What has life been like for us during the past year.
The retail industry and in particular, clothing was in the midst of a transformation before 2020. But the onset of the pandemic accelerated that change, fundamentally reordering how and where people shop, and rippling across the broader economy.
Our small Brighton store is in a great location for the market that we’re aiming at but is governed by the weather, music related events in the town, how many visitors there are coming to the town and to a lesser extent, trends.
News of a virus was starting to make the news in January 2020 by February in was at the forefront of peoples minds along with the Brexit issue. The general public are sensitive to this type of thing and the slowdown in spending had begun.
By early to mid-March the virus was ripping through Europe, for us, this was initially good, holiday makers were getting turned away at Gatwick as countries closed their borders and headed for the nearest seaside resort.
Then on March 20th came the news we had been expecting, Lockdown was to start the following Monday.
We made our premises extra secure, not knowing quiet what to expect, set our distribution dates from our website to 3-4 days and battened down the hatches.
The weather was wonderful, online sales picked up nicely and we took it in turns going to the shop twice a week to pick, pack and distribute making sure everything was sanitized afterwards for the next person.
Our unique selling point is our location and we were bitterly disappointed not only to miss Easter but both May Bank Holidays especially as the great weather had continued, however we worked hard at social media and kept our chins up. During this time we wrote a letter to our local MP, on the injustices of some large retail outlets in the town selling clothes (because they also sold food i.e.; Marks and Spencer) when by law, we as a small independent had to close.
In June we decided to give the shop a revamp, John is the more practical of the two of us so he got his brush out and gave the whole building a lick of paint, stripped and revarnished the floor along with some other general maintenance issues.
We then took the opportunity to drop the name Bone Clothing and concentrate on the Quadrophenia Alley aspect of the business which called for new signage which was duly erected.
If my memory serves me correct the lockdown for non-essential shops ended on June 22nd, we went quite ready to open but by the 26th our store had a fresh new look and was stocked to the rafters with shiny new collections from Ska & Soul, Trojan, Gabicci, Fila, Sergio Tacchini and our own exclusive brand.
There was a trickle of customers to start there was some apprehension, shopping wasn’t like it was, customers had to wear masks, I thought it crazy that they had to but I didn’t, I had contracted Covid-19 at the end of March and was often annoyed by those who refused to wear one, despite the obvious signage and the general knowledge.
By the end of July there was pent up need for a staycation, the tap turned on the day that hotels opened. Business was great, the weather was great, and I couldn’t wait to get to work each day. Everyone who walked through the door was in a great mood, the sun shone, the music played, life was bliss.
August Bank Holiday Weekend arrived, our Christmas, the Mod Weekender, it was never going to be the same as 2019, there were restrictions in pubs, there had to be distancing along with limited numbers, there was little or no live music.
Our August turnover was similar to the previous year but less concentrated on one weekend, we were extremely happy under the circumstances. September continued in the same vein with lots of visitors to the town and alley, we were on a bit of a roll when a short sharp lockdown was implemented for November bringing things to a grinding halt.
We decided that going forward our online presence was now more important than ever and hatched a plan for a new website in 2021, a new challenge for Darren, our tech guy.
December was ok, but we awaited the inevitable lockdown after Christmas, and sure enough at 4:30 pm on December 24th I locked the door and dejectedly walked through the alley to collect my car, contemplating the cold winters days and nights ahead and not knowing our future.
And here we are now, end of February, still closed but full of optimism.
The rates are coming down, slowly, the R number is down, and the vaccine roll out seems to have momentum. Each day seems marginally longer and there are daffodils sprouting in my garden. The new website is up and running everything is looking good.
As much as I enjoy the web business, I’m a people person at heart and so I miss customers walking through the door each day, and when I get going, boy can I talk.
Some years ago, a friend admitted that he only invited me to so many of his dinner parties because I always had a good story to tell, those stories were just my everyday experiences or stories told to me by my customers.
No date has been given yet for reopening but I’m praying we’re open for Easter, Good Friday is on April 2nd, I can’t wait to see our customers again, old, and new.
In the meantime, please follow us on social media and take a look at the new website, it’s still early days but we have great plans. Thank you to those of you who have placed orders, we very much appreciate it, we know there are other websites selling similar products (except our own Quadrophenia Alley brand) but we’re a small business, there are only 3 of us, and we’re not millionaires, yet. This time next year………..