talking retail Well, how’s your 2020 been?

Tom Carter, company director, Potters Cookshop of Hockley, provides an overview of the challenges of the past few months from a retailers perspective

that was the hard challenge either way. Having a DIY side of the business we knew under the guidance that we could stay open. This would or could only happen if the staff supported it and we were able to keep them safe at all times. What I can say is that they were incredible and a huge credit to us as a company and I will never be able to thank them enough for supporting the decision to keep going and luckily, through this time, we did not have to furlough any of them. Obviously the Cookshop side in store was


shut to the customers but even so, we quite quickly realised that having customers in the shop full stop just wasn’t safe enough. You wish and hope that the general public will take the guidelines seriously in a shop, but quite frankly even up to this day now, that hasn’t been the

hat March Tuesday morning, after Boris’ Monday Lockdown, we had a big decision to make. Shut or stay open;

case - how hard is it to stay two metres away and wear a mask?! We changed to a call and collect system straight away. Maybe, naively, we all thought that it would be quiet – well we were wrong. With B&Q, Homebase shutting, we had an onslaught. I think everyone must now have a newly painted fence, decking and own a loaf tin! We were taking over 200 calls a day on two phone lines and if our step count was under 20,000 a day we had done well! Alongside this, our website sales went through the roof, breaking records that we only normally see on Black Friday and running up to Christmas. Thankfully, with the Cookshop shut, we could use every space in the aisles in there to stack up orders ready to pack. Amazingly we were getting all orders out and on a next day delivery service and on top of that we were also looking at ways we could improve on our efficiency, different ways in sending products out and various delivery options. Keeping the stock coming in was a problem,

particularly with the electricals and still is, but knowing this is a unique time, it wasn’t the suppliers fault and it is important to support and work together at this point. I have heard of reps getting moaned at for stock issues, crazy but it’s tough; we have to be thankful for what we can get hold of, it could be worse. As the weeks have passed, our sales are still

incredible. Every time I thought it would calm down, it hasn’t. We have had to hire more shop floor staff and another three people have joined

the website team and we will need more help with Christmas coming up too. The packing area has had to triple, a new unit for stock and we are adding another office in too. We know we are lucky to be able to be in this position and maybe the hard times are to come next year but we need to stay positive and keep moving forward.

Our main priority through this pandemic, has been the safety of the staff, actually nothing else matters in a way. It’s been a struggle to see the way they have been treated by the members of the public at times, shouted at, sworn at and even one gentleman filmed a female member of staff for asking him to wear a mask, she then ended up in tears. But you know what? We are stronger for it and the attitude of our staff is just wonderful every day. I will also add we do have some amazing customers too that make coming to work worth while! Now, for Christmas. Depending on where you

are in the country, most of us don’t know if we are spending time with our families this year. What we do expect though, is that we will all be in our homes a lot more. This hopefully means more sales with people baking and cooking. We have lots of new exciting products coming in at the moment and it has been lovely seeing all the reps back in the shop again as we have missed the normality of everyday business and I’m craving for a trade show, who knows when the next one will be! We are just about to put in all of the Christmas windows, the theme this year is Scrooge and Ali is hard at work pulling this together. She has recently created a mermaid window which I must say is one of her best yet! Fingers crossed for a bumper couple of months and let us all stick together in the industry, support each other, stay positive and safe and enjoy the things that matter most.

28 | • • October 2020

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