CAM TRADER CALL!

After a bumper Christmas, we are pleased to say that we are now finally starting to take on new traders for the CAMhub.  Apologies to those people who have been waiting a long time for a response from us regarding this issue.  We are going back through all trader enquiries from over the last 3 months and will be responding to everyone over the next couple of weeks.  Please feel free to email us again even if you have already done so before.

If you are interested in becoming a trader in the CAMhub, please carefully read the T&Cs detailed below.  To receive an application form, please email chorltonartmarket@gmail.com, with the subject title TRADER APPLICATION.  The closing date for all applications is Wed 1st Feb.

 

CAM Hub Terms & Conditions – Jan 2017

1 – Rental fee is £65 p/month.  This includes a 6x2ft gridwall or shelf spaces, plus additional space for greetings cards.  There is a 17% commission fee on all items sold.

2 – Traders must sign up for an initial 6 month period, with the first month free of charge.  This contact has the option to be extended for a further 6 month period, if agreed by both parties.

3 – Rent must be paid on the 1st of each month by standing order.  A £10 penalty fee will be incurred if payment is more than 3 days late.

4 – By the 3rd of each month you will receive an email with your previous month’s takings, plus a breakdown of items sold. All takings will be paid by the 7th of each month.

5 – Ensure that your spaces are fully stocked at all times – you must come into the shop at least twice a month to restock and remerchandise.

6 – Ensure that all your stock is clearly price labelled, including your trader code on the back of each label.

7 – We ask all traders to publicise and promote the shop, preferably through some form of social media.   Please post your own photos and like and share other trader’s photos.  We are currently on Facebook, Instagram (Chorlton Art Market) and Twitter (@popupshopsuk).

8 – To retain exclusivity of products and to maximise your sales potential, we ask that CAM traders do not have the same products stocked elsewhere in Chorlton.

9 – We are continually on high alert for shop lifters, but we cannot be held accountable for any items stolen from the shop.

10 – Failure to adhere to these terms may result in your contract being terminated.

 

OPEN LETTER TO GMPF #1

This is an open letter to GMPF, our business landlord.  It is highly probable that it will be the first of many such letters over the next 18 months.

Dear GMPF,

Ten years ago this month I moved to Chorlton as a bit of a stop gap whilst I figured out what to do with my life.  And, as life has panned out in the unexpected way that it does, I never left and I am now happily settled, raising two children and running a successful business in this strange but loveable suburb.

A heatwave was just kicking in on the day I came here back in 2006 which made the whole exciting move even more full of promise.  We were in a whole new world of beer gardens, open mic nights and roof top BBQs!  I remember going off to explore my new surroundings and stumbling upon the precinct and wondering if I had stepped into a 70’s verion of the Twilight Zone.  And I don’t mean that as a negative – for me it felt special and was somewhere full of untapped potential.  I always knew that it would inevitably be updated at some point, but I could very clearly picture a way to do it and still retain some of its nostalgic charm.

In the time I have lived here, Chorlton precinct has had at least 3 owners to my knowledge.  And over the years, rumours of redevelopment have been ever present.  I remember public consultations and architectural plans aplenty, but then the recession hit and all these plans were, I guess, put on the back burner. 

For me, the timing was perfect.  In 2011 I had my first child which gave me the opportunity to see those shop units in the precinct sitting empty and I began to formulate a long term plan – I knew by then that I wanted a business in Chorlton precinct and I was going to find a way to make it happen, no matter what.

Fast forward to the present day and that goal has been achieved…for now.  I understood when I signed my lease that it expired in 2018 but I didn’t worry because I don’t think I fully appreciated the potential that my business had back then.  I guess I thought I’d be just content to have a shop for a few years and I didn’t really consider too far ahead.  But time is ticking fast and battle mode is setting in.

I now have 3 children – a girl one, a boy one and a shop one.  I unashamedly admit to loving the non-human one just as much as the human ones.  The roots of all 3 are connected to the precinct to some degree and I can’t accept that in less than 2 years it could all be over if all the spaces are allocated to large corporations.  We have all worked hard to create something special in a part of Chorlton which we truly love.  The Chorlton Art Market belongs in the precinct.

My fear is that the redevelopment will see the precinct turned into a soulless identikit plastic mall when I know that it has the potential to be something truly special and something which could be a real gem for Chorlton.  As anyone who has ever lived here will tell you, Chorlton is a beautifully weird place, filled with people with a great sense of social pride and I believe that you, the landlords, have an amazing opportunity to create something that will sit pride of place in your property portfolio.

