Friday, 9 November 2018

Getting snippy on the High Street

There's an interesting counter to the gloomy story of the 'inevitable' decline on the British High St. While some of the big chain stores have faltered and closed, usually due to mis-management, shops dealing in personal services and non-alcoholic meet-up spaces appear to be doing well:

"Barbers, beauty salons, shoe repairs, ice cream parlours and coffee shops were among the retail sectors to see increases in shops opening in the first half of 2018, according to retail intelligence business the Local Data Company."

Some shops like this are combining their sales, such as the vintage barber at Vagabond's in Stoke-on-Trent who offers a vintage beer option with every haircut. Presumably there's also a nice ginger beer on offer in the chiller, for those who don't drink.

What else could be sold to the older gent, that they can't get more easily on eBay on Amazon and through the letter-box, and which wouldn't get the shop in 'change of use' trouble re: the planning and zoning regulations?

Walking sticks and suchlike are out of the question. True, you wouldn't want to get a walking stick through the post, but at the same time they take up space, are awkward to display, and would sell only rarely. Collapsible seat-bearing 'flipsticks' might be another matter, since one would on need to have one display-model out front. These enable one to have a sit and a breather when walking, even if no seating is around or it's only a bum-numbing mesh-grid, or the metal-box type now plonked around the centre of Hanley. If not needed for carrying or sitting, they can be slipped into a bag.

But such things are not an ongoing regular purchase. Once thirty of your regulars have them, you're not likely to sell many more.

Perhaps a curated little rack of difficult-to-find print magazines, with nostalgia value? The small Commando booklet-comics, perhaps. What bloke of a certain age wouldn't be tempted to try one of those, from a rack displaying titles guaranteed by the barber to have a combo of the best art and the best writing. Once they'd read a classic such as The Long Chase, they'd be wanting more. The publishers of Commando might even offer barber shops their own little fold-and-slot stand of classic titles, that could hang on a wall. Each purchased copy would have a voucher inside with a discounted year's subscription and a flyer for The Oldie. The barber would be given a small commission for each subscription taken out, for either title.

That might not be for all such barbers, of course, and many will have a clientele more interesting in sports, fishing and gardening. And selling to older men is generally difficult, which is why the high street is so geared to other market segments. But that leaves a gap which is not being catered for, and ideas such as those above show how barbers might 'up their game' in terms of repeat-sales of 'small pleasures', and how these might then be leveraged into bigger purchases such as annual subscriptions.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Slightly soiled

Coming soon, as part of Stoke-on-Trent City Council trimming its budget...

"Introduction of charges for soil, plasterboard and rubble at household waste and recycling centres – saving £120,000."

I'm rather surprised to hear that it's been free, until now, but then I've no need to use such tips and thus don't know about such things. I guess this new charge may possibly affect allotment holders, re: getting rid of bags of soil that's been contaminated with something or other that's not toxic but is still unwanted. Though, in reality, you'd probably just build a mound or bank somewhere on the allotments site with the soil, and then turf over it.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Manifesto for Wildlife

Just published, Chris Packham's A Manifesto for Wildlife. He asked 20 people what their "top 10" measures would be. His choice of people was obviously highly selective, and as a result a lot of the document seems to be a front for "anti-hunting and shooting" / "anti-farmer" / "more laws, bans, taxes and Big Government" leftist types. Wildlife often seems to get a little lost among the political axe-grinding. But the following picks would be my do-able practical measures from the document, in no particular order:

"Hedgerow trees to be celebrated and replenished – today they are almost uniform in age, and are not being replaced as they die."

"Focus on increasing domestic fruit and vegetable production with special support for small-scale producers."

"Identify no-dig Root Protection Areas (RPAs) around valuable trees and protect them."

"All new-build estates must have a pond".

"In areas designated as nature reserves, dogs – with the exception of assistance dogs – to be banned. On areas or footpaths adjacent to nature reserves, dogs should be on their leads at all times. ... [serviced] dog-walking hotspots should be established to attract owners away from a wildlife-sensitive area".

"A small increment on benefit payments (from universal credit to pensions) in return for hours worked on local wildlife conservation" or litter picking in green spaces etc.

"Every primary school in Britain to be twinned long-term with a farm".

Either give up and "downgrade all National Parks to Upland Nature Areas", or else give them real powers to actually protect and boost nature. Such as by robustly excluding damaging human activity (e.g, motorbikes, trail bikers, mountain-bikers, dog walkers, cars) from key areas.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

National Allotments Week, starts 13th August

The National Allotments Society has a National Allotments Week, Monday 13th August to Monday 20th August 2018. Nicely timed for the easing of our very dry summer.

Friday, 27 July 2018

The drenching

After all the hysterical weather-warnings from the Met Office over the last month, here comes the real thing at last. The drenching begins 8pm tonight, with torrential thunderstorms rolling in over the weekend and set to be especially wet on Sunday.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Doing fine

Convoluted legal attacks on pro-Brexit campaigners are backfiring in a big way. Instead of a £20,000 fine being something to fear, it turns into a means of raising money for the cause. Darren was fined £20,000 at the behest of the EU (on what sounds like very questionable grounds), but this fine fellow now has £42,000 raised to cover it — and there's still a month to go.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Buxton Community Farm saved

Buxton Community Farm has been saved, for now. The local Council still want cash for the site, but it appears that the option of community-ownership will now be given first refusal.

Friday, 20 July 2018

National Garden Festival badge

Lovely enamel badge, produced for the National Garden Festival in Stoke-on-Trent.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Kempthorne Docklands

Kempthorne bloody Docklands. Seriously? Which idiot thought that one up?

I suppose we should be thankful it's not Brendan Nevin Bunkers.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Maplins off the map

It's a pity to see Stoke's Maplins electronics shop close down. The similar PC World store on Festival Park has also been gone for a year or two now, and that's still empty. But I can't imagine that the same fate will befall the former Maplins, what with the shop space being on a prime town-centre site opposite Sainsbury's. Let's just hope we don't get even more dubious hippies setting up on that stretch.

Maplins and PC World were both nice to browse the aisles of, if only to keep up-to-date with what was available in affordable tech and gadgets. But I guess those days are gone, and the best options now for Stokies are:

1) For electronic widgets, sockets and wires too big for the letter-box, eBay's arrangement with the Sainsbury's Argos facilities. This allows the buyer to collect eligible small-packages from Sainsbury's Argos counter in Stoke. Although the time-out on that can be a bit tight, and if you don't get there sharpish after you order then you'll find "it's been sent back, duck".

2) For basic things like a new computer mouse and keyboard, and the occasional January Sale blink-and-it's-gone bargain, the nearest best option is probably the Staples superstore on the eastern edge of Festival Park.

3) For PC owners and courier-phobics, who need something more substantial and delicate (a new hard-drive, monitor or even a new PC), the best local alternative option is probably now Overclockers in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Overclockers are a well-regarded national PC-centric gaming hardware company, with HQ and public counter and display-space on the outskirts of the town. They make some good value gaming PCs, and have just this month taken the plunge into making well-reviewed graphics workstations for home office-based artists, graphic designers and 3D animators.