The shelves are laden with stock and the finishing touches in place, as the day of the big opening arrives and our independent hardware retailer takes a step back in time with part 25 of his stories from the shop floor

carry motor trade warehouse that was something of a saviour to a tiny hardware store with only a small selection of well-meaning, if rather blinkered, traditional wholesalers to call on. But I omitted to mention one item that was

“L to become a

huge seller for us – bog-standard masking tape.

Until the early-80s, all we’d been able to source was branded; it was boxed and it was expensive. At the time, we were selling face-to-face over the counter and I lost count of the times customers walked out without buying what was, essentially, overpriced corporate vanity. Maccess changed all that. We bought loose rolls in polythene outers, in various widths, and it flew out so fast it was difficult to keep up with demand. Presumably made for car bodywork specialists, it was good stuff, able to peel off after many days every bit as cleanly as if it had just been applied, and there was no over-sticking. I would never have believed I could get all poetic about something so mundane and I’ve not come across a tape to match it. The stuff I’m using right now sticks like mad when it’s not supposed to, falls off at the most inconvenient times, and allows paint to bleed along the edges.

Ramin it all in The week prior to opening the new shop, we were merchandising much of our stock from out of there, making the old shop look somewhat bare, like we were about to cease trading altogether. Until we opened to the public, it was easy to keep the new store neat and organised, but there were some items of untidy- looking stock causing me to lose

16 DIY WEEK 29 JUNE 2018

ast time, I extolled the virtues of Maccess, the cash &

the ribbon, let alone a celebrity) and fancied Millican and Nesbitt. In the end, there was no splash and we just did it.

The day was something of a

sleep. Remember the new (to us) timber supplier that did sheets in small cut sizes? Well, their rep showed us a smart-looking display unit from which we could dispense ramin stripwood and mouldings. I remember my mouth watering at the photo in his catalogue: it must have been three-feet wide, six-feet high and eight-feet long. The issue (one of them) was that it held only eight-foot lengths, and so our six- footers would become lost inside. The second was that all the stock contained therein had to be obtained exclusively from this supplier (understandable), but they didn’t keep the shorter, preferred lengths. And, the whole thing was too big and expensive. So, I built one myself, using a huge piece of white Contiplas, with chipboard shelves and vertical partitions made from dowel. It looked smart, cost us next- to-nothing and lasted us 20 years. For years we’d been selling loose

screws counted from GKN boxes. This was fiddly, exasperating and not a good return for the time involved. So, we’d been introducing

“He’d sent us a wall-hanging

Supascrews display that was the finishing touch to the new store”

packets of Supascrews. I seem to remember mentioning this to Bird & Son’s rep and, on the following delivery, he’d sent us a wall-hanging display stand that was the finishing touch to the new store.

Soft launch

It was spring Bank holiday 1982 when our expansion plans finally came to pass. We didn’t publicise because, over the years, we’d wasted much money on newspaper adverts that had yielded zilch. It seemed that, unless they appeared regularly – or were at least half-page – they were useless. The boss’ wife thought we should get a celebrity to cut the ribbon (not that we could afford

blur. I lost count of the number of people who said, “Ooh, you’ve got a new shop,” and “Have you been knocking down some walls?” and “Oh, I wanted the little DIY shop”. Word quickly got around and the shoppers were joined by the pathologically curious. However, at the end of the day, the till was full and the shelves were rather empty – which was just as it should be. The reps had been right: the increased footfall would be noticeable on the very first day. My boss had to admit that we should have done it all much sooner. We were now the town’s biggest dedicated DIY and hardware shop, with room to expand stock lines in both range and depth. I remember my feeling of excitement; this was the beginning of a new adventure.

Newspaper slash

The local rag came out on Fridays and, at the end of that week, the boss’ wife shoved the latest copy in front of me. There was a half-page advert comprising a text report about a new hardware store. In a split-second, odd words jumped off the page: experienced, dedicated, expert, knowledgeable.

I thought it was about us. The

surrounding smaller ads, from brand names like Cuprinol and Swish, confirmed my pleasant surprise. How on earth had the boss managed to do this, without my knowledge? Hang on a minute, we didn’t deal direct with Cuprinol – nor anyone for that matter. I looked at the photo of the store owners. Then I looked again. My stomach dropped, as I heard a voice from only a few months ago: “We’re moving into this town, whether you sell to us or not, so you’d better watch out...”

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