When the time comes, please consider the fate of my family business – a business which supports over 60 other local people and a business which is loved by an ever-growing customer base.  In a place like Chorlton, with a bit of imagination something ‘different’ has the potential to thrive…but only if the opportunities are there. Please don’t forget about us when you make your plans.

All together now: ‘Sometimes its hard to be a (business) woman…’

Don’t get me wrong – I love having a shop.  It is a dream come true.  Like most people, I played ‘shops’ as a child and now I get to do it for real every day.  So essentially my life is just one long play time.

Except sometimes, it isn’t quite like that.  Because the playtime never ends.  And in reality, constant ‘playtime’ is actually really hard work.  In some ways I can draw parallels with the Twilight Zone episode, A Nice Place to Visit, but I’m not repeatedly winning in a casino and I’m in Chorlton, not hell so it’s not quite the same (the CAMhub really is A Nice Place to Visit though).

As some will know, our shop is not like most shops.  The majority of our space is filled with the work and wares of over 60 local people and therefore provides income for individuals and families and helps to support the local economy in a very direct way.  It took a long time to become a reality – in some ways it has been brewing ever since I began organising charity events and cake sales when I was still a kid. All through my teens and twenties I slogged away in draughty village halls and fields doing craft fairs and summer fetes, and whilst I was at university in Preston I would sell my cards to a gift shop for a quid each (which was enough for 2 pints of Snakebite & Black on a Monday night in Squires so life was good).  This was before the days of social media so life really was a lot sweeter.  After a few years of pop up shops and markets and living a lifestyle way below the breadline, my shop dream somehow came true.

Anyway, my point is that the CAMhub did not spring up overnight.  It was not a drunken idea dreamt up in the pub with my mates and it is not a vanity project funded by rich husbands.  One of my main goals from the very beginning was to provide a platform for artists, craftspeople and small businesses to showcase their wares and build up their high street presence.  The ultimate goal was always for people to do well enough in our shop to go on to open their own shops, thus rejuvenating and improving the high street further.  I have always wanted the shop to help to improve the lives of like-minded people who have worked hard to build up their businesses, but I would have always expected honesty and openness from people who we work hard for.

We treat our traders very fairly and we know that our business plan focusses on ensuring that people who sell their wares with us make a good profit.  Our business model might be different from the norm, but it works well; being different is always better.  And it’s only going to continue to get better and better all the time.

Sometimes in business, as in everyday life, people do things which shock you.  Sometimes in life we all get treated in a manner which surprises us and makes you question the whole do-as-you-would-be-done-by philosophy.  Sometimes in life you just come across very selfish people and that’s just the way it is.  I have wanted to write this post for over a month now but I couldn’t find the words which weren’t swear ones.  Then I simply remembered the wise words from a dear old friend – he had a theory that when you want to be a better person when dealing with arseholes, you should think of John Cusack’s character in Stand by Me (the flashback scene where he gives his brother the baseball cap).  So, when I’m feeling pissed off about a situation, and when I would quite like to speak my mind, I tell myself: “Be more like dead Cusack”…and it always helps.

As ever we will continue to work hard to make the CAMhub the very best shop it can possibly be.  After a lot of hard work over the last few days, our Baby & Child section is better than it ever has been, with a much wider range of giftware and affordable high quality clothing than we have ever had.  We have listened to and acted on customer feedback from over the last 18 months and we are very proud to be bringing you our carefully selected collections of 100% cotton dresses and babygrows, as well as fairtrade wooden toys from Lanka Kade.  All this as well as our ever-evolving mixture of artwork, handmade crafts and vintage clothing.

So come and visit us tomorrow and see our beautiful shop for yourselves.  And I promise to continue to be more like dead Cusack.

“And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”

Well, 2016 is already turning out to be a pretty action packed year, full of surprises and with some rather exciting things in store for the CAMhub.  Although we’ve not been able to see much of it, I think the beautiful sunshine we’ve finally had this week has reinvigorated us.

March was a tough month to get through for me – after limping along for a while, I had a day when I realised that I hadn’t cuddled my 3-month old baby all day and it suddenly hit me that my work/life balance was totally wrong.  I genuinely spent more time thinking about the shop than I thought about my children and this realisation made me really sad.  So I spent all of March in bed with my baby watching all 8 seasons of Dexter (I did still do plenty of work stuff – but just the sort of things you can do on the laptop in bed).  For a while I feared I was suffering from post-natal depression, but in hindsight, as I hadn’t really taken a breath since Sidney was born, I think it was just plain old exhaustion.

