As we hurtle towards the last ‘half-term break’ of the year, the onus is on making the most of this ‘final term’ in the run up to Christmas, PG Buzz delves into the ‘report cards’ of a trio of leading indie retailers. London-based Jo Georgiou, owner of The Ark in Stoke Newington; Linda Bygrave, owner of Celebrations in Aylsham and Kathy Starr, owner of Gifted in Thaxted reveal what grade they would give trade so far this year, what has been the most testing subject, what they would thank ‘teacher’ for and how they are hoping to achieve top marks in the festive run-up.
Jo Georgiou, owner of The Ark, Stoke Newington:
Making the grade: “A secure ‘B’, but with plenty of room for improvement.”
Most testing ‘subject’: “Customers’ online shopping habits continue to be our biggest challenge. Campaigns like Just A Card and Amex’s Shop Small are important reminders for the public to support independent retailers, keeping them on the High Street.”
Thank you teacher: “Gold stars go to the designers and publishers who continue to produce exciting greeting cards to keep customers and myself engaged and optimistic in challenging times. A collaboration with Njeri Illustrated on a range of localised cards, who we met at PG Live, are proving to be successful and we will be expanding the designs onto other products in the run up to Christmas.”
Festive run-up: “Our Christmas stock will gradually be introduced during October, starting with our packs of cards. Everything is usually in place by the end of the month. Once Halloween/Bonfire Night are over our customers are then ready to embrace Christmas. I think the products that will continue to do well this season are those that are environmentally-sound useful gifts like food wraps, reusable water bottles, soap and shampoo bars.”
Linda Bygrave, owner of Celebrations, Aylsham:
Making the grade: “I would give trade a C+ grade… could do better.”
Most testing ‘subject’: “The hot days in summer were tricky as everyone stayed indoors or headed to the coast.”
Thank you teacher: “We have to give thanks for regular birthdays and babies being born.
We are very happy that our ‘star pupil’, Mandy Baker, was the worthy winner of the Best Retail Employee award in The Retas.
And also a special mention for the return of the Great British Bake Off to our screens. We created a display to celebrate this and it has worked well – we have sold a number of spatulas, which have been around for a while.”
Festive run-up: “We wait till mid October before putting too much Christmas stock out, but we have been up against it when the charity shops put their spinners out so early.
We will be open late for the Christmas lights switch on, and will also host a ‘friends and family’ Christmas Sunday event in mid November which has become a bit of a tradition. All our Christmas products will be out then and we will have Christmas music, mulled wine and mince pies etc.”
Kathy Starr, owner of Gifted in Thaxted:
Making the grade: “I say it has been an A- year. There is always room for improvement, but we’ve had a fantastic year so far.”
Most testing ‘subject’: “Environmental studies – trying to become more environment aware in our business.”
Thank you teacher: “We give thanks for our new household products Refill Station – it’s a win all round.”
Festive run-up: “We organise an Advent Window event around our village every year and have started planning our window already. We will start putting cards out mid October, then decorations will follow. We think we will sell less decorations this year, especially non eco-friendly ones.”
Top: Jo Georgiou of The Ark; Linda Bygrave of Celebrations and Kathy Starr of Gifted.