Do you know a little person who is mad about Thomas? Do you really want to be popular this Christmas? Then thrill him or her with a 'Thomas' themed present. As you know, we have a very extensive range of Thomas Diecast models, together with a whole range of items, from baby rattles to haversacks, all bearing the logo of 'Thomas' or his friends. Many people have said that they can find things in our shop that they can't get anywhere else, and we always do our best to order it if we don't have it in stock. So think of us first, and save yourself a lot of unnecessary trudging around shops in town. We also have plenty of stocking fillers to keep the little ones occupied on Christmas Day.
For the difficult 'man who has everything' - what about a video or DVD reflecting the past days of rail travel? Alternatively, we stock the '1st Take' videos featuring motor sport, Concorde, or memories of areas around Bristol. We also have a range of scale model engines which would grace any mantelpiece or china cabinet (for those who still have a mantelpiece or china cabinet).
If you really don't know what to buy, then how about a gift voucher to be spent after the Christmas rush is over, when time can be spent browsing at leisure around the shop. You could also purchase a voucher for membership for a friend or relative.
Don't forget that, if you are a member you can ask for a ten per cent discount on any transaction in the shop above the value of £5 - on production of your current membership card. So, Happy Shopping!
At the time of going to press we have not been able to compare the shop takings with 2002. However Dot is reasonably confident that we have surpassed last year's income. Much of this has come from the sale of Thomas goods, and we are beginning to earn the reputation, mainly by word of mouth, of being the shop to come to if you want anything related to"Thomas". Many people have apparently scoured Bristol for certain items, but have found what they wanted in our shop! Even so, having visited the shop at the Glos and Warks Railway after Christmas, Dot noted many lines which we cannot obtain from our current supplier Fortunately their shop manager is happy to tell us where we can buy a wider range of items. In particular, we may well have a market for the Thomas party paperware in view of the number of children's birthday parties we run at the Railway!
The resin 00 gauge models which we have in the display case have also been a great attraction since they were introduced. The livery models have gone very well but we are left with a few of the pewter and bronze ones. They seem to be attractive to all age groups, and one mother actually purchased a Mallard for her five year old son. On pointing out to her that they were actually only models for display and not for play, she insisted that her son was most definitely an "anorak" and would be thrilled just to look at it on his mantelpiece! At a cost of £35 she must have been very confident of this! Will this young chap be helping to run our Railway at some time in the future, we wonder?
With the end of our Financial Year at the end of January it is time for stocktaking. Dot is currently trying to catch up with recording a backlog of incoming stock purchased during 2003. Please treat her gently for the next few weeks. She reports that one of her New Year resolutions is not to fall so far behind in future!
Help and Advice needed. Although the shop was refurbished with new shelving last year, there are still improvements which could be made to the counter itself in order to make more room behind it.. Dot has some ideas herself but would be grateful for advice and help from the carpenters amongst you, as now is the time to do this sort of work, before the start of the new season. Also the window between the Booking Office and Shop needs to be repaired, as since the sash snapped, the window has become more like a guillotine. Its only time before a part of someone's anatomy is removed! Any offers to repair this will be gratefully received.
Magazines : There is a market for railway magazines from the 1970s and earlier and we are happy to receive them. However, please note that we cannot take magazines from the 1980s to the present day as their only use is to be turned to pulp. Railway books, however, are always welcome.
"The only way is up", or in other words "Reach for the Sky Hooks!"
You may wonder why I have given this article this particular title. Those of you who have visited the shop since its refurbishment may notice that we have no storage cupboards now beneath the counters, these having been taken over by new shelving , which is being utilised for selling space. We can now accommodate most of our stock on these shelves, but there is always a surplus which has to go somewhere - that somewhere is above - above the reach of even the tallest of our members, necessitating ladder climbing, and clambering. Although I' m not too bad on a ladder, I've been very grateful for my husband, David's, interest in the Shop, and I am very happy to leave the organisation of the stock to him, with my basic input being the ordering of stock on his advice, and rostering of staff etc. I nearly forgot to mention that we do have some additional storage space, on the windowsill behind the new shelving, found inadvertently just before the Thomas weekend, when, because the goods were piled too high on the top shelves, a box of Thomas balls found their own resting place there. We puzzled for a long time how we might retrieve these valuable items without dismantling the whole wall of shelving.
However, after Thomas, when all the stock had been sold and the shelves were more accessible, hubby managed somehow to haul them up, along with some other items that we didn't even know had taken the same course! We shall have to be very careful in future that this gap does not become our 'Room 101'!
Talking of Thomas, this was our best ever weekend yet - when you consider that our normal weekend takings are on average £300-£400, the Thomas weekend in the shop grossed £6,600! Admittedly, we did have a second outlet in the dock area, but this was responsible for about £1,000 of those takings - the poor old cash register in the shop, which I suspect is even older than I, performed "sterling" work and greedily ate the money proffered by our eager customers. In fact, it soon became evident on the Sunday, that to avoid our customers being crushed, or suffocated, it was necessary to police the door to the shop, only allowing groups in when others came out. Most of our customers had not realised just what little room there was in the shop and were very understanding about having to wait in a queue, so that when they did go in they would be able to actually see the stock on the shelves! My thanks to those who manned the shop and the outside sales stand on those two hectic days - your efforts are very much appreciated.
