18 July 2014

#Tesco Expansion Plans with Timpson, Threaten The High Street and Not Just in Shepton Mallet!

Tesco have teamed up with Timpson and plan to provide Dry Cleaning, Watch and Jewellery repairs, Engraving, Shoe repairs and Key Cutting Services at their Shepton Mallet store. This is the information that I learnt today, from a fellow trader on the High Street, in Shepton Mallet.

To be honest, the Tesco here in Shepton Mallet is a sore point with the locals, many people actively refuse to step a foot inside the store but many people that live in Shepton Mallet, work in Tesco and visit the High Street too and the site does provide a couple of hours free parking and it doesn't mention you have to be their customer in order to park there. So, as in many situations there are positives and negatives and many mixed feelings.

I decided to Google about the Tesco and Timpson situation and have found out that there are several other places that have had exactly the same kind of planning permission application! Applications have gone in for Shepton Mallet, Bridgend, Cheltenham and Royston and I discovered those after just a five minute search, so there are bound to be more coming our way, across the UK. Looks to me like Tesco is trying to cope with a shrinking market. Yes, people have less money, the economy is down, they too have to find ways to increase their profits.

I however, envisage the High Street going into decline, with the footfall falling even more than it already has done, over the past year that we've been here. It is distressing to hear of shops, beautiful, quirky independent shops having to close, not because they have failed but because it is unsustainable to continue renting on the High Street, so the business runs but online, or from home.

Incredibly, as I was writing this piece, a couple walked into our shop, in Shepton Mallet and needed a refreshing and revitalising cup of tea. As they sat down, we chatted together and I mentioned that I was writing a blog about Tesco and Timpson teaming up. The gentleman, Simon, mentioned that the managing director of Timpson was his God Son. He told me that James Timpson started off, originally, as a shoe retailer but stopped that and moved into repairs, he went on to say that they were good employers and re-trained ex-offenders, so they could have a secure job and re-intergrate into the community. As he mentioned this, the humanity behind the business came into focus, there's a real man with his dreams and visions and his chance to contribute to our society and he's doing it successfully.

Where does that leave us? Where does that leave our much loved High Street, which quite honestly, if it was loved so much, would be used more? What if they were to actually open on the High Street? Maybe we should thank our lucky stars that they are targeting customers for the retail park and they are not plonked on the High Street, I am really not sure what to think. I know the High Street is definitely changing, do we embrace the change, or do we fight for what we know, love and enjoy? If we know we love and enjoy it, then we have to use our money not to 'Support' local businesses but to keep them there and to enjoy them. If you love a local retailer in your High Street, don't keep walking by the shop, thinking that you'll go in there one day. You have to change your habits and make buying things in there a part of your routine. I say that people get the High Street that they deserve, it's the consumer that has the final say in the changing face of market towns. If you shop mindlessly, then you will get an impersonal High Street full of chains.

The way I see it, Shepton Mallet has a wonderful High Street of quirky, independent shops, the Townsend Retail park is an altogether completely different experience, based more on the idea of convenience. The two concepts can live side by side and thrive. I like the idea that I can shop late if I need to at Tesco and pick up a last minute item, or a magazine, they do Sushi and no one else here does, that is very convenient. I've heard it said that when they first applied for planning permission, they said it would be a food only store, I'm not sure if this is the correct information but if no limitations are put on their trading what is the next thing they will do? They are expanding because their market is shrinking. Is their market shrinking because local businesses have closed because Tesco haven't really contributed enough to the regeneration of Shepton Mallet Town? Does that mean that the owners of the small businesses that have closed, can't employ anyone, so unemployment is higher, the town looks more desolate, people have less money, when one trader goes, then there's a knock on effect, for all the traders in town.Traders lose the cross promotion with other businesses and miss out on business from each other in a circular economy that makes sure the money is kept locally. The reason why communities are breaking down and High Streets across the UK look run down is because some landlords keep rents artificially high and because retail parks do NOT contribute to the community enough!

I've been told that there was a promise by Tesco when they first came that they would make sure that the town had maintained hanging baskets of flowers on the High Street, even if there wasn't a promise, why don't they sponsor something like that? The amazing Tesco staff collected over £800 to support Collett Park Festival 2014 but it was Tesco, the company that was asked if they would like to sponsor the festival, amazingly the company itself didn't come up with a bean! Tesco show a lot of support for the community but I'm not sure if it is support from their profits, or whether they profit from the support. Take for instance the Happy Landings Collection point in the store, you buy dog food, or toys, from Tesco and put it into their collection point! I can understand why people feel angry, 'Every Little helps' we just didn't think it meant, every little business and every little contribution from the public and from the staff, helps Tesco to create more profits, diverted away from the community to individuals! Tesco started from a market stall in East London, five years later the name Tesco was formed and the company grew and grew and grew. That entrepreneurial spirit is bound to be admired and respected by most small business owners but when it comes to ethics and morals, it does seem that things have got out of hand.

