None of us will ever forget this period and the upheaval it has caused to our personal and business lives, from our mental wellbeing to our financial situation. While ‘it’ is far from over, with lockdown easing slightly thoughts can turn to what the new normal may look like.
Paul Woodmansterne, chairman of Woodmansterne Publications shared glimpses into how the company has been run during this period, his personal lockdown life as well as his hunch on what the future will bring.
What has life in lockdown been like for you?
Personally: “Lockdown life at home in probably the kindest Spring we’ve ever known. It has meant supporting my wife’s gardening obsession, while eating far too much chocolate from M&S.”
Business wise: “Helen (our finance manager), Seth (Woodmansterne md) and I spent much of March persuading the bank to lend us eye-watering sums of money to keep the business afloat. We’ll all be working tirelessly for at least a decade to service the debt!”
What has been the best thing about it? “Having the time to really get into my cello-playing. It’s like falling in love again.”
What has been the worst thing about it? “Putting on much of the weight I’d managed to lose last year through Slimming World.”
Do you have any new-found skills/guilty pleasures? “On a private boat trip up The Nile in February (guests of a very generous friend), I started sketching faces for the first time. During lockdown I’ve been attempting more of friends and workmates.”
What role do you think greeting cards have played in this period? “Online sales of cards have rocketed, and those few retailers that have been allowed to open and keep their card aisles stocked have reminded us how much people value keeping in touch in the very special way we understand. You’d expect that it is sympathy that is required, but most people seek relief from boredom and isolation with a cheery smile and a bit of a laugh.”
How are you approaching the loosening of the lockdown business wise? “We have kept a skeleton crew throughout to support those retailers who can sell, and we’ve been continuing to print Christmas cards in Croxley (in the hope that “there’ll always be a Christmas!”). Now, we’re just watching to see who’s opening and gradually unfurlouging staff when needed. We so admire Windles’ initiatives to make PPE. Well done Bruce!”
What do you think the new normal will be like in the coming months for our sector – the key challenges and opportunities?
“It will be long; it will be hard; and far slower than people imagine. Browsing has become a taboo, which is the whole point of shopping isn’t it? Retailers need to remind government, that the spirit is as health-critical as the body.”
Top: Paul Woodmansterne (right) with his son Seth, managing director of the company.