So, I gave myself a one month time limit to get back on track and it worked – once I’d got to the end of season 8, I was able to get out of bed and feel positive and excited about the shop again.  To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, un-slumping yourself is not easily done, but I got through it with the help of my baby and a loveable serial killer.

The funny thing about life is that just as you think things are on a level and you’ve got everything sorted, something else is thrown into your path to create further obstacles, which equals more work.  More work requires more time which is something that even the greatest artists and craftspeople can’t create.  Sometimes I wonder if there will ever be a time when we can properly relax and have a bit more time to enjoy life rather than just working all the time.

Over the past 18 months we have dedicated our time to promoting the shop and its individual traders and we have kept true to our original ethos – to provide a platform for artists and craftspeople to sell their work and to make good money.  Since I used my experience from selling my own work in other shops and at markets, my goal has always been to work out a better way for everyone involved to make money.  Being a self-employed artist is not an easy life, but I always knew that a shop like ours had the potential to work well for the people who understood our vision…and it’s a nice feeling to be right about things.

June will see some very exciting changes to the CAMhub, which will include a massive revamp of our Baby & Child section.  Along with our wonderful handmade baby clothes sellers, Clothlogy and Belle Amelie, we’ll be expanding our current ranges to bring you a world of gorgeous delights for little people.  And we’ll continue to dedicate our time to sourcing a great range of giftware and everyday items for all ages. The CAMhub will always be a one-stop shop for all your vintage, art, giftware and baby needs and we’d just like to thank each and every one of our loyal customers – if you thought the shop was good before, it’s about to get a whole lot better.

Keep it Precinct this Christmas

This time last year I was in a wild panic.  I had spent weeks cleaning up a filthy shop unit, lined up dozens of artists and craftspeople to sell their work in the shop and advertised the opening of the Chorlton Art Market Hub for Saturday 1st November…but I hadn’t even actually signed the lease.  I didn’t even know for certain if I was going to get the shop at all and, as it turned out, I only managed to get everything sorted the day before we opened.  It was all pretty nail biting stuff.

When all this was happening, if someone had told me that the shop would still be open a whole year later I don’t think I could have believed it.  It was of course what I wanted to happen, but it seemed like such a hard to reach dream, especially after all the hurdles I had faced just to get to that point.

The initial plan was to open the shop for a couple of months, just to have a share of the Christmas madness.  I signed up local traders on a week-by-week basis, many of whom who had sold at my other CAM events and I trawled charity shops and skips for temporary shop fittings to display their work.  Other than a tiny bit of money I had saved from running the market for the 12 months prior to opening the shop, I had virtually no money so everything had to be done on the cheap – contrary to what some people thought, I received no grants or loans to get the shop running.

It has been a very eventful and interesting past 12 months, with the shop continuing to evolve every day.  Our goals have not changed since the initial concept – we still strive to promote and sell local people’s work and we are still very proud to be a permanent fixture in Chorlton precinct (it continues to amaze us when customers tell us that they never used to come into the precinct before we opened – something we still hear at least once a week).

As we approach our second Christmas season we hope that people will remember to Shop Local – by buying from local independent businesses you are putting that money directly back into the local economy.  There are dozens of other economic and environmental reasons to shopping local, especially during the busiest time of the year.  Nevermind Keeping it Chorlton – we say Keep it Precinct!  Get your veg from Elliotts, your meat from Frosts, your Boxing Day mint Vienetta from Cool Trader and all your gifts from the CAMhub.  Job done.

Jay and I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our wonderful traders, especially those of you who have been with us since we opened, and also huge thanks to every single one of our customers for supporting the shop – your positive comments and continued custom gives us the drive to overcome the difficult patches.  Please come and visit us this Saturday for a Bucks Fizz and raise a toast to our first year of being a real shop and get your Christmas shopping started!

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bear printlisa martell

So, does charity begin at home?

In one sense I am feeling slightly guilty because I am currently shouting out about the negative aspects of charity shops and I am fully aware that this can, on evilfacebook at least, make me seem like a bit of an arse. I am not in any way against charity shops on the whole. Whilst at university, I volunteered at an Oxfam Bookshop (partly cos I wanted to do ‘something good’, but partly because I wanted to try and get some of my expensive course books cheap!). Without charity shops, my daughter would of spent the first couple of years of her life naked and without any of her own books. Her cot, moses basket and pram all came from charity shops. I know first hand how essential they are to a huge proportion of the population.