I feel if Timpson can contribute massively to the economy of the town they are in, if they offer a very basic shoe repair service and recommend the local cobbler for complicated repairs, if they pledge to help and support our town and really give something to the community then they will find their place. At this stage, I personally do not feel that I can support Tesco's application for these new services because of the devastating impact it will have on our Town. I believe that because of this negative impact, that the outlet will not succeed because the local economy will be driven down even further and again the market will shrink and again Tesco will choose to dominate another service and again they will cause the shrinkage in the economy and so on like a spiral, down and down. It is for this reason that I feel I have to oppose the planning application for this outlet.

The above is my overview on the situation. I wonder, what is your opinion. Are you for or against Timpson opening at Tesco and why?

Please comment below.

You can let Mendip Council know your feelings by using this link:
Application Comments

4 July 2014

Rolf Harris jailed for five years and 9 months.....

To say that I am shocked at this light sentence, does not quite express what I want to say.

As a coffee shop owner, I mix with lots of different people and hear many different stories. In fact, from the time I had a breakdown and was in the mental health unit and then in respite care and from the time I was a performer covering everything from acting, voice-overs, TV appearance, singing on records and radio jingles to dancing for mainly men, in table dancing clubs, I have heard stories of sexual abuse and lives ruined by the acts of a predatory male, or female on an innocent child.

I feel so angry that the sentence is so small for Rolf Harris, he has been convicted of ruining children's lives and there seems to be a grey area about him accessing some child porn, 'by mistake' but several times and his solicitors have apparently checked that the Ukraine website that Rolf Harris was viewing had the age identification documents of each model, proving that they were over the required age! Really?

Many, many times over the pain that a child feels after being sexually abused has been expressed to me, can you imagine a pain so huge, an unexplained dirty feeling, a feeling of disgust with yourself, without wondering why, these intense feelings can lead to self-harm, or even a feeling of wanting to die, to end the pain that you don't understand and cannot find the words to explain to others. People that manage to get through the other side of sexual abuse, often refer to themselves as survivors, which is in fact an extremely appropriate word, considering being sexually abused heightens the risk of someone developing suicidal feelings.

When a child, or an adult speaks out about sexual abuse, there is always, always, always the risk that they will not be believed by the people around them, mainly because abusers seem apt at putting themselves in trustworthy positions. Imagine gathering the courage to speak out about someone that is seemingly a famous, friendly, trust-worthy children's entertainer, who would believe you?

Child abusers seem to me to be extremely devious and place themselves in close proximity to children in general, or abuse children that they are already close to such as family members or friends of their children. It has taken a long time for society to listen to survivors of sexual abuse, to hear what they are saying and to take them seriously. Now, we need the law and the judges to respond appropriately. As someone that has listened to many experiences of child abuse, who has seen the devastation of individuals and their family and friends because of it and as someone that has known people that have self-harmed as a direct result of the abuse and people that have killed themselves because of it, I believe the sentence that has been given to Rolf Harris is absolutely appalling and does not at all match the seriousness of the crimes he has committed. 

These are the convictions and the sentences, however you will notice that because some of the sentences will be served at the same time, the total will only be 5 years and 9 months, instead of the grand total which would be over a decade.

It is possible that Rolf Harris will only serve half the sentence of 5 years and 9 months and then spend the rest of the time in the community.

  • Count 1: Assaulting an autograph-hunter, who was aged seven or eight, in the late 1960s - Nine months
  • Count 2: Assaulting a teenage waitress in the 1970s - Six months
  • Count 3: Assaulting a childhood friend of Harris's daughter between the ages of 13 and 19 - 15 months
  • Count 4: Same victim as count 3 - 15 months
  • Count 5: Same victim as count 3 - 15 months
  • Count 6: Same victim as count 3 - 12 months
  • Count 7: Same victim as count 3 - 15 months
  • Count 8: Same victim as count 3 - 12 months
  • Count 9: Same victim as count 3 - 12 months
  • Count 10: Assaulting Australian woman Tonya Lee, who was 15, in 1986 - Nine months
  • Count 11: Same victim as count 10 - Nine months
  • Count 12: Same victim as count 10 - 12 months
(Above sentences quoted from the BBC website)

3 June 2014

24 hour SHOCK Cash Mob!

I have heard reports that the landlord of Sheels Bookshop in Lancaster Road, has put the rent up by 50%, forcing this Enfield business to relocate to Hatfield instead. We can now see for ourselves that the changing face of the High Street is not just because of changing shopping habits but also the greed of some landlords in keeping rents artificially high in these hard economic times. 

