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.

 

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Supporting Independent Businesses is for Life, not just for Small Business Saturday.

Today was Small Business Saturday and, despite us being a small business, we did nothing to promote this new High Street ‘tradition’.

The concept of Small Business Saturday was introduced to the UK from the USA, with the first event taking place in December 2013.  This was the year that I started the Chorlton Art Market and so I was involved with helping to promote the concept of encouraging people to shop at independent business for this one day.  This slightly patronising idea about shopping at ‘small businesses’ for one day out of 365 is my first issue with the idea of Small Business Saturday.

My second problem with SBS is the fact that it is actually a PR exercise by American Express, cleverly disguised as a social enterprise movement.  Since the age of 13 I have worked in various roles within independent business and I can’t recall any of those places accepting American Express payments due to higher processing fees than other cards.  We do not accept American Express at CAM for this reason.

I am not entirely convinced that Small Business Saturday does actually make people any more likely to shop at independent businesses than they would do usually.  I may well be wrong, but I quite simply haven’t had the time or the inclination to do any kind of promotion for it this year.

Promotion that does work well for a business like ours is, of course, consistent and regular social media updates and information.  Unfortunately at the minute our social media presence is pretty much dormant.  Due to a few unexpected events over the last couple of months, we have been preoccupied with other issues which has left the social media stuff being side-lined at a time of year when we should really be pumping up the volume.

BUT!…Even if we haven’t posted a slightly filtered photo on Instagram, or shared a tweet for a couple of weeks this doesn’t mean that the CAMhub isn’t as completely awesome as always – it simply means that we are crazy busy and trying to prioritise!  Making the shop work economically and ensuring that our artists are making good money, serving our customers 6 days a week and simply doing all the paperwork is not an easy task (as well as maintaining the basic requirements of 2 small humans) so please be understanding if it seems that our social media-ness is a bit quiet.

Right now the shop is absolutely jam-packed with an eclectic hoard of carefully selected giftware for all ages, along with the work of our amazing artists.  And if this wasn’t enough for you, Autumn’s Vintage Boutique is looking better than it ever has done, thanks to the hard work of our wonderful vintage ladies.  As a special treat for our customers, the vintage traders have come together to organise a special shopping day, taking place on Sunday 4th December – more info here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/365475820457367/

So come down, get yourself styled to vintage perfection and get all your Christmas shopping done under one roof with a glass of Jay’s famous mulled wine in your hand.  You can always support a small business, even if it isn’t Small Business Saturday!

 

 

 

Shoplifting Woes and My Deepest, Darkest Secret.

Unlike a lot of teenagers, I didn’t go through the ‘shoplifting phase’ that a lot of them go through.  There is a reason for this which I will now share, although it is my absolute deepest and darkest confession and one which I have only ever told a few people in my life.

I can’t quite remember how old I was, but I know I was young – maybe five or six, when I did The Bad Steal.  My family and I were shopping in Derby and I was loaded up with riches in the form of a £5 BHS voucher.  At that age, most children’s grasp on the value of money is fairly unrealistic so I imagine I had a whole shopping basket of goodies planned.

After a look around I found the thing I wanted – a pale pink spotty pencil case which had a big bow on the corner.  It was £4.99.  Perfect.

But then I spotted a matching pale pink spotty fountain pen which was £2.99.  I asked my older brother if my voucher was enough to buy the pencil case and the pen.  He said no and told me that I would have to choose between the two things.

I wanted the pencil case and the pen.  But my voucher wouldn’t cover both of them.  So what do you think a sweet, innocent and very young child did next?   I genuinely shudder when I think of the deviousness of my next move:  I put the pale pink spotty fountain pen inside the pale pink spotty pencil case with a bow on the corner.  And I went to the till with my £5 voucher, heart pounding.  I was almost certain that if I got found out then I would go Straight to Jail so I knew full well that what I was doing was very wrong – but that still didn’t make me back out.

When I got to the till, the lady smiled, cooed at how cute I was and scanned the pencil case.  I handed over my voucher and it was all over.  She didn’t realise that there was a terrible secret stashed inside that pencil case.

