Just as the public’s interest in gardening/houseplant tending has blossomed during the last year, independent sales agents have not let the pandemic get in the way of them tending their respective patches.
In the second of a series, Rosie Trow shares how she has been digging deep, ‘hoe-ed’ into a full ‘garden maintenance’ regime to keep the ‘weeds’ at bay in her ‘patch’ of the UK as well as how she has enjoyed seeing the ‘green shoots’ emerging.
Tell us about your patch…
“I cover the South West, representing Coral & Mint, Five Dollar Shake, Glick, Go La La, IC&G, Janie Wilson, Jellycat, Marmalade, Museums & Galleries, Oli Olsen, Paper Rose, Paper Salad, Real & Exciting Designs, Redback, Transomnia and Wrendale Designs.”
Call a spade a spade, what’s the last year been like for you?
“The last year seems to have been somewhat akin to planting an unlabeled packet of seeds and then having the anxious wait to see what happens next, followed by a mad panic to harvest as much as possible before the next frost!
In some ways agents have always been a bit like a free packet of seeds you might receive in a copy of Gardener’s Weekly – companies allow us to represent their collections, but we cost nothing other than the negotiated reward for all our sowing with intention to grow their products with customers that we introduce. During these weird times agents have been a hidden asset to companies, with no overhead cost. Much as we have been happy to represent them, we always live in fear of ‘sowing a crop’ that blooms so well that we then lose our well-nurtured crop to a full-time gardener once the ‘weather vane’ changes direction. This is tough to take when you have invested so much time and effort.”
Your plant life alter ego…
“Going into my 31st year in the industry, I know that I’m not ready to be a wallflower and that I’m still happy to be a rambling rose.”
What have been the notable green shoots?
“I only work with the lovely indies and it was so good to see them gaining a lot of loyalty in the last year. I think during the first lockdown people walked down their high streets of closed shops and realised that if they didn’t use those local shops when they re-opened that is how it would be.
When the November lockdown happened my retail customers worried that they would not sell what they had in their shops but on 2 December when the ‘essential to us’ shops re-opened the public showed how they had waited to get their cards and gifting from their favourite indies. This pesticide pandemic may have caused a wilting of the High Street, but the roots have shown themselves to be strong!”
What approach have you taken to your ‘garden maintenance’?
“To echo AA Milne’s words, ‘weeds are flowers too once you get to know them.’
As a freelance agent I was not furloughed so I tried to create some green shoots by keeping in touch with every one of my retail customers. I spent a lot of time sending cards (and chocolates!) of support to my customers as well as planting ‘seeds of opportunity’ by sending samples and just being able to help with customers’ requests. This can make a dull grey day turn into a sunny day just by feeling good at helping and talking something through and discovering that scattered thoughts shared can create a whole new vision.
I had lots of calls from customers asking me about web building, which I knew nothing about, so I sat in on a GCA webinar that Skylight Media hosted to learn more. That led me to ask Skylight to create a website for me/my business featuring all my brands that my customers can now order from in between visits.”
What are your hopes and dreams for the year ahead?
“I am very much a believer in fairies at the bottom of the garden and I am very hopeful that we will all have our vaccine soon and can get back to a different day every day.”
Rosie has written a blog for the newly revamped GCA website sharing her top tips from a sales agent’s perspective. https://www.gca.cards/top-tips-from-a-sales-agent/