Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Sourcing new goodies

Ewan and I went down to Glasgow at the weekend to visit a large trade fair at the SECC.  It's a good one for us to visit together because as well as the gifts there's an excellent specialist food section full of yummy ideas for his shop too.

I'm currently very involved in working towards the creation of a community cafe in Johnshaven, so it was also useful for me to talk to some potential food, drink and equipment suppliers - very different from buying lovely handmade goodies for Starfish Studio, but interesting nonetheless. 

Taking the car down would have been a hindrance as we stayed in a city centre hotel.  It's so much more relaxing to take the train, and I borrowed my daughter's DS and Professor Layton game to play with on the journey!

I placed orders with some existing suppliers and a few new ones too.  Keep checking back for pictures as things start arriving in the shop.

Today boxes of gorgeous goodies arrived from two new suppliers - Highland Fairy, based in Ardross (near Alness) and Country Style Clutter from Edzell (near Brechin).

Highland Fairy's clay bird necklaces are absolutely gorgeous.  I have ten to choose from in assorted colours and patterns.

Linda from Country Style Clutter hand paints a variety of home accessories.  These photos just show a small selection - there are loads more in the shop.

Come along in and see for yourself!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Customer perceptions

It's so important that customers leave the shop with an excellent impression.  I rely on word of mouth a LOT so I don't want anyone to leave even a teensy bit disappointed.

On Sundays at the moment the lights are on, the music's playing but the door is locked with a sign asking customers to ring the bell for assistance.  I employ staff to work in the shop on a Sunday from Easter - December, but at this time of year it's just too quiet to make it viable to pay anyone. 

As I am always in the shop on a Saturday, by operating this way I get to spend time with my daughters on a Sunday and, so long as we don't leave the house, I can hear the bell and dash down the stairs to help any customers that may visit. 

This Sunday I was helping my youngest daughter to make this tin can robot with a kit she received for Christmas - lots of fun!

The bell rang and I quickly popped down to unlock the door for two ladies.  When I arrived they were reading the sign on the door which says that the shop will be closed this coming weekend as I'll be away at a trade fair - again, I can't afford to pay for staff just now. 

One lady commented, "You're always closed," before turning to speak to her friend.  I wanted to ask what she meant and had she been inconvenienced previously, but I missed the opportunity.  I had geared myself up to ask her when she came to the counter, but they left without buying anything and I missed my chance.

She didn't say it in an unpleasant way, it was more of a passing comment.  I wonder whether she'd called in when I was redecorating and found the place closed.  It has been on my mind ever since, largely because I'm worried that she sees the shop as being closed often and may be telling her friends the same.  In reality, the shop is open 6 days a week, all year - the only exception is a few days in Jan & two days in Feb.

My own perceptions of another shop were changed last week.  I won't name the shop, suffice to say it's one of my favourites - piled high with interesting things - lots to see and fun to explore every nook and cranny.  I was really enjoying a good rake through everything when the owner started telling her staff off quite loudly.  I could hear every word and it made me feel very uncomfortable.  It won't stop me returning, but it has affected my impression of the owner.  Fair enough to tell your staff if they're doing something wrong, but there are ways and means!

OK, that's too much writing and not enough photos, so here are some I took this morning on a frosty walk around Johnshaven.

The old railway line

Looking south to The Narrows & Seagreens

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Redecorating and rearranging the shop.

Happy New Year!  I know it's a bit late but I've not had a chance to write anything for a while.

I decided to close the shop for the first two weeks of the year as it was such a quiet time last year.  I needed some 'me' time and really wanted to refresh the shop.  Taking pictures/ glass/ ceramics on and off the walls repeatedly had left a lot of little scratches and marks that niggled me.  I was surprised just how many scruffy little bits had apperared over the 18 months or so that the shop has been open.

The wall behind my chair had become marked as I wheeled up and down behind the counter/ my tiny studio space and last summer I tried to cover these marks up with paint.  Despite using exactly the same tin of paint as I'd originally used, the result was a horrible patchy effect on the wall which bugged me every time I saw it.

So, I reckoned it was all or nothing - take everything down and move all the furniture into the middle of the room and paint the entire shop.  I actually didn't do the front wall in the end as it looked fine and made life a lot easier!!

You know how something seems like a good idea when you start...?

Taking everything down didn't actually take too long.  Painting the walls only took a couple of hours with the help of a Paint Pod (wonderful invention), but putting all the lovely things back again was a different matter!!

I decided that there was no point putting everything back in the same places so took the opportunity to rearrange the shop.  This took many, many hours, but it was really enjoyable so I didn't mind a bit.

My non- shop time in the last two weeks has been put to very good use - I particularly enjoyed visiting other small, interesting shops and chatting to the owners. 

So now I feel very refreshed and raring to go again... until next weekend when I'll have to close again as we're off to a trade fair in Glasgow.  Unfortunately, at this time of year it's just not viable to employ someone to run the shop if I can't be there.