I’m running a bit late this morning, sorry! And in the run-up to Christmas, things are starting to mount up... are we jumping up and down on the spot yet?!
But this next little anecdote will make you feel better. As you know, on a Tuesday, we roll back the hours and go back to when this little Clarity business of ours was getting off the ground. Today, we are going to go back to 1996, and take a look into our can of P’s at PREPARATION...
So at that time, the kids and I had come back from the States and were trying to make a go of it in the UK.
I was pretty much starting from scratch with Clarity, having already built it all up in America, only to have to fold it into a suitcase and come back to Britain. But there you go! Part of Life’s rich tapestry!
I think I told you, I had a stand up at the Sava Centre in Hempstead Valley, outside Marks & Spencers, where I use to stall out every Sunday? Look! I found some photos!
You can see, in those days, I was very focussed on the product. Whereas nowadays we display beautiful samples of what you can do with our stamps, in those days, I simply stamped out the images, so that folks could see what they looked like.
(Notice the rhyme chart to the right....)
We didn’t have clever racks to display the stamps either.
It really was a table-top affair!
The stamps still look the same though, eh.
I learned so much doing that every Sunday! There was a book-binder, a nice old chap, who used to sell his things next to me. He would talk and explain to customers all day long.…I’ve made all these things for you myself. This is all handmade. Do have a closer look. ” and on and on and on. He even talked when there was nobody there, which was quite often! One day, I said to him, “There’s nobody here! Who are you talking to?” And he told me something invaluable, which I would like to share with you.
“Ah but you see, Barbara, it’s never the person you are talking to that counts. It’s the one listening.” I understand that now.
Behind me there was a Silk flower stall. Mandy and Roger made those. We became good friends. I learned a lot from them about display. They were always so busy! But the way they displayed their wares was delightful! Before the public came in and we were setting up, Roger would go at it like a beaver with trellis-work and shelving. Then Mandy would tell him to get a move on! Then he would tell her he couldn’t go any faster and to back off! She would roll her eyes, and so it would go on. We used to have such a laugh. But the prep they put into the display and the prep they put into the product paid dividends. Every single Sunday.
One of my regular customers, who also became a good friend, Ken, suggested that we might do the big stamp show in London. This was news to me! A stamp show? In London? Well, in those days, before the internet, information wasn’t that available. So Ken gave me the details, I applied, and we booked a stand for the September. It was at the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington.
We spent many weeks preparing. I remember it so well! The set-up was on Saturday afternoon, so we packed our new Camper-van to the gunnels, and set off for London. It was a big deal for us! I think there were about 6 of us! The plan was to build the stand, get it all ready with shelving and display units, and then load it with stamps.
So we built our shop. It was a bit dark in the hall, so we were thinking we should have thought of lighting. “Not to worry! We can bring the bedside lamps”. We were commuting, obviously. As long as I live, I will never forget what happened next.
“Where’s the box with the stamps?”
“Still in the camper?”
Yep. We had left the stamps at home, on the breakfast bar.
At this juncture, in case you hadn’t figured it out, there are 2 things worth pointing out: firstly, our entire stock fitted into a single box, and secondly, the box was small enough to sit quite comfortably on the breakfast bar.
If you ever visit us at an exhibition nowadays, you will know that our stock levels have increased somewhat! But from little acorns and all that...
I remember the next day though, the first Stamp show day. I remember the crowds and the excitement at our lovely transparent stamps. We were the only company making see-through stamps, so we were revolutionary! The customers were 3 deep! We sold out so quickly! (Well, you would if you only had a box of stock!).
After all those humbling months at the Sava-centre, being ignored by throngs of people headed for Marks & Sparks, here was our target audience, all together in one room!!!!
The learning curve that day was phenomenal.
2. Stock Levels
4. Oh, and remember to pack the product!
It certainly was a day to remember! Preparation? Well, it’s all down to that tick-list...
Must get off to work now. Have an important meeting with an important person. More of this anon...