Having the pale pink spotty pencil case and the matching fountain pen did not bring me happiness.  Every time I looked at it, I was reminded of what I had done, which I guess was probably the first intentionally Bad Thing I had ever done.  The guilt gnawed away at me for a couple of years, until I rather theatrically buried both the pencil case and the pen into a bonfire that my Dad had built and watched my secret burn away.

So this is why, a decade later, I didn’t go through the shoplifting phase that a lot of my friends went through.  I think the guilt would have killed me. 

I’m telling you this because I think all this is what makes it difficult for me to understand shoplifters.  As a small business owner with a large shop, it is an issue that is almost impossible to battle with.  It makes it harder to cope with all the many other day-to-day issues of running a shop when you have to be on high alert and suspicious of everyone all the time

I always try to understand people’s actions but I do admit that I struggle to comprehend how people’s consciences can allow them to just take whatever they want from whoever they want.  I can just about understand why teenagers do it – testing boundaries/rebelling and all that, but I can’t understand how people can reach adulthood without a moral compass which stops them from stealing.  Of course it would be very naïve to not expect to have issues with shoplifters when you have a shop filled with beautiful things, but the stress of it all is a killer.  Quite simply, I never imagined that the problem would be as bad as it is. 

I’m glad that my crime spree ended before I had lost all my baby teeth, but I do wish that I understood a little better why people can see a shop like ours and decide to steal from us.  I often wonder if they even consider how the consequences of their actions are affecting us, and what it will mean for our business and our lives.

Anyway, despite feeling completely disheartened about everything right now, I’m glad I have confessed my Deepest Darkest Secret to the world! 

Why Brexit made me cry

I am not ashamed to say that I cried every evening for a week after the EU referendum.  In an attempt to avoid thinking about it for as long as possible, every evening I would prolong my children’s bedtime routine, read them an extra story and hug them for a little longer than usual.  But as soon as I sat down, there ‘it’ was – on the news and across social media and it felt impossible to escape from the confusion and chaos.

As the days rolled on, I found it harder – not easier – to digest.  I felt a weird sickness all the time and the moments I spent not thinking about it were fewer than the hours spent talking and worrying about it.  It got to the point, maybe 3 or 4 days after the result, whereby I was genuinely afraid of what each new day would bring.  Watching the news scared me.  With monumental events occurring so quickly and in such an unprecedented manner, it made it difficult to keep up and take stock of what exactly was going on.   Political analysts struggled to make sense of it all so there was no hope for me.

So, why did I cry every night for a week?  Was it simply because I was a sore loser?  Was it because I don’t like it when I don’t get my own way?  Or was it because I am a ‘lefty liberal’?  (just a few of the common jibes from some of those who voted Leave).  Maybe there is a smidge of truth in the first one, simply because I didn’t believe in a million years that we would have a Leave majority.  And of course, because of my lifestyle and social beliefs, I would be described by some as a ‘lefty liberal’.  But this is far preferable to the alternative term of ‘right-wing loon’.

The reasons I cried (and still cry now) are many.  I cried initially from the shock and the worry of the complete unknown, and then for the immediate spike in racists jumping out of their racist little closets, believing they were suddenly legitimised to spew out all their sick predicable bile at anyone who spoke a different language or had a different skin tone.  I cried for many personal reasons; our dreams of moving abroad in the future seemed suddenly less achievable, and the knowledge that our children wouldn’t be able to rock up in Amsterdam with 50 euros and get a job a few hours later, or pick strawberries in Denmark or have any of the other amazing experiences that I was able to have across Europe with ease.  The breadth of their futures were limited overnight.

As the news did begin to sink in, I also began to realise the potential effect it could have on our business – a business still in its start-up years and a business that would suffer greatly if we were dealt with another recession.  It felt like all our years of hard work could slip away from us because of something completely out of our control.

Overall, the thing that I feel saddest about is the fact that I now truly feel that I have nothing in common with a huge proportion of the British population, and the fact that things just feel different now.  I do believe that a large number of Leave voters did so based on issues surrounding immigration – some deny it, yet some wear it as a badge of pride.  From my exchanges with Leave voters, it seems that they do indeed blame immigrants for everything from housing issues, GP waiting times and school places.  But instead of directing their anger at the real people responsible – the government, they read their inflammatory News Corp headlines and tell Polish families to ‘go home’.  Instead of the culturally diverse and accepting society that we currently have, these people want the complete opposite. 

