You’ve probably gathered I work one or two days a week for a friend at her newly opened designer boutique in Exeter.
When Pavla first asked me if I would consider this, I was dubious. I wasn’t sure. But in the end I was persuaded. And now there’s trouble in store.
I’ve been involved in the fashion and design industry over the years which has helped develop a not so sneaky addiction – I’m a clothes junky. The excuse of working at Crede is a gorgeous way of indulging my habit. Every week I swap muddy overalls and wellies, thick socks, woolly hat and gloves in exchange for a little bit of glitz and glamour. What girl could refuse?
And there are other benefits…I’m always curious to know how people, especially those from urban environments, perceive the countryside, farmers and food. Being asked to talk and write about farming and country matters, it helps to know what people are thinking.
Business is business. Whether it is farming or designer boutique the problems with loans, finance, marketing, advertising, merchandising, retailing and re-inventing are surprisingly similar. During those difficult, bumpy first few years, it’s gritty, tough and uncomfortable. Pavla has worked hard and relentlessly during the last eighteen months and recently we have been beginning to see the fruits of her hard work pay off in a tough, risky, retail atmosphere. But she desperately needs the Christmas bonanza.
Over the last week we have watched horrified. A Christmas German market has been set up in the square in front of Crede and a handful of other independent shops obscuring them from view and inhibiting access. The market will be there for the full six week Christmas and New Year period. Complete with a street bar licensed from nine in the morning ‘till late at night.
There have been forceful objections made by the local retailers affected. To no avail.
Our popular local Farmers Market, which trades just one day a week, would have given their eye teeth for a prime location like this. When they approached the council they were deemed unsuitable, too unwieldy. As the Echo reported: “A row has broken out after council bosses allowed a German food market to occupy a top city location in the run-up to Christmas. Supporters of the Exeter Farmers Market are angry that the continental stallholders have been given pride of place in Castle Street, in the shadow of Exeter Castle”.
Yes, it’s good to have diversity. Yes, it’s good to be forward thinking. But not at the detriment of local businesses.
Pavla is fraught. If the market has too much of an adverse affect on her Christmas sales she will not survive.
And there is nothing she can do.