Let there be sales!

I’m holed up after an ankle operation, so I thought I would take a quick look back at how this all started.

Way back when we lived in France, the idea of selling vintage and antique beauties was born initially out of ideas to make extra money. But once I’d made a few sales I was hooked on the buzz you get from someone wanting something you’ve got.

Image of shelves in store.
Our shelves in Jim’s British Market – vintiques and spices.

My first selling space was a set of shelves in an existing shop. My French being awful, I was lucky to be in a shop focusing on selling imported English food to expats (the area had a lot of English-speaking workers). I knew that the clientele would be wealthy and mostly female, but also that they were not necessarily expecting to buy decorative objects when they arrived at the shop.

I’ve always loved arranging things so setting up the shelves was easy and a wonderful part of the process for me – as was getting the stock from charity shops and car boot sales (or ‘vide grenier’ in French, meaning ’empty the attic’) in France and Switzerland. At last, an excuse to travel, shop and arrange!

Customer buying an item.
Clare buying a Villeroy and Boch jug with Jim filling in our receipt book.

The key to success was drawing customer’s eyes and pitching the price right. If we were lucky, we might be able to build a reputation that drew people in when they were looking for gifts for friends and family. We decided to take advantage of one upcoming event and start a new one of our own.

John in front of hat display.
Hats off on Guy Fawkes Night with John ready to press the flesh.

Every Guy Fawkes Night, the shop held a fireworks party (in France they tend to do fireworks in the summer for Bastille Day, when it doesn’t get dark till much later). A couple of hundred people turn up and have a fantastic evening with BBQ burgers and drinks and a big bonfire. Every year, that night is the coldest night of the year so far, so we cleared the shelves and stocked only hats and scarves and gave out leaflets detailing the last posting dates for sending Christmas presents around the globe. Expats need that information and apparently don’t have warm hats! The evening was a great success for us and really got our name out to our potential clients.

Next came a Christmas special event that we promoted through the leaflet at Guy Fawkes Night. The shop only gets one large delivery from the UK for Christmas items, so when they’re gone, they’re gone, and promoting a Christmas weekend was good marketing for them too. We negotiated some extra shelf space and decked the place out with Christmas gift ideas and decorations – a brilliant weekend.

I learned so much from our activities – when we left for Scotland, it was a sad day, even though we had plenty of stock in our packing boxes.

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