someone knitting or crocheting. Chances are they’re quite young, having chosen to adopt the skills and hobbies of years gone by.

That’s welcome news for the Morris family. Despite the odds, their third-generation craft business, Morris & Sons is managing to thrive in the modern age.

One member of the clan is Tal Levine who manages an offshoot of the Morris & Sons brand, The Granny Square in Newtown.

If Ms Levine had her way everyone would step away from their smartphones for a few hours a day and pick up a pair of needles.

“I think as the world gets crazier people are wanting something to calm their mind so it’s almost like a meditation when you sit down and take your knitting or crochet,” Ms Levine told SBS.

The Granny Square runs clinics to help people struggling with a particular stitch and in recent years Tal has noticed more and more young people giving it a try.

“Instead of going out and buying [something] they actually make [it]. They start from the beginning,” Ms Levine explained.

“They choose the yarn, the pattern, they make it and then they give it to the person, everyone gets a sense of something special from it.”

The Granny Square is part of a much bigger operation. Tal was born into the family craft business, now known as Morris & Sons. Her brother, Albert runs the show – along with her other siblings.

“I love it, it’s very liberating you’ve got scope to do anything and everything, I mean it’s hard work but you’ve got all the opportunities that it brings with it,” Mr Morris said.

Ruth and Laurie Morris opened their first store in 1970 at a time when tapestry – and craft in general – was very popular in Australia.

“We started and never looked back,” Mrs Morris said.

“I mean in that day, 1970, you had 100’s of shops like us but because of our knowledge and our love of it we grew [a lot], everybody couldn’t believe how good it was.”

The 78 year-old matriarch has fond memories of growing up in Iraq originally and said she has always had a passion for art.

“I was born with a needle in my hand,” she said.

At one time Ruth and her husband had multiple stores across Sydney, but trends and times changed.

The Tapestry Craft business was renamed Morris & Sons – and pivoted in a different direction after Albert took over in 1996.

As customers moved away from tapestry and embroidery, the business needed to change in order to survive. A decision to start manufacturing their own wool would dramatically boost the company’s bottom line.

Mr Morris said a $400,000 boost in turnover in one yarn was worth the risk. The family now manufactures its own Merino wool in China and is moving towards becoming a major distributor of yarn across the country.

“We’re very successful and we’re unique,” Mr Morris said.

“Because all retailers who do what we do buy from wholesalers whereas we produce the majority of our product now.”

Ruth said an ability to tap in to trends and listen to customers’ wants and needs is behind the company’s continual success.

“I’m still excited, as soon as I arrive at this shop I feel I am in heaven, I love the customers [when] I am here and I still work,” Mrs Morris said.

Indeed that passion for business and customer service has passed down to her children.

“When you do put your heart and soul into it, and you’re really thoughtful for them, what they’re looking for, you genuinely win some goals,” Mr Morris said.

“It gives you direction [as to] where to go next.”

This video and article were originally published by SBS Small Business Secrets.


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