Small Business Saturday 2014

small business saturday

It’s Small Business Saturday: please support small businesses wherever you find them.  There are hundreds of small businesses in Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme.  Speaking as the owner of a small business, I know that, from candle makers to plumbers, none of these small businesses would exist without customers, including my own tuition centre.  

Using a small business is not an act of charity. It is quite wrong to assume that big chains are cheaper than small, independent traders.  Behind the marketing jargon, the deals offered by big corporate chains often represent a more expensive proposition than the more straightforward pricing of a smaller concern.  Why do we assume that big chains are cheaper?  Because they spend massive amounts of marketing money telling us their prices are fantastically low; small independent businesses can’t and don’t.  

As well as fairer prices, there is often more expertise in a small business; small businesses thrive on the passion of their owners and making money is not their main focus.  Personally, I don’t see education as a product I sell; I see it as a way to change young people’s lives forever.  Look at Mrs M, of Mrs M Vintage on Flixton Road: she’s not a corporate suit, working on her next ad campaign.  She just loves vintage and sells it because she wants to spread vintage joy.  How about Card World on Crofts Bank Road?  They have the biggest range of cards in Urmston and beyond – adoption cards, confirmation cards, sorry-I-forgot-to-get-you-a-Christmas-card – you name it, they sell it and that is because they really want to provide a card for all occasions.

If you want to support small businesses today and can’t make it out to the shops, why not tweet about them, like their Facebook business page or even write an online review for them (please only do this if you have used their service)?  Online recommendation is a powerful way to help small businesses, and what’s more, it really encourages independent traders when they see something lovely written about them – after all independent trading can feel a little lonely at times.

So today, Small Business Saturday 2014, please shop small and shop local: use our independent traders in Urmston and help our little town thrive.

An A-Z of independent businesses in Urmston: https://urmstonindependents.org.uk/urmston-independents-an-a-z-guide/.

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Urmston Market at Christmas

Urmston Market's Christmas Fair takes place this Saturday.

Urmston Market’s Christmas Fair takes place this Saturday.

Along with raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens, Urmston Market’s Christmas Fair is one of my favourite things. This Saturday the market will be bursting with colourful, beautiful, useful things.  As well as festive food and drink, there will be finely-crafted giftware, wreaths and decorations (including large, pot-grown Christmas trees) and all the trimmings you need for Christmas.

Live music will provide an ambient yuletide vibe and the event poster promises ‘festive friends’, so if you do go down to Urmston Market’s Christmas fair, listen out for the jingling of bells and keep an eye on the sky …

Urmston Market is open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with an Artisan Special on the first Saturday of every month and and Vintage and Crafts market on the last Saturday of every month.  It’s a stone’s throw from Urmston train station and the bus stop (numbers 15, 22, 23, 255, 276, 278 and very probably some more).  You can park in Eden Square car park at M41 0NA if you’re driving.

Shop Independent in Urmston

Black Friday has arrived in the UK, bringing scenes of near-riot as ardent consumers flood into supermarkets in furious mobs,  knocking each other to the floor in the dash for a ‘bargain’.  Black Friday is a marketing construct: shops in the US offer big discounts on the day after Thanksgiving. This lends a tint of irony to the shocking behaviour of many Black Friday shoppers: give thanks one day; trample on your fellow shoppers the next.  We live in interesting times.

There was tough competition for a discounted television at Tesco in Stretford.

Buy Nothing Day falls on the last Saturday of November.

You don’t get any of that nonsense with independent shops: the prices are transparent and there’s zero chance of being caught up in a stampede in Mrs M Vintage.  There’s a cosy, laid-back feel to Christmas shopping in Urmston that cannot be replicated in the big behemoth malls, such as the Arndale and the Trafford Centre.  Nor will you find yourself gridlocked in traffic or squashed like a sardine on a tram, bus or tram.

Black Friday coincided this year with ‘Buy Nothing Day’.  Started by Adbusters back in the nineties, Buy Nothing Day challenges consumers to ‘switch off from shopping for a day’.  Visiting the campaign’s website, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the campaign is explicitly supportive of independent shops and businesses, because, as it says, “local shops act as a community hub and must be preserved because for every £1 spent in an independent shop – fifty pence goes back into the local economy. For every £1 spent at a supermarket only five pence goes back into the local community.

