Scott’s Highland Services Ltd. is a family owned and operated business in London, Ontario, Canada. The company has been serving the community with their wide selection of Scottish and Irish products for over 30 years. Recently Celtic Life International spoke with General Manager Doug MacRae ~himself a renowned piper.
What is your own ethnic background/heritage?
My parents and grandparents were all born in Canada, so my only real link is name only. Our family tree takes us back to the MacRae’s of Applecross, but quite honestly, I’ve always considered myself to be nothing but Canadian!
What inspired you to get involved with the business?
Scott’s Highland Services has two major components: Scottish and Irish Gifts, and Bagpipes & Drums. I began working with Scott’s Highland when I was very young and came on board as a developing piper that could help around the warehouse. It was the piping side of the business that I was involved with for many years. I worked through all of high school and university with the business and then moved to Texas to teach piping. I had a good spell there, but came back to the business and have taken on the day to day management which has me exposed to all aspects of the operation.
What are the challenges of the profession?
The most obvious challenge at the moment is the economy. As distributors, we ship daily to business around the world. Globally, every business is suffering from a damaged economy. We are trying our best to assist all these businesses with the best prices and service we can provide to allow them to be competitive for the consumers’ dollar.
What are the rewards?
The rewards are a result of the challenges. Many aspects of the industry provide opportunity for reward. Whether it be the success story of a customer and one of our products or our own success in growing the business. Ultimately, though, in this industry provides an opportunity to meet people with such similar interests and passions. Traveling to trade shows and sales calls are very fulfilling when able to interact with customers in the same industry.
What are your core products & services?
On the gift side of things, we have two very good lines of products (among others!). The InstaKilt towel and our new Tartan Onesies for children have been steady sellers and are products that provide great conversation! For bagpipes, we have several of our own product lines that are industry leaders: Pipers’ Choice, and Airstream. Along with all the accessories we manufacture and/or distribute, we offer world class service when in comes to bagpipe set-up, maintenance, and repair.
How are you different from your competition?
I believe we are in an industry with very fair and courteous competitive practices. What makes Scott’s Highland Services unique is our extremely diverse product line in both gifts and musical instruments. We work very hard to maintain inventory levels so that the shops that rely on us for product can receive complete orders in a timely fashion. Our employees are also very dedicated to their jobs and in turn our customers. We have a cohesive team that works extremely hard to provide the best products for the best prices. And above all, Scott’s Highland Services stands behind their products 100%.
Who are your clients?
Our clients are diverse. They are mostly resellers, but with many different specialties. We deal with universities, tea shops, Scottish and/or Irish gift and novelty stores, jewellery stores, department store, etc. Every client has unique needs and we hope to have a product and services to support those needs.
What are your short, mid and long term goals for the business?
Scott’s Highland Services has been in business for over 30 years with a very simple mandate – to provide the best service possible with the best product available. Naturally we have plans to increase the trajectory of the business, but it is with our focus on customer service.
What are your thoughts on the state of Celtic culture today?
I have been surrounded by the culture for more than 20 years now and think it’s safe to say that it is growing in popularity. It sounds odd to say a culture is growing in popularity, but what I mean is that I am seeing more nuance in mainstream culture – i.e. Disney’s Brave, Tartan fashions, etc. With technology shrinking the world the cultural melting pot is growing, which means cultures must strive to remain unique. The Celtic culture has very strong roots that I believe will hold it together as it increases its presence globally.
What can we be doing better to preserve and promote Celtic culture?
I think we need to continue doing what we are doing. Cultural events like Highland gatherings, tattoos, and festivals certainly help to promote the culture as all aspects are on display. Food, music, colours, tartans, fashions, etc. are all available for the outsider to view and take part in at these events. Without these celebrations where the average citizen can participate in our traditions, our conventions will disappear. What can we do to preserve this? Easy – participate. Support your local event, or music group, etc. Preservation requires the support from with the Celtic community from business and individuals.