With their retail customers now having re-opened, independent sales agents are now ‘back on the road’. Here, ‘the two Jos’, Jo Bannister and Joanna McFarlane reflect on the last year, sharing how they have dug deep, ‘hoe-ed’ into a full ‘garden maintenance’ regime to keep the ‘weeds’ at bay in their ‘patch’ of the UK as well as what has kept their spirits up.
Tell us about your patch…
“We cover London and Middlesex (and Oxfordshire for Glick). The companies we represent are The Art File, Brainbox Candy, Eloise Hall, Glick, Louise Mulgrew, Meri Meri, Paper Salad, Sally Scaffardi and Think of Me.”
Your retail customers have now reopened, but prior to this, what were the green shoots of the last year?
“We were so impressed by customers fantastic efforts with Click & Collect plus brilliant selling activity on Instagram. There was also a huge uptick in trade in the three weeks between the second lockdown and pre-Christmas London move into Tier 4.”
What have been the ‘thorns’ and ‘weeds’ of the last year for you?
“Each lockdown and London being closed down on 19 December in that crucial last week of Christmas trading and those shops continuing to stay closed until this week.”
Your plant life alter ego…
“Sunflowers. Whatever the climate they are a beacon of joy that bring a smile to your face and that they follow the sun as we do our customers.”
What has been your garden maintenance programme during the lockdowns…
“We have trodden very carefully and sensitively. We sowed the ‘seeds’ with catalogues, Zoom calls and emails. We’ve tended our ‘allotment’ every day, come rain or shine.”
What has been your own plant food/fertiliser…
“In response to what has pepped our spirits during the tricky times…’SPIRITS’ is the operative word. GIN all the way in the McFarlane and Bannister households!!”
What are your hopes and dreams for the rest of 2021?
“To hit the ground running, spreading as much love as possible by seeing our lovely customers with loads of new samples and positivity. Here’s to hoping the powers that be in Government and the general public realise the importance of our local independent shops and do all they can to nurture them, by shopping with them so they will flourish for years to come.”
Top: Jo Bannister (left) and Joanna McFarlane