Most of us can’t or won’t ‘buy nothing’, however a quiet majority is growing ever more disengaged with the voracious pit of consumerism our festive season has become.  It seems that there is almost no time for actual celebration because the choosing, buying, wrapping and distributing of gifts has taken over the whole season.  Gifts for our family, our friends, our neighbours, our childrens’ teachers, our colleagues, our acquaintances, our local lolly pop ladies and our car valeters. There’s barely time to go to work in the month of December and no time at all for the quiet reflection and slowing down that nature calls for in the darkest season.

Times are hard, economically, and some claim that Black Friday represents an opportunity for the cash-strapped to obtain much-needed material goods.  This argument would hold more water if all the goods that were being fought over were not things that nobody needs (huge tellies, iPads, that sort of thing).  In any case, if you’re genuinely cash-strapped, a £189 television does not represent a good use of your money.  Black Friday enables big retailers to whip up a frenzy among consumers which, they hope, won’t die down until Christmas Eve.  Whether the bargains are genuine is questionable: the Guardian recently reported that many retailers put Christmas goods on the shelves at ‘full price’ in August (when no one will buy them) in order to reduce the price and promote them as bargains closer to Christmas.

Shopping locally with independent retailers automatically makes you part of a community’s beating heart; an economic champion of this little town.  It keeps more money in the local economy and thriving independent shops help keep house prices buoyant. Take a look at our A-Z of Independent Businesses in Urmston (and please let me know if you would like me to list your business).

Some links to previous posts about Christmas gift shopping in Urmston:

Independent Christmas Direct for Urmston

Last Minute Christmas in Urmston

 

Urmston Market Summer Fair on 9th August 2014

This coming Saturday sees Urmston Market throw its popular summer fair and this year’s event promises to be full of fun for everyone.  Alongside all the usual useful stalls such as Barnes’ fruit and veg, the flower stall, the electrical stall and the haberdashery, there will also be craft, gift and vintage delights on sale.   Let’s not forget the cakes and other scrumptious treats either.

If you get there between 11 and 2pm you can enjoy a FREE magic show as well as various other performances from talented local entertainers.  The bouncy castle will be there all day.  If you are a trader, a musician, a dancer or a provider of family activities, Urmston Market would like to hear from you on 07739 171211 or email urmstonmarket@gmail.com.  Hurry, though: this event is very sought-after.

As ever, Urmston Market can be found on Railway Road, just off Urmston’s main crossroads.  If coming from further afield, the market is a stone’s throw from Urmston train station, or you can take the following buses: 15, 22, 23, 255, 276 or 278.  Get off near Sainsbury’s and the market is a mere hop, skip and a jump away.  You can also park at Eden Square (the big car park is next to Sainsbury’s at M41 0NA).

Today is not your day – and tomorrow doesn’t look good either (Part Two)

 

Y U No - phone dude y yu no fix phone?

In yesterday’s thrilling installment I told how the guys at Fawlty Mobiles in Urmston had messed us around, fobbed us off and generally acted like huge donkeys.  I ended on a cliffhanger: having finally managed to extricate the phone from chez Fawlty, would the £95 we’d paid turn out to be money well spent?  I think we all know what’s coming here, don’t we?

Yes, you guessed it: they had given us back a broken, unusable ‘phone.   Back to Fawlty Mobiles went my poor husband – his fourth trip there in 24 hours.

Angry ‘Phone Dude showed no surprise when my husband arrived back at his shop: it was clear that we needed a refund.  We got our money back but Angry kept the ‘phone in order to remove the new screen.   Angry told my husband to come back in an hour.  He gave it two hours (he’s not daft) and went back to pick up the ‘phone. Guess what? He was sent away by Angry, who told him he was too busy to give him the ‘phone back and he would drop it off at our house “later”.

