Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Lovely local suppliers

Over 80% of the products we stock in the shops are locally sourced, alongside some carefully chosen products that I buy to compliment the local offer. These days, over two years after we first opened, it's quite rare for me to find a new local supplier so it's very exciting to get a phone call a few minutes ago from someone at Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Company. This world renowned local company are bringing out Christmas puddings and a new range of ambient puds that don't need refrigeration. Perfect! I can't wait to receive the samples which will, of course, need rigorous testing...
Also, later this week (hopefully) we're starting to stock a new jewellery collection by Jane Shaw, who is based in the north of Cumbria. Her beautiful pieces are more "chunky" (for lack of a better word) than our current jewellery so should add a new dimension to our range.
Now to get everything on the website....mmm.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Not quite a cashless society

Yesterday's trauma was that the credit card machine in Bowness, for reasons best known to itself, decided to not accept any cards, flashing up a message that (of course) wasn't in any of it's accompanying manuals. The 24 hour support service didn't extend to Sundays so, in the end, we tried the last trick in the unwritten gadget handbook - turn it off for 5 minutes and then reboot.
In both stores, the majority of the transactions are done with debit or credit card so it was quite a surprise to see that, when push came to shove, most customers weren't flummoxed by the inconvenience of a nonfunctioning credit card machine. Digging deep in to pockets and purses, our lovely customers were happy to pay with cash - one couple even calculated the taxi fare back to their hotel before paying for a a large candle with the rest of their cash. The strange thing is that, once the credit card machine was fixed, the majority of the rest of the day's sales were paid for with money rather than cards.
Today, normal service is resumed and we're gettign ready to take in our Autumn/Winter stock this week. It's set to be colder by Thursday/Friday so customers may be in the mood to buy comfort food, cashmere scarves and autumn fragrances like cinnamon and orange. Let's hope so!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Beware of innocuous middle aged female shoppers!

September is a fabulous month in the Lakes. July and August are great because it's generally so busy but September is as good businesswise because a different sort of customer emerges: one that doesn't have their children's constant entertainment in mind (sorry to generalise but it really is like that).
The weather in the Lakes has been lovely so far this month but yesterday, at around 4pm., in Bowness a quick thunderstorm occurred accompanied by a brief powercut in the shop. There were a fair few folk in the shop at the time, including 3 middle aged ladies carrying open shopping bags who were inspecting the Lakeland Fragrance display.
After the inevitable slight confusion cleared and the power came back on, Jules did a quick reccie of the shop and found a couple of Eau de Toilettes had disappeared along with the 3 ladies. I'm going to make another generalisation now....it is nearly always middle aged female shoppers who steal from us. Why, oh why, oh why?
P.S. I'm being interviewed by Radio Cumbria this afternoon...I'm not sure what about but I've had to pick my favourite song of the moment (which is Mumford and Sons Winter Winds) for them to play. Desert Island Discs eh?

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Forever blowing bubbles

One of the products that we sell in our shop are the Fanny and Claude Bath Melts - they come in boxes of 6 small heart shaped bath soaps. One of the boxes is left open so customers can have a look at exactly what they are buying but there have been a couple of unusual incidents with them recently:
Incident #1 : A lady brought one (soap, not box!) over and proudly announced she was having a night in and wanted to buy just a single soap...'but you have to buy the whole box madam!
Incident # 2 : 'Are these samples for tasting?' Hmmm, enough said - she would be forever blowing bubbles if she ate one of those!!


Saturday, 17 July 2010

Assumptions shattered

Firstly I have to say "Hooray. Mel is back". Fresh from 2 terms teaching primary children, Mel starts her summer hols with a spell working at Love the Lakes Bowness. Rachael is taking a well earned rest this weekend and Sean has gone to Keswick this morning to take over the helm. Leaving me to take the hounds on their morning walk through the woods. Ever since Angus was a nipper, some 14 years ago, I have often seen the same jogger pounding his way along the path. Our customary monosyllabic greetings to each other have been indistinct as befits the ungodly hour we're both out in the woods. This chap is slight with, what was once, reddish curly hair but now appears to be greying at the temples and in my mind he has always been known as the "Irish Doctor". Don't ask me why: my only excuse is that we live close to a hospital and the guy looks, well, sort of Irish! Today, as the rain was bucketing down (don't start me on the hosepipe ban, that's another day's blog) I didn't hear his approach along the path behind me and I think he surprised the dogs too as Dougal reacted by lunging towards him. "Whoa, steady there lad!" The jogger exclaimed and I gasped in astonishment, all assumptions shattered, as the Irish Doctor is, in fact, from Yorkshire. As I'm now a bit of an expert on the accent from a certain part of that county I might even go so far as to say my Irish Doctor is from Baaarrrrnsley!

Friday, 25 June 2010

You can't get the staff!

I’ve just realised I’m surrounded by offcomers. Jules, who manages our shop in Bowness, is from Derbyshire but has lived for a fair few years in the Lakes. She loves walking at weekends and so has such good knowledge of the area that it’s easy to assume that she’s a born and bred Cumbrian. The manager of our new store in Keswick, Rachael, hails from Barnsley, that’s Baaarrrnsley, and is a right Yorkshire lass. The two of them have been working together for a couple of weeks as we wait for the new store to open and now Jules has reverted to being a Derbyshire girl. Customers are “me duck” or “me love” and I feel like I’m working on the set of Last of the Summer Wine.

There’s a quite a story around Rachael coming to work for us. She and her husband, Robin, are followers of Sean’s walking website, stridingedge.net and had visited our shop a few times. When we mentioned that we were opening a new store in Keswick, Rachael , in an off the cuff remark, said she really fancied working there. In a real change of lifestyle, her casual remark has now become a reality and I’m sure she’s going to really enjoy managing the Keswick store. Now, if she would only lose that offcomers accent!!!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Dear me!

A deer appeared on the road in front of my car this morning and, as it blindly careered around until eventually dashing off into the woodland, I thought of the present predicament with the new shop in Keswick. Our shopfitters have been fantastic as they managed to start work at a moment's notice. But what was supposed to be 12 days of work now looks like it going to stretch to 15 or 16 and then the new floor has to be laid. We were aiming to open next weekend and will still push for that date but, at this point, it doesn't look good. This slippage, of course, has a knock on effect for the new team, the stock arriving, the configuration of the till and credit card machine etc. etc.. Anyway, Sean and I are going to Keswick this morning to meet with the shopfitters and the flooring contractor and we hope to get a definitive date for the shopfitting to end. Until then, it's like the old joke about the blind deer as we too have "no idea"!