For me, the shock and grief has finally given way to a more productive anger.  Although my initial feelings were that I just wanted to run away and live in a forest, right now reality prevents this so we’ve got to battle on.  And besides, I never like to give up on things.  Admittedly I have limited my social media and news intake over the last week which has helped me to focus more on my business and worry slightly less about things that I really can’t control.  The more I know, then the angrier I feel about it all so I needed to take a step back.

Amidst all the chaos, a great many of us looked for a leader that we could believe in – something to cling on to when it felt like everything that was happening was just a frat boy game to many of our politicians.  I can’t even bring myself to write a blog about how angry I am at Cameron (a man who put his penis in a dead pig’s mouth – please never forget this), Osborne, Farage, Johnson and many others, so instead my next blog will be about the person whom I have chosen to put my faith in – the first politician I have ever truly believed in.  During these past couple of weeks, this politician has given me the only glimmer of hope and sanity in this sea of madness so I will be happy to explain my reasons for why I will be standing firm for Jeremy Corbyn. 

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.

We got through it!

These last few months have been wonderfully manic.  It is only now that I am able to reflect on all that has happened and take stock of the present.IMG_20160202_175835360

Running a shop is a lot of work.  Running a shop that involves over 60 other people requires a lot of time and effort.  Running any shop at Christmas is hard work.  Having a baby at the end of November made being able to cope with all this seem virtually impossible.  I admit to having one 5 minute breakdown the day after I had my baby, sobbing uncontrollably in my hospital bed as I wondered how on earth I was going to cope with a new baby right at the beginning of the busiest 4 weeks of the year.  I knew I had traders takings to pay a few days after and I knew how much some people relied on that money.  I couldn’t let my standards slip, despite the agony I was in during that first week.  I am not proud of the fact, but I had to actually shout at a doctor to discharge me.

We got through it, Jay and I, with a lot of help from some of our fantastic traders.  We managed to keep the shop pretty much open as normal and I was able to start working in the shop a bit after a couple of weeks.  I’m proud that we got through it, despite how hard it felt at times.  It seems we are lucky enough to have a chilled baby who just likes to drink and sleep so we’ve been able to get on with things as normal, just with a small and very cute companion.

I felt utterly shite the entire time I was pregnant.  I made this very clear to anyone I came across during those 9 months.  As with my first child, I felt awful every single day.  What made it so much worse this time was the fact that, no matter how rough I felt, I had so much I always had to do and it did, at times, feel utterly insurmountable.  This was when it was truly hard running the shop.  But despite all this, I still believed completely in my vision and I knew that no matter how hard things were, we would always find a way to work through it.  I have never believed in anything as much as I believe in the CAMhub.

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Like I said, running a shop is a lot of hard graft.  In no way did I ever expect it to be easy, but it is certainly harder than I really imagined.  There are certainly a lot more costs and factors that I didn’t take into account initially, and many new things have cropped up along the way.  It is a never ending job – I know this is the case for all self employed people, certainly in the first couple of years at least.  The business is on my mind 24/7 and I feel that horrible guilt when I’m playing with my kids because a nagging part of me is telling me I should be working, but then when I’m working I feel guilty that I’m not with the kids.

Despite all this, I understand that this is what it takes.  I have always believed that nothing good ever comes easy so I am prepared for the pitfalls and we will always march on.   2016 will be a very exciting time for the CAMhub as I will be able to dedicate more time to working, rather than being sick and crying.  The shop is going to get better and better all the time.

So, after all that ramble, all I really should of said is ‘come and check out our amazing shop’ – we have loads of awesome new traders joining us next month, including a stained glass artist and new vintage clothes traders.  We’re also going to have a bit of a play around with the layout of the shop to create a fresh new look for the spring.  And I can’t wait to give that floor a proper good clean cos I’m a weirdo like that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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