Monday, 27 October 2008

Monday morning

Feeling so much better after a day off, and so glad it's not a week ago. Nice to be sitting in a (relatively) finished shop rather than lugging furniture around to make space for carpet cleaning.

Today I have a long 'to do' list, starting with proof reading some price lists to send out with Moulin Roty catalogues. I have literally hundreds of outstanding catalogue requests - and I apologise if yours is one of them - but I am hanging fire until the price list is printed. Makes much more sense to include a price list rather than invite people to call for prices. It's one of those jobs I've been meaning to do for about a year now. Mind you, it's costing hundreds of pounds to get them printed so I hope it will be worthwhile...

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Day ? - lost count

Looking back, my last entry was Tuesday, so quite a lot to catch up on...

Tuesday was a big day given that we were reopening on Wednesday, and there was a final Big Push late into the night. I'd like to say we were working on the finishing touches, but in reality we were miles away from the finishing touches phase. We were still on the essentials: a doorway clear enough to walk through and stock on the shelves... Tuesday evening none of these things were in place and anyone trying to shop at Cottontails would have had to fight their way through a heap of discarded shelving and power tools only to sort through box after box of disorganised, unpriced toys and clothes. They might even have had to rummage through my car given how much stock was still in transit from home to shop!

However, I worked late - very late - and it's amazing how things come together when you keep plodding on. We were able to open the door at 10am on Wednesday and feel quite proud of what we had achived. Things weren't quite finished but without doubt the shop was a far, far lighter, brighter and happier place. It feels fun. It feels sort of festive. In fact, it feels the way I have always wanted my shop to feel. I am very happy.

Even today - Saturday - there are still things that need finishing - the odd shelf that hasn't been filled, the open / closed bunny sign in my handbag awaiting fresh lettering, and I don't know what became of our new mat-well. But we are 90% there now, and have been able to trade perfectly well for the last four days. In fact it's been busy and lively in the shop and that's a really promising sign.

The reopening hasn't been without its trials though - it's been one hell of a job catching up, and on Wednesday morning - five minutes after we opened - we took delivery of a 6' high pallet of toys from Moulin Roty. I could have wept. The last thing I wanted was to have to pile box after box on to my nice new shop floor, let alone deal with the many customer orders the delivery contained. I wanted to skip around tweaking things, not battle with cardboard, bubblewrap and parcel tape. Mind you, such was my determination to clear the shop floor that I don't think we have ever unpacked an order with such speed!

Oh, and just one more thing before I head off for a much deserved day off: remember the lovely clean and sparkly carpet? A little boy weed on it on Thursday!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

In a rush...

Lots of to and fro home and shop this morning, removing rubbish, returning display equipment. My sitting room looks worse than ever as I am frantically creating 'keep', 'throw away', 'don't know' piles. Shop is looking nice though and that's the main thing.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Day two... the end is in sight

So busy this evening that I forgot to take my camera to the shop, so no pics I'm afraid. It's looking good though. The carpet is great and I'm just so relieved I spent £70 on a professional clean rather than £500 on a new carpet. The new counter is fantastic and was such a bargain - I bought it from Diamond Shop Displays on eBay, it was just £150 and comes as a pre-assembled, unfinished MDF thing. My boyfriend collected it for me this afternoon (thank you, thank you) and my mum and I spent a good three hours painting it this evening. We've never had a counter before. I feel like a Proper Shopkeeper now! I'll upload the photo from eBay.

This evening dad started work on the shelving and things are really starting to take shape. It has been really nice to chat to mum and dad while we are painting and so on... it's not often we get time together like this and it's been good to natter.

Dad is leaving work at lunchtime tomorrow to come and finish up the practical stuff, then mum and I will take over with all the display and merchandising. Oh and there's the till, card machine, franking machine, printer and phone to network. Yikes.

Half way through day two..

Just nipped home for a spot of lunch and to pack up a few customer orders in my sitting room (trying hard to maintain service as normal with online orders). So far today the carpet has been professionally cleaned and looks GREAT. Big thank you to Martin at Express Cleaning! Sadly our new mat-well thing has been delayed til the end of the week, but this is hardly a disaster. New hanging tents from Win Green have arrived which is super timing as father can hang one this evening ( - in between putting up shelves and building a packing station in the stock room!).

Currently my boyfriend is driving up to Northampton to collect our new counter, and my mother is driving back and forth with clothes rails which my father constructed at home. So it's all go.

