28 November 2014

Black Friday v Small Business Saturday

I've just watched a video of shoppers in Bradford pushing and shoving each other to the floor in the race to cram the biggest/newest/cheapest tv/playstation/gizmo into a supermarket trolley and elbow their way to a checkout where it will no doubt add to their mounting debt and New Year misery. And all in the name of Black Friday. 

Who thought that one up. It wasn't an independent trader that's for sure.

Small businesses like ours don't have 50% or 30% of even 20% to cut off our prices in a mad pre-Christmas promotion. When we price a walk guide book that figure has been carefully worked out to cover the cost of printing (we could get a cheaper deal by printing in China but we don't want to when there's a perfectly good printer less than 20 miles away in the Yorkshire Dales), of transport and distribution and research and licences to OS for the use of up to date maps and software and office costs and wages  ....well I could go on but you get the picture. 

It's the giants - the supermarkets, the online retailers, the Tescos and Amazons of this world, who play fast and loose with their pricing and ruin small businesses along the way. We, the supplier, don't get a say in the price the big boys charge or the discounts they offer. So when a walker searches online for Dales Way by Colin Speakman for instance they'll find it for sale on our website for £11.99 and on Amazon at £7.79 - a whopping 34% discount. 

We're grateful to every single customer who buys one of our books wherever you buy them from. Without you we wouldn't have this business that we love. We're not sitting in judgement about where you shop or how much you pay. But there is one thing you can do. Support Small Business Saturday on December 6th. 

Buy your books from the bookshop, your cheese from the deli, your bread from the baker and your gifts from the Makers Fair. It'll help keep us all going for another year and I promise you won't get crushed in the rush.

20 November 2014

Silver Linings

Some of you might remember how gutted I was when earlier this year I had to give up my allotment. Well just look at these!

A tiny crop of winter spuds grown in a pot. There are 10 more where these came from and I'm planning new potatoes for Christmas Dinner if they last that long.

The spuds join crops of strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, caulis, enough courgettes to open a restaurant, tomatoes, spinach, fennel, coriander, mint, chives, chillies and lettuce all grown in pots and tubs or corners of the garden. 

Yes, I still miss the peace and quiet of my canal side plot and the undemanding companionship of other gardeners but I've grown more this year than I ever managed in the allotment and I have it on good authority that two families are enjoying Plot 29.

Success all round wouldn't you say? 

17 November 2014

Seize the Day

I went for a walk on Thursday. Hardly earth shattering news, especially for a guide book publisher, but it taught me something important.

On Thursday morning my partner checked the weather forecast, packed a sandwich, grabbed his maps and said, I'm off for a walk, are you coming?

Nope, I shot back - I'm far too busy, too much to do, too short notice, it's alright for some people ...... 

Five minutes later I was running down the street, laces flapping, hat askew, shouting wait, wait, wait for me.

We fell onto the train in a flurry of coats and bags and sticks and dog and looked at each other.

What changed your mind?

I'm not sure. You set off and my heart just plummeted. My to-do list suddenly felt like a great weight around my neck and I knew I'd get nothing done. 

I'm not generally a spontaneous person. I like a plan, I enjoy organising outings and knowing what to expect. I love a diary with lots of things to look forward to and I rarely just up sticks and go. But I miss out. We run our own business and I work from home. There is no reason in the world that I can't seize the moment and go. Just look up at the sky and head for the hills and have fun.

And on Thursday that's just what I did. Took the train to Horton-in-Ribblesdale then followed the Pennine Way to Hawes where a welcome pint and the luxury of a ride back to Garsdale station in the Little White Bus awaited. Fourteen miles of buffeting winds and scudding clouds, of Cam Fell and Snaizeholme, of scenery and solitude and of fun. Now how easy was that.

Oh and by the way I got more done on Friday than I'd ever have thought possible. That to-do list is toast.