But…there is another issue going on here. Every highstreet in the UK now has numerous charity shops, and many towns (including my own) has charity businesses with more than one retail premesis. As other vast chains expand from city centres into suburbs and small market towns, our highstreets are very quickly becoming identikit centres, often resembling an airport departure lounge. As independent businesses struggle to compete with online shopping, British Red Cross and British Heart Foundation are poised on the sidelines ready to jump into their graves to sell you a Primark jumper for more than it cost brand new.

One of the many reasons that charity shops are spreading so quickly is because they pay just 20% business rates and so are easily able to pay above the market rental rate, despite having huge incomes. Because of this, charities are able to secure prime town-centre locations which independent and start up businesses could only dream of. (I would like to register my family as a charity and pay 20% of our council tax please. Then, using the money saved, we could move into a penthouse suite in Beetham Tower. That would be nice).

The Welsh government are ahead of the game. In 2013, they recognised the negative impact on socio-ecomonic issues connected to the rapid spread of charity shops and proposed that instead of an 80% reduction, charities should pay half the business rates. If independent/start up businesses were able to do the same, even just for the first 6 or 12 months of trading, then the current state of the highstreet would be markedly different.

I live in a town with a rich and varied cultural history – it is both the birthplace of Dangermouse, as well as the childhood home of the BeeGees amongst many other things. When I first moved here, Dave Lister lived round the corner – Dave Lister! (the 25 year old me was just as excited by this fact as the 12 year old me would of been). It is a town filled with creative people and interesting characters. And so it amazes me that, whilst people are prepared to pay three hundred grand for a 2 bedroomed house, they are willing to sit back and watch their town centre fall into decline and not take direct action. As council tax contributors, we all, in a sense, own our town centres, yet the majority sit back and do nothing to keep hold of what makes our towns our homes . And as a mother, I feel very strongly that I should fight hard to ensure that my daughter will continue to grow up in a place with a strong sense of community.

This is all sounding slightly off message now, but it is all relevant. I accept and understand the need for change, but some of the changes that have developed in the last decade do not benefit social progression. The steady rise of charity shops is just one of many factors which has changed the face of the UK’s highstreets in the 2 decades I have been a direct consumer, but it is only recently that I have really given thought to the consequences of this.

You can read a little more about how this issue is personally affecting me and a whole bunch of amazing folk here: https://www.change.org/p/the-greater-manchester-pension-fund-please-let-cam-stay-where-is-is. Please sign to show your support to people with big dreams. And if you want to hear what I’m trying to say in a much more eloquent way, please listen to the words of the legendary Harvey Andrews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEgmRLaG-F0

Thank you.

Hard work & Frustration

For over 18 months now, I have been trying to, in a small way, work towards improving our local town centre and providing an opportunity for dozens of local artists. It is a struggle, and it continues to be so, despite exciting promises and glimmers of hope. My goal is not one which I hope will benefit me personally, but also the community and many other individuals. I have, in a way, put my life on hold as I try to make my dreams a reality and it is so much harder than I ever thought it would be.

The government website (https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/improving-high-streets-and-town-centres) states that it supports local markets and helps ‘new market traders starting up businesses’, going on to say that it helps ‘start-up businesses to set up in the high street’. Sadly, I was recently turned down for funding from The High Street Innovation fund, partly, I suspect, because my project is based in Chorlton – a percieved ‘affluent’ area. This is frustrating because, despite its reputation, there are plenty of people like me who live and dream here. We truly want to make something happen, but at times it always seems just out of reach. I have lost count of the amount of times I have been expecting to get recieve funding to make my goals happen, only to be left disappointed.

I will continue to try to make my plan happen until the end of the year. After then, I will admit defeat, knowing that I have tried my very hardest, and hopefully be able to put my experience to use in a paid role. I ask myself quite often; why have I been trying to make this happen for so long? I have worked so hard, for so long and for so little and I really can’t carry on much longer, financially and mentally. A change is gonna come…and I hold on to a tiny glimmer of hope that my plans WILL happen and will be the spark for many great things for our town. I am hoping and keeping everything crossed that this will be the week that we will finally get some good news after putting in 18 months of work towards it.