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If you blinked, you may have missed it but, sorry folks, Christmas has been and gone. Our DIY shop had a good run over Christmas and takings were up 33% on the previous year's December. Our yard becomes increasingly stuffed with Christmas trees that are sold to wide-eyed children and ever-paying parents. The trees do have a life of their own and will, without any provocation from us or the elements, fling themselves to the floor like naughty kids in a supermarket. Some of them seem to be hell-bent on making their way back to Norway. So, when you come into the shop in the morning, a few of the Steve McQueen variety will be halfway across the yard, looking for a way out. Quite how they got there, no-one knows.

We put a pinball machine in the shop over Christmas for a bit of fun and this proved to be popular. Regular tradesman, like Brendan, forgot to take their calls for a while whilst they attempted to get the multi-ball feature and high score. I did try to wind him up by ringing him from behind the counter but he ignored me.

Christmas is great at the shop and we even shut for the day itself, and Boxing day. We did used to open on Boxing Day but the takings never compensated for the hangover. In the run up to Christmas we sold lots of things online and noticed that our website was increasingly referred to by enquiring customers on the phone. It's just what people do now - it's so easy to pull your smart phone out of your pocket or sit with the laptop on the arm of the sofa and hunt around for what you want.

Generally when people search for a product locally, they will find our website, which is all good but, even this level of investigation is beyond the patience of most people, and instead, they have one go-to site for everything. This is usually Amazon or Ebay.
Our shop is in a smallish parade of shops. There's a couple of banks, a couple of bakers, convenience shops and hairdressers, etc. It's a decent place to go shopping for your everyday bits and pieces and is good for the local economy and community.
Where I can, I make a point of buying from the local computer shop, or get flowers for my partner from the local florist, or tyres from the local garage. I don't fret about the cost and am satisfied that I am paying a fair price, even if it's a bit more than a further-afield purchase would have found; it all comes around.

I know there are plenty like me. But it can't be said for everyone. I popped into the bakers over Christmas to buy a roll that I probably shouldn't have had, but they're nice. I got talking to the lady behind the counter who, over the years, my partner and I have got to know. We generally pass the time of day and she will enquire about the family.
For some reason, the conversation turned to light bulbs and she enquired whether we stocked a certain bulb. In all honesty I didn't know if we stocked it or not, but I said that, if we didn't, we would get it in for her. She then went on to tell me how she had gone on Amazon looking to purchase it and had spent time investigating the best price and read the reviews. I spend less time looking into a new car!

Now, we are all different and I don't want to be too judgmental - she's a lovely lady and how she makes a purchase is her concern - but you have to ask why she didn't just pop into our shop. Our DIY shop is about 50 paces from the door of the bakery!
She would have saved time, money and her purchase would have gone into the local economy, so that we can all keep buying rolls from the shop that employs her. The phrase, "turkeys voting for Christmas" springs to mind.

I do wonder if it's the fashion at the moment or if it is the future. I have a 15-year-old daughter, Amber, and when I'm not moaning at her (or her at me), I will sometimes note how she goes about things. She actually buys very little online (or asks us to). She generally researches the item online but will then source it from a bricks and mortar shop.

As her life gets busier (no Amber your life is not busy at the moment - despite what you may think) this may change but, it does look as though her generation enjoy real shops and aren't necessarily drawn to online purchases.

It also surprises me how often people are happy to tell you that they have tried to or have shopped elsewhere. It's probably me being a bit over-sensitive but, when you've poured your heart and soul into a venture, you really don't want to hear that, despite being great on price, service and stock, people are still not giving you a chance.

I wonder how the lady in the bakers would react if I kept going in and talking about how much I enjoyed the sandwiches from the other baker up the road? Fortunately, these people are more than compensated for by the people that declare their love for the shop and swear allegiance to it. We should have a flag and a Turkey could be our mascot!
View User Profile for An independent retailer Shooting from the Hip is written by a number of different people in the DIY, hardware and garden market. They share their day-to-day experiences and, writing anonymously, are able to air any frustrations regardless of commercial considersations.
Posted by An independent retailer An independent retailer | 6 February 2014 | 11:09 | More from: Shooting from the Hip


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