Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

I have no tales of my adventures in and around Aberdeenshire to report as I've barely left the village for what seems like forever!  Everything looks absolutely beautiful covered in snow, but all roads other than the main bus routes are still covered in lethal ice and I'm not going out unless I really have to.

We are very fortunate to live at the village shop so whatever the weather, we just walk through from the house into the shop - safe, warm and dry. 

The weather has undoubtedly had a negative effect on business at Starfish Studio.  On several days the main coast road (A92) has been treacherous, and the dual carriageway (A90) not much better so people have been staying at home whenever possible. 

The A92

My daughters have had several snow days off school - Eilidh usually travels to Stonehaven on a school bus but, due to the road conditions, they were cancelled for ten days in total.

Even the village Primary School was closed for 8 full days and 2 half days.

Many of the people who visited the shop throughout the year and said they would definitely be back for Christmas shopping just haven't appeared - and I don't blame them!

It's difficult enough for small businesses to survive without the additional problems thrown our way by the weather.  What I desperately hope is that Christmas shoppers haven't just been making one trip out to a giant supermarket and doing all their present buying along with their food shopping.  The amount of money pouring into a very small number of businesses at the expense of many thousands of small, local businesses is really very alarming.  In the last 2 years, Tesco alone have opened an additional 392 stores, but don't get me started on that again...! 

I have to admit that I do love the snow, and although it has been very bad for business, I've got to spend some lovely extra time with my girls - largely involving building Lego masterpieces and baking naughty treats!

Now there are only three sleeps to go until Christmas.  After the big day I'll be open on 30th & 31st December but will then be closing for 2 weeks to allow time to repaint the shop walls and (weather permitting) get out and about a bit myself.

It just remains for me to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.  Thank you very much for your interest, custom and support throughout 2010.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

An enjoyable shopping experience?

Since opening my own shop I have become acutely aware of the whole shopping experience and how it varies enormously from one shop to another.  I know what kind of shopping environment I enjoy myself and I absolutely promise that at Starfish Studio you will always have the opportunity to browse for as long as you like with no pressure to buy anything.

Yesterday I went to the Brechin Castle Centre - a garden centre with a large outdoor country park and play area.  I went specifically because they do a lovely lunch there and, as with all big garden centres these days, it has an interesting foodie section with unusual treats for yummy Christmas pressies. 

As I wandered around the store I became increasingly irritated by product videos playing over and over, demanding that I buy various items.  I kid you not, I counted FIVE different ones and they each ended with the line, "Take your magic bubbles/ cheese slicer/ advanced geared bypass loper (yes really) to the till NOW". 

One even said, "Take one or more 'handy clearaways' to the till NOW"

There were actually two separate videos for different types of cheese slicer - am I a bad wife and mother for risking life and limb in our kitchen by only having a terrifyingly dangerous small knife for this purpose?

I can't think of anything more likely to make me NOT buy something than an irritating sales rep's voice telling me what I want to buy over and over again.

Then I started to imagine how Starfish Studio would be with video clips from my suppliers all telling my customers what they need...

Quirkycat : 
"Do you despair that your necklaces can only be worn one way around?  With a necklace from Quirkycat you not only have the excitement of varying your look with our beautiful double sided necklaces, you are safe in the knowledge that each one is completely unique as they are all handmade by me in Inverbervie.  Choose from a wide selection of colour combinations and take your Quirkycat necklace to the till NOW."

Ceri White :
"Do you have a blank piece of wall that makes your home look dull and empty?  Worry no more!  The solution to your predicament is a unique ceramic tile handmade by me in my Fife studio.  Just imagine the compliments you'll receive from visitors for years to come.  Choose from a selection of styles and take your Ceri White tile to the till NOW."

Lazy Daisy Glass :
"Is there a room in your house that is seriously lacking a clock?  If so you run a real risk of missing that all important appointment.  You must rectify this situation immediately by choosing from a selection of Lazy Daisy Glass clocks.  Each one not only ticks, it tocks too and is handmade by me in my studio near Keith.  Take your Lazy Daisy Glass clock to the till NOW."

Ness Soap : 
"Do you ever have the need to wash your hands?  If so you need to immediately purchase several bottles of Ness Soap's lovely liquid soap in a variety of scents.  Our soaps, foam bath and body wash are made in the Highlands as a social enterprise project.  Take one or more bottle of each variety to the till NOW."

I think my customers would run screaming from the place - I know I would!


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Wellies & cardboard animals

This is my trusty pair of Hunter wellies that my mum bought for me to take on my week-long 6th form geography field trip in 1985.

At the time I was pretty embarrassed as all my friends had bog standard, plain black wellies and I felt very self conscious in my 'posh' green pair!

Not surprisingly the soles have become worn and they don't grip as well as they used to, so I decided that after 25 years I was justified in buying myself a new pair!!  I chose Hunters again, because if I get 25 years out of the next pair I think that'll be pretty good value for money.  Incidentally, a little shopping around saved about £15 on the Hunter list price.

So these are my new wellies - much more attractive than the old pair.  Interestingly, they don't have 'Made in Britain' stamped into the rubber like the old pair, so presumably they're not.

I had to laugh when my daughter (almost 13) borrowed them to pop round to her friend's house - literally for 5 minutes.  She complained that they didn't go with what she was wearing.  Eh?  They are wellies for goodness sake!!  Maybe if they still just came in a choice of black, black, black or green things would be easier?

On the subject of good quality purchases, my younger daughter (age 10) spent some of her recent snow days making animals using this set that she bought in Edinburgh.  She bought it with her own money and at £8 I was surprised that she was willing to splash out.

There are a lot of cut out and make type of products around, but I can highly recommend this one - well worth the dosh.  The animals are printed on good quality card with an interesting design on the back.  The instructions are very clear and they are relatively easy to make.  I ended up doing the cutting out as she was scared of accidentally removing some essential body parts, but as a joint effort it was lots of fun with really good results.

Having been housebound by the snow for several days we also made lots of naughty cakes and traybakes - every cloud has a silver lining :)