Shop re-fit: day one

Everything seems to be going well so far... Closed early on Saturday and spent about six hours emptying the shop (into my house - you should see the sorry state of my sitting room...) and then the serious work began early Sunday morning. Mike Grovsenor (fantastic electrician from Worcester who gave up his Sunday to fit this job in) arrived at 8.30am with his workmate Ian, and by 1pm everything was done and we have a lovely lighter, brighter shop. It was an absolute joy to employ a professional - working as I always am on a meager budget, I tend to err toward DIY and am blessed with an extraordinarily practical, talented and helpful father, but obviously with electrics in a public space DIY wasn't an option and, as I say, it was just wonderful to hand over the responsibilty to someone else and not try to muddle through myself.

The afternoon was spent painting everything in sight, and by the end of day everything looks fresh, light and new. My father has done a wonderful job of the shop front and I am very happy so far!

Came home exhausted about 9pm, fought my way through the sitting room and fell into bed. Then up early this morning for Day Two and to meet the carpet cleaner at 8am...

Friday, 10 October 2008

Pixies are on the move

We have sold our first Maileg Christmas pixie! I'm so pleased - I was surveying the mountain of pixies this morning and fretting a bit that I have over ordered, so it was really nice to have a sale today - especially as I haven't even unpacked them yet.

The happy new pixie owner is a lovely customer who came in to buy one of our Sevi wooden letters - the letter E - and left with two giant pixies, one giant bunny, two Maileg geese, a pair of slippers and two cards - and the letter E. She plans to sit the pixies around the table for Christmas lunch this year - what a magical thing for her little granddaughter.

Re-fit confirmed!

Friday morning and I am feeling a bit calmer than yesterday... not too many sales overnight (which I am oddly pleased about, as it means less packing to do - not the right attitude at all of course) and so far today only one box has been delivered (Daisy Roots baby shoes.. really must get them on the website.).

I have been pondering and planning the re-fit of the high street shop and decided it definitely needs to be done... So, along with the carpet cleaning man (who is also going to fit a lovely new mat-well thing for us - essential in a shop trying to handle constant flow of pram wheels) I have now booked in an electrician to re-do all the lighting. This is all scheduled to start next weekend so I think I'll close early on Saturday the 18th, empty the shop and stock room over night, lighting going in the next day, along with lots of painting and decorating, then carpet cleaning, then new fixtures and re-dressing the shop. Same for the stock room. Hopefully re-open on the Wednesday.

Am quite excited! The shop has been much the same for five years so it really will be lovely to refresh everything..

Better get along with putting some new Maileg stock on the website... no photography yet but I can make a start on the descriptions and so on.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Later that day...

Well I've made a start on the boxes (which, loosely translated, means that the boxes themselves have gone, only to be replaced by a gigantic heap of toys!) and I have started adding a few bits to the website - I haven't added anything new yet (need to get the photography done first) but there's some re-appearances of things we've been out of for a long while - some giant bunnies, some medium bunnies, the Maileg goose, and - most exciting of all - Magnus the Rat!

For those eagerly awaiting new products a quick glance at 'the heap' and I can see LOTS of pixies (baby up to enormous) various Christmas toys and decorations and some adorable 'matchbox mice'.

Regarding the need to close and re-organise: this is becoming more critical by the moment. I can hardly function in the chaos. I have provisionally booked a professional carpet cleaner for the 21st and the next step is to talk to my dad about building some new fittings. Initial thoughts are to close for the first part of w/c 20th October.

Time to head home and pick up my car now - need to transport 'the heap' to my home office / studio where I can get on with some product photography.

Busyness and Boxes...

I think I wrote my last entry about a month ago, at which time I decided that I really must write more often. Oh dear.

Well, in my defense it's been a crazy month.. Things are getting on top of me a bit at the moment and it has been as much as I can do to keep up with customer orders and emails, never mind all the other bits and pieces. Ho hum.

Anyway - things just got worse today! As I walked to work this morning, little did I know there would be a mountain of boxes waiting for me in the alley next to the shop... The Maileg Christmas stock has arrived (a good couple of weeks earlier than anticipated..!)

I know there are lots of goodies in there, and part of me cannot wait to start unpacking, but another bit of me is despairing because I'm not ready and don't have the time or space. You can see in the photo how desperate the space situation is!

I am seriously considering closing the shop for a day or two to try and get back on track. I've been wanting to rearrange things for some time now, reorganise the stock room, get some new fixtures, have the carpet cleaned, oh lots of things.. and I think now might be the time, if only to preserve my sanity! It really would be a dream to empty everything out and start afresh. I'm going to make a decision today so watch this space...

...And watch the website for the arrival of new Maileg things!