We’d heard the same thing less than a day ago and – unsurprisingly – decided we didn’t believe the guy.  I didn’t know whether I could smell a rat, a scam or a load of something commonly spread on farmers’ fields but I knew I wasn’t going to leave my ‘phone with those guys over the weekend.  You could say my trust in them had faltered – and ‘phones can contain a lot of data.

I went back into the shop myself and told Angry I would like my ‘phone back straight away. Now, I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t annoyed and dissatisfied (and justifiably so), but I certainly wasn’t rude or unpleasant- and yet from Angry’s reaction, anyone would have thought I’d commanded him to start sawing off delicate parts of his body with a rusty razor blade.

Here are some highlights of our conversation:

Me: I’ve come for my ‘phone and I’d like it back straight away.

Angry (already furious): I’m busy and I’m in the middle of something, you’ll have to wait.

Me: No. I’ve waited long enough. I want my ‘phone back and I’m not going until you give me it.

Angry: Bloody hell, I’m busy, what do you expect me to say?

Me: I expect you to say sorry and give me my ‘phone back.

Angry (turning to my husband): Mate. Have a word, will you?

Yes indeed: Angry ‘Phone Dude was imploring my husband (his ‘mate’ apparently) to ‘have a word’ with me, the implication being that he was failing to control his woman. Sexism AND attempting to rip me off for £95? What an incredibly poor combination of choices. Perhaps somebody should ‘have a word’ with Angry ‘Phone Dude and explain that if you want to build a good reputation for your business you should try apologising when you completely mess up instead of hoping your customer won’t notice their ‘phone doesn’t work and then shaking with rage and indignation when someone asks politely for their own property back.

First world Problems II - Rude to a customer Forgot about the internets

Angry’s somewhat maverick approach to public relations took an ever more surprising turn when he ranted at me that I was “a horrible person”. Poor Angry. If his criteria for ‘horrible’ really does include ‘asking for one’s phone/ money back’ I expect he will be meeting a lot more “horrible people” in future because while I was there someone else came in to complain that their ‘phone had been returned in an unusable condition, giving me an inkling that Angry might not be very good at ‘phone repairs.

Next, Shoulder Shrug appeared in the shop. Predictably, he shrugged his shoulders at the whole thing and said, “Sometimes repairs don’t work out.” Yes, that’s true, and probably quite frequently down at Fawlty Mobiles, but what reason could there be for repeatedly setting your own deadlines then not sticking to them and not keeping your customer informed by ringing them? What reason could there be for telling your customer the ‘phone is fixed and taking £95 for the repair when it isn’t fixed? Why not admit you have messed up and apologise?

I did try to explain to Shoulder Shrug that I was just trying to give him some good advice, but he assured me he didn’t need any and I was advised by Angry to “keep your advice to yourself” – a piece of advice I have clearly failed to take.   Shoulder Shrug eventually finished removing the screen from my phone and let me having it back. With an arrogant wave he dismissed me from the shop, saying, “We’ll leave it there.”  Well.  I think not.

I daresay neither Angry nor Shoulder Shrug will ever get as far as the end of this post, after all these are but the witterings of a mere customer, but for anyone who wants advice from someone who knows how to run a good business, here is one final piece of business advice: the only way to build up trust and good word-of-mouth for your business is to provide a good service and to keep your promises. And that, my report to Trading Standards notwithstanding, is where I shall leave it.

Today isn’t your day – and tomorrow doesn’t look good either

This week I endured my worst ever experience of customer service. It was so bad I have to wonder whether it’s a real shop or an interactive training facility where businesses can send staff to learn how NOT to treat customers. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity and the last thing these guys deserve is good publicity so I won’t name the place: let’s call it Fawlty Mobiles.

My husband took my water-damaged Samsung into the recently opened mobile repair shop in Urmston on Tuesday to see if it could be fixed. He was told they could repair it with a new screen and camera. The ‘phone dude said it would be ready by Wednesday or Thursday of the same week and that he would ring us as soon as it was ready. This made us very happy: a speedy repair which, at £95, would be cheaper than buying a new ‘phone.

