Brendan Cahill as an independent sales agent (who represents Woodmansterne, Tracks, Alex Clark, Words ‘n’ Wishes and Glick for all or part of his territory of Wales and Gloucestershire) is used to spending his days ‘on the road’ calling on retail customers. But with Covid-19 that has all changed.
Here he shares his experiences of his last few weeks and his life ‘off the road’.
“How can we describe our feelings of what the whole world is going through at the moment?…totally surreal and bizarre… For those of us who have watched any apocalyptic films, never in our wildest dreams did any of us think that that we would actually be experiencing the reality of them…spooky.
Being a self-employed agent, I managed to keep all my appointments up to Thursday 19 March. On that day though, all my customer appointments for Friday 20 March called me to cancel. This is what I had been expecting all week.
My mind then began to work overtime as to what was actually going to happen over the next few days/weeks.
With Mother’ s Day happening a few days hence, I spoke to a lot of my lovely customers on that Friday, to generally check to see how they were and if they would be trading over the weekend. All of them were taking each day as it came.
Monday 23 March I had a lot of emails, phone calls from customers saying that they would be closing after the end of the day for the foreseeable future. Card and gift shops, garden centres, tourist attractions all closing or had already closed their doors.
“Is this really happening?” was the thought going through my mind, over and over again.
Like so many others I tuned into Boris later that evening, to confirm what we had all been anticipating/expecting.
As you can imagine, the following Tuesday morning, the phone was ringing and all us agents/reps were talking to each other, trying to figure out what do we do or what could/can we do?
What I found comforting, then and now is the banter (the serious and the laughter) between the WhatsApp groups of Words ‘n’ Wishes, Glick and Woodmansterne. It echoed the feeling that we are all in this together. It’s been really nice, with other agents offering support, advice as well as images which I could not possibly reproduce! Even while typing this, another eight messages have gone back and forth from the Words ‘n’ Wishes group. Great camaraderie and fellowship.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak gave hope to employed people later that week, (which was good ), but there was no news or mention of help for the self-employed, which was, understandably a concern many of us agents.
Thankfully, Rishi did offer help a week later for the self-employed. For me personally, I won’t benefit, but what I found very touching was that Paul Woodmanstrene, md of Woodmansterne Publications and the company’s sales manager Mark Timlett have been in regular contact, offering some financial help for us three Agents representing Woodmansterne if required. An olive branch, which I will always remember.
It goes without saying that all our customers (who are also our friends) are also going through worrying times. I’ve been in contact with a lot of them, who are all trying to remain as upbeat as possible.
I’m a true believer of trying to make the best out of a very bad situation. My wife Alison and I live in the Brecon Beacons with Cassie, our small Labradoodle. Cassie cannot believe the amount of walks she’s been on; we are fortunate that we only have to walk through the lanes by our house, to be in the fields and surrounding mountains. I’m sure all of us who have dogs, have been having the most exercise ever – they most certainly will not want us to go back to work!
We are only a few weeks into this ‘new life’, but there is no doubt it has given all us agents time to catch up on emails/admin/samples. My desk has never been so tidy and I feel a bit ‘professional’, just having a laptop and printer on show, but frankly it doesn’t seem right, not having paperwork to file away.
I’ve also been reading a few books. I really enjoy Martina Cole (good old gangster/crime stories) and have already read ‘No Mercy’, which was fabulous. My next one is called Betrayal, but I have started to read Andrew Ridgley’s autobiography ‘Wham! George & Me’, which Alison bought me for Christmas. I am thinking we should start an industry bookclub!
So, when is this all going to end???? This is the one question we all want to know. I am hoping we will try to get back to work in some sort of normality at the end of May/beginning of June, at the very latest. I believe this will be a gradual process, as the Government will still try to persuade office workers to continue to work from home if possible.
I’m sure we all can’t wait to get back to work. I never thought that I’d ever miss looking forward to running around all day to appointments, being late and stuck in traffic, forgetting to call customers back, dealing with our lovely customers rearranging appointments and chasing up credits, not forgetting the banter from the lovely people in the offices.
Let’s hope all our customers get through this horrible time and that we will all be having a special party with them at Progressive Greetings Live at the start of September.
Good Luck everyone. Stay safe and healthy. And if you know of any good books, let me know!
Top: Brendan misses being able to visit his customers.