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, 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"!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Our friends across the pond

We were visited today by a charming lady who represents one of the companies we buy from. Although she's Canadian she's lived in Scotland for a number of years and we took great delight in telling her about the American couple who Jules engaged in conversation today. This couple had lived in Cambridge for a couple of years and were very impressed by the lovely scenery of the Lake District. "We've never been this far north in the UK" they announced. "The furthest we've been is Edinburgh". Jules politely explained the exact location of the Lake District but they just didn't get it.
Our Canadian rep found this highly amusing but then confessed that her niece and friend are visiting the UK this summer and, as she couldn't be bothered to drive down to Manchester to collect them and drive all the way back to Edinburgh where she lives, she is intending to take them round the Lake District and pass it off as Scotland. As there's plenty of Edinburgh Woollen Mills and Pitlochry stores she'll probably get away with it!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Light relief

The number of jobs I need to do before we open the new store seems to be growing like Topsy despite my tackling a fair number every day. Looking for a bit of light relief I ventured out from the office in Bowness to catch a customer in the act of buying a Pilula Swarovski Crystal necklace. Helpfully, I offered to gift wrap the lady's purchase with some spare paper we keep under the counter. Under the watchful eyes of Rachael, Jules and the customer, I proceeded to make a right "dog's dinner" of this simple task and, as the customary banter between the girls dried up I asked "Are you here on holiday?" Quick as a flash with dry Irish humour and her eyes on my pathetic fumblings with paper and sellotape, the lady replied "Yes. But only until Saturday". That's me told then!
Later, a couple wandered in and, after drifting around the store, the lady selected a bottle of finest Bubble Bath and brought it to the counter announcing to her partner "You can pay for this". She then proceeded to tell us that her husband has just made her walk up the biggest hill she'd ever seen and she deserved a long, hot bath. Which hill had she climbed? "The one that begins with G, G". "Great Gable?" we helpfully supplied. "No, Gu, Gum". With a certain amount of disbelief in our voices we chimed "Not Gummer's How". "Yes, that's the one". Her husband shrugged as we fell about laughing....

Monday, 14 June 2010

Staff rotas

Our new store manager, Rachael, has been having a lovely time in Bowness for the past week learning all about running the store. Jules has taken over the management of Bowness and, together, they've had a really productive few days getting to grips with the ordering system, stock rotation, deliveries etc. etc. Today, however, came the first real hurdle for Rachael, the staff rota. Not only are we not really sure which day we're opening yet but also none of the staff have fixed working days although they all have times over the summmer holidays when they would prefer not to work. Consequently, Rachael has spent the last hour, pencil in hand, with a befuddled expression whilst Jules and I make useful suggestions. Phrases she has used so far include "My head's steaming", "I'm going blue in the face here" and  "I need a drink to fathom this". I've just popped my head out of the office and she's folding tissue paper rather than looking at the rota. Coward!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The (ongoing) shop fit

We have been in Keswick all day today checking the new shop and have been going over the new fit mm by mm. There is lots to remember and lots to do:
Staff to employ - check. Shelves to order - check. Light fittings to order - check. Signage to order - check. Flooring to order - check. Stock to order - check. ££££'s to spend - check, check, cheque!

The previous incumbents of our shop left under a bit of a cloud so there is no power on in there yet - hoops have to be jumped through to get that back on. The strip out of the shop is ongoing and who knows what will be found next under the existing panels - that is plural because the previous shopfit is directly over the previous one to that. At least we have found extra space that was not visible previously!

The rats nest of cables and wires that were there have been completely stripped out now, that was another 'wiring on top of wiring' effort. As for trouble with the neighbours (see Louise's previous blog), the lads are pussyfooting around as best they can but I fear there is worse news to come (for the neighbours, not us) as a problem with their power supply has been uncovered in our shop. No one said this shop lark would be easy...


Monday, 7 June 2010

Here we go again

When we were looking for a suitable shop in Bowness we started in September 2007, found somewhere in January 2008, put in an offer early in February and took possession on May 1st. We started looking for Love the Lakes 2 (The Empire Strikes Back) in April 2009, found somewhere in January of this year, put in an offer in February and took possession last week.
The shop in Bowness was already a gift shop and there were negotiations over the price, whether or not we wanted the stock (no thanks!) and some leeway allowed as the previous business owners were retiring. This time, the shop was already empty, the only negotiation was over getting a rent reduction for installing an inside loo (not an unreasonable request we thought!!!) and heaven knows why it all took so long. Along the way the estate agent got fed up of our calls and was unobtainable for days on end and our solicitor fired off a warning email across our bows to stop us harassing him. 
Never mind, that's all behind us. Rachael, our new store manager and follower, started learning the ropes in Bowness today and the shop fitters have started ripping out fixtures and fittings in Keswick. It's all full steam ahead. Hang on, Jules has just called of the owners of the beauty salon above the new store has phoned to complain about the noise made by the shopfitting team. She has already had to give someone their facial free of charge because the client's chair was vibrating as she was trying to relax. Oh dear, there may be trouble ahead........