SHOCK Cash Mobs are a small drop in the ocean to help local and independent businesses, just as the BBC Reporter suggested when I was interviewed on TV about this community initiative.

I feel Landlords need to be forced by law, to take responsibility for their community, or even supported by grants and special initiatives to enable them to have filled shop spaces and a fair income in exchange. I don't know what the correct approach would be, as I have never been a landlord, so I need landlords to connect with me and share with me their ideas. After all we are all in this together. Communities are becoming fractured by our broken up High Streets, drastic action and innovation needs to happen now! 

In the meantime, please join me in an online SHOCK Cash Mob for Sheels Bookshop, just over 1 year after the one we did to them in 2013! 

So, for 24 hours from 9am, Tuesday 3rd June to 9am on Wednesday 4th June, pop into Sheels and spend a tenner or more on books! 

Or go online and order.

Or phone up and order.

Please comment to tell me that you are going to do it. Then please tell me when you have actually done it! 

So, who's in? Xxxxxx

24 May 2014

Collett Park, Coffee and Community!

Well, here I am working away on the new website for The Collett Park Festival, that I offered to do for free, as a part of my contribution to the Shepton Mallet community. I did promise, when I resigned, that I would use my social media skills and communication knowledge to help this town regenerate. I've already created a website for Shepton Mallet Shops, which you can look at here. Tonight, all alone in my shop, with the lights on low, I am building a website for Collett Park Festival, which is going to open with a free musical concert at 7pm on Friday June 13th! You can look at the new website here, hope you like it. I am getting so excited about it!

Anyway, the lights are dim and the rain is pouring down and I look up to see a shadowy figure in the doorway who looks almost as if he is going to bed down for the night, he is wearing a mac, has an extremely long beard, like a wizard, a very large black umbrella and a stick and he is looking into a plastic yellow and white carrier bag and rummaging around, hunched over concentrating and rummaging and looking more and more suspicious!

Eventually, I decide that I am carefully going to go up to him and ask him, quietly, 'What are you doing?'. He looks up at me, in a lovely way and shows me some 'Then and Now' postcards of Shepton Mallet. He tells me that he has to visit the places on the postcards as that is what he likes doing. So, even though it's dark and raining, he goes off and matches the pictures in the postcards, to the pictures in real life and I invite him to pop in after he has finished for a hot chocolate and brownie, on the house, even though we are closed, just because.

He's in here now chatting away over his hot chocolate and a brownie, telling me all about his adventures in Glastonbury and Street and how he missed his bus and had to get a lift back to Shepton Mallet in a police car. I asked him if he had absconded from an old people's home but he explained that they actually let him come back quite late and that he would never stay in an old people's home that wouldn't let him stay out late. He asked me how old I thought he was and I guessed 80 years old, then I was really worried I had gone too high but then he said that he's 86! Phew. He's a sprightly thing for that age, walking all around Glastonbury and Street.

I love having a cofffee shop and being in the centre of the community and meeting the people that we do.

12 May 2014

Gluten Free Awareness Week UK

Gluten-Free Awareness Week, From 12th May to 18th May 2014!

We are celebrating this event by offering more flavours than ever before in our Shepton Mallet Shop! Today, I have just finished baking some absolutely delicious Blueberry Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Muffins. I've worked hard on perfecting our Gluten-Free recipes, our cakes do not taste dairy or gluten-free. In fact in Shepton Mallet, all our cakes are Gluten and Dairy-Free! 

I really enjoy seeing the look on people's faces as they ask what Gluten-Free or Dairy-Free options we have available and they actually have a choice and it's not just one token cake.

Coeliac UK are the charity that are promoting this Awareness week, part of their campaign is to ensure that supermarket chains commit to stocking the essentials you need, so that you don't need to go all over the place for your weekly shop! 

We have a massive range of Gluten-Free goods available to you, that we can order in for you from either of our shops, so if it's important to you to support the independents, please let us know what you are finding it hard to find and we will get it! Just pop into either of our shops and tell us exactly what you are looking for.

In our Enfield shop we provide a range of ready wrapped grab and go snacks that are great for Coeliacs, or those on a dairy-free diet and in our Shepton Mallet shop, we have ready wrapped snacks available, as well as handmade, home baked artisan Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Cakes!

We hope to stock these cakes in our Enfield branch soon.

Out of interest, what would your favourite Gluten-Free cake be? Please let me know by commenting here.

Have a great Awareness Week 2014!

22 March 2014

There's a price to pay, for free coffee!