So … we’d heard nothing by Friday. My husband called in at lunchtime. Come back at four o’clock, they said. It wasn’t that convenient but back we trailed at 4.15pm. The ‘phone dude (let’s call him Shoulder Shrug) was outside, smoking a fag. He took a drag, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Another ten minutes – we’re just running the final tests.” No apology for the inconvenience.

We didn’t really want to wait (partly because Shoulder Shrug hadn’t thus far proved a good judge of time) so Shoulder Shrug offered to drop it off at our house when it was finished. “I’ll ring you,” he said. There was something just a little bit shifty in his body language that made me think Shoulder Shrug was lying – there’d be no ‘phone call and no delivery. For the first time since Tuesday I started to think I might not be getting my ‘phone fixed at all. Sometimes you have to just allow people to string you along – it’s awkward to look a stranger in the eye and accuse him of lying. So, out of politeness, we nodded and smiled and went home to wait for a call that never came. We tried ringing but their phone line was unavailable.

On Saturday morning my husband went and fetched the phone – this time there was a different guy there – for reasons that will become obvious, we’ll call this one Angry ‘Phone Dude. There was no reason given for not calling us the night before (or in the morning). Never mind, we were just glad to get the phone back …

Here’s where I must leave it for now: this sorry story is a two-parter.  Before I go, here’s a little tip for you: if someone fixes phone, check it’s working before it leaves the shop.

TO BE CONTINUED …

Chesworths DIY and Timber Merchants: Urmston’s Independent Specialists Since 1936

Tucked away on Gloucester Road, Chesworth’s DIY and Timber Merchants is a perfect example of the top quality service customers can expect when dealing with an independent Urmston business.  You may assume Chesworths is a lot more expensive than the big chains such as B&Q or Homebase but the fact is that Chesworths’ prices are often lower, or low enough to be competitive when you factor in the price of petrol required to get to a big chain.

Chesworth’s DIY and Timber Merchants is conveniently located in Urmston Town Centre.

Friendly and welcoming

If, like me, you don’t know much about DIY you may sometimes feel intimidated by the atmosphere in some DIY stores or timber yards, but Chesworths has a friendly, welcoming feel and I’ve never felt daft for asking questions in there.Skilled, convenient service

Chesworths DIY and Timber Merchants stock most timber and sheet materials, which they will cut to size while you wait – a big selling point, in my opinion. This makes your DIY projects so much more manageable because you know your materials will be cut accurately.

Customers can purchase most timber sections in lengths per 30cm (0.3m,0.6m,0.9m etc., up to as long as 5.4m).  Sheet materials can be purchased either as full sheets – 2440mm x 1220mm – or as an individual cut piece charged to the nearest square inch.

Chesworths DIY on Gloucester Rd.

Chesworths DIY on Gloucester Rd.

Chesworths supply made to measure radiator cabinets as well as made to size garden gates and meter cupboards.  They also do standard 4mm clear window glass, cut to size from stock, or toughened/safety glass and double glazed units to order.   Made to measure kitchen/bedroom vinyl wrapped cupboard doors are available on a 14 day turn around.


Bespoke, environmentally-friendly DIY solutions

A bespoke cutting service is something that the big chains seldom offer – you generally buy the length they want to sell you, rather than the length you need.  By allowing the customer to buy the amount they need, Chesworth’s often works out cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the big chains, whose inflexible selling policies encourage waste.

Other products

Other keenly priced products from Chesworths include:- worktops, stairparts, decking, internal and external doors, decorative plastic tongue & groove wall/ceiling paneling, kichen units, laminate/engineered/solid flooring, door furniture, fixings, adhesives, timber mouldings, architraves/ skirtings, tools, varnish, oils, wax, preservatives, etc.  You can also buy paint from Chesworths primer, undercoat and white and black gloss, as well as fun little pots of chalkboard paint.

Chesworths literally go the extra mile

There’s something reassuringly old-fashioned about Chesworths: a family business with real concern for the customer.    This is the kind of independent business that has a relationship with the community it serves: they will even arrange a home visit to measure up. Try getting that level of customer service from the Chief Executive Officer of B&Q (Kevin O’Byrne, estimated earnings of £1.8m per annum – source)!