As a coffee shop social entrepreneur, I realise the value of the freebie giveaway, as much as anyone, be they consumer or business owner. I've used the lure of a plain and simple free coffee promotion to introduce new customers to our business, to make sure they know of our existence, to let them experience the taste, atmosphere and service first hand. I used part of my marketing budget to pay for the free coffees that we gave out to promote ourselves and found it a very successful campaign. The free coffee is a great way to welcome new faces into your business. However the Waitrose scheme of giving out free coffee is finally resulting in a backlash and comments. I've held my tongue for a longtime about the free coffee offer from Waitrose, for fear of promoting it, however now that it has hit the national headlines, I'm confident that the comments I have to make can only do some good for communities across the UK.

A business based on giving away free coffee for months and months on end, devalues the product and is not sustainable. Waitrose get the money from somewhere to pay for that free coffee and sorry to say, if you shop there it's from you and if you work there, it's from your payout!

I have made the conscious decision not to shop at Waitrose or John Lewis anymore, I prefer to support local independent businesses any way, as they are the backbone of our economy but I have in the past shopped in Waitrose because I believed it was a business with high values and high ethics Every member of staff in Waitrose is a partner, each one of them is responsible for the decision to give out free coffees.

I suggest:
1/ If you work in Waitrose, campaign to change the benefits that are offered to customers.

2/If you love your local coffee shop, go there for coffee and DON'T shop at Waitrose!

3/ If you are an independent coffee shop owner, support your local shops and do not shop in Waitrose. Tell your staff, your friends and family to boycott Waitrose.

4/If you are the Mum, Dad, family, friend of an independent coffee shop owner, boycott Waitrose.

5/ If you work in an independent coffee shop, please don't shop in Waitrose or John Lewis, their free coffee shenanigans, might mean you don't have job!

Waitrose present themselves as an ethical company that support the community, you can see for yourself that they are destroying the infrastructure of the community.

If you care about consumer choice and variety, if you care about ethics, then please boycott Waitrose and John Lewis and any other associated business.

Whilst you have money to spend, you still have a choice, hit Waitrose where it hurts, their profits.

They say they give free coffee as a reward, only to shoppers who do a majority of their grocery shopping with them, this is a lie, get a MyWaitrose Card and claim your free coffee everyday, without spending a single penny.

In fact, I would encourage you to go to Waitrose every day, for your free coffee, don't buy anything. Drink the coffee, or pour it away, especially if it tastes nasty, then go to your local independent coffee shop, and get them to fill your cup with their almost certainly better tasting coffee, made with experience, love and care and breathe in the smell of feeling good, breathe in the delight of being able to say NO to Waitrose and having the choice and power as a consumer to make your views known about unethical business practices.

The power of the pound in your pocket is a wonderful thing!
And nothing can replace a great tasting cup of coffee.

I hope you will support me in my Mindful Shopper campaign and use your free cuppa to help your local independent coffee shop to thrive!

There's a price to pay for coffee and if Mark Price the head of Waitrose prefers to ignore that, then he will ultimately pay the price!

I wonder what John Lewis, the founder of Waitrose, who came from Shepton Mallet, where I now have my second shop, would think about all this.

18 March 2014

Why I resigned from being on Shepton Mallet Town Council...

I have resigned from my position as an elected member of Shepton Mallet Town Council...because integrity is important to me.

I am PERSON, not a politician, which means I'll enjoy helping you and Shepton Mallet without being accused of doing it because I want to win an election!

The political tensions that are prevalent in Shepton Mallet Town Council, make me feel so distressed and uneasy, that I am unable to condone the operation of this town council, especially when issues such as Daniel White's job in Collett Park, have still not been properly resolved. Daniel's job is not a financial issue but an ethical and moral issue and I feel this aspect of consideration is being overlooked. I do not want to be a part of that.

There is a culture of bullying on the Town Council, where for instance our Town Clerk has been treated so appallingly and disrespectfully, that she had to take time off for work related stress. Not enough protection has been afforded to her from the aggressive comments being directed towards her. If I standby and do nothing, I might as well be one of the bullies.

The shambles of the Neighbourhood Plan has been controlled by one member of the Town Council in particular and is a perfect illustration of what is wrong. The objective of the plan is to listen to the people of the town and then enable them to express their wishes in a plan that would be accepted through a referendum. If the people of our town are not properly consulted, then this plan will not be voted for by the people. I cannot standby and support the short-sighted manner in which this plan has been handled.

Thank you to the Liberal Democrats who supported my campaign and many thanks to all the people, who voted for me by an overwhelming majority, even though I had only been in the town for just over 3 months. Your ongoing support and belief in me is amazing and I will continue to do my best for you, as an ethical, independent business woman in the town. I pledge that I will use my great sense of justice, my social media and communication skills and my vibrant personality, to help promote Shepton Mallet and to support the social causes that I believe in.

Most importantly, I'd like you to know that,

My ears are open to the wonderful people of this town, no matter of what political persuasion, I am ready to listen to you and help you, just as I was before being a councillor, when I was a councillor and now that I'm not a councillor!

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