We are trying to open the shop every Saturday and Sunday, and although the takings will never match a Thomas day (thank goodness or I'd never manage to keep the shop stocked up) - it is still a steady income. This, however, means our volunteers have to cover these weekends, and although we have a very loyal team on whom I can call, I am always happy for any offers of help from existing or new members to help spread the load, especially for Saturdays. It is not physically exhausting - you won't be expected to climb ladders - and you do have somewhere to perch to take the weight off your feet, so if you want to give it a try please let me know.
We haven't been doing as many outside sales stands as we have in the past, but we recently attended an excellent talk given by David Shepherd, organised by the West Somerset Railway where we were invited to have a stand. This took place at the BAWA Club in Filton (British Aircraft Welfare Association, I think). We took along our information leaflets and a small selection of our own logo goods, key rings, fridge magnets etc. which were somewhat thrown together hastily at the end of a running day.
As a last minute thought I added a couple of "Concorde" videos by 1st Take because of our venue, and am pleased to say that we sold one of them - I think this is called targeting the product to the customer? Most people were of course, mostly interested in purchasing David Shepherd's prints, sketches and books, and we hope he did well, as it was in aid of restoring his engine "Black Prince". David Cole was delighted to win a family ticket for the East Somerset Railway in the raffle! Our contribution to the raffle was a family ticket for the first public train to Avon Riverside!
Grand Extension Draw
Thank you to all of you who have helped to sell tickets on the train for this summer draw - you will be pleased to know that your efforts brought in approximately £1,100, and together with members' contributions through the post, which were £528, we grossed £1,635.00. Of this £400 went out in prizes, so we have certainly cleared £1,200 for the Trust. We shall, however, be starting the Christmas Draw with the commencement of the Santa's on the 29 November, and I hope that all of you who have sold raffle tickets for us in the past on the train will be able to give us some time again. This is the time of year when people are feeling generous, and with not too much effort we can bring in about £3,000 for the Trust. We just need to ensure that we have every train covered, so please let us know if you are able to help.
TALES FROM RETAIL
Six months on into my first year managing the shop, I am beginning to feel as if I have never had the break of eight years between the end of running the Buffet and beginning of managing the shop. I have renewed my acquaintance with so many people, with whom I had lost contact over those years, both members of the Railway and regular visitors, that the period between seems non existent. I have also made many new friends, some of whom have become much valued members of the volunteer workforce, helping with the shop and other activities at the Railway such as the "Steam 'n' Cuisine". I am delighted to say that we have a really excellent team of volunteers now helping with the shop, although, as always, I would be grateful for any extra offers of help in this respect, particularly if anyone is prepared to open the shop on a Saturday, as at present we do not have the staff to do this, and I know it would increase our takings greatly were we able to do so.
In fact, I hate to mention the word "Christmas", but I have to start thinking about this now, and I am going to have to find staff to open the shop on Saturdays as well as Sundays throughout December. In past years I have been one of the small team who enjoys selling raffle tickets on the train at Christmas - it really is a very easy task, as almost all of our visitors are very amenable to helping the Railway in this way at this festive time of year - but if I am needed to serve in the shop, then the Railway could miss out on much needed funds, as it takes two people to get through a full train selling raffle tickets. We actually took £2,250 on the trains last year out of gross takings, I believe in the region of £3,000, with only three of us trying to cover every running day. You can, therefore, see how important it is for us to pursue this as an effective way of raising money. I am, therefore, appealing to anyone who can help either with the shop, or selling raffle tickets, to give the Railway our support and contact me or Gary as soon as possible. We could perhaps have people covering the shop for half a day and selling raffle tickets for the other half to enjoy a bit of variety!
I am talking about Christmas now, as I don't believe the 'Semaphore' will be out before our next Thomas weekend in October, which we hope will be as successful as the May Thomas. It is the main event for the Shop, as that is the time when we take the most money - May 2002 saw us taking £4,200 over the two days, and we certainly have a target to reach to match the previous October 2001 takings which were £4,300!
Do think of making our shop a visit when you are considering your Christmas shopping list -you may find you can satisfy a lot of your present needs with a leisurely browse of our shelves, and you will be helping your favourite charity at the same time. We are hoping to increase our range of own name products in time for the Christmas season and, don't forget, we can obtain a variety of Tee shirts, sweat shirts, jumpers etc to order, or even have your own garment embroidered with the logo to make that very personalised gift for someone special!
Although there are plans ahead to revamp the shop in order to maximise our selling area, I am not sure at the time of writing this whether these will come to fruition this year, as there is only a very small window of time available when this sort of work can be carried out, particularly as we are now running trains on the Wednesdays of the half term school holidays at the end of October. I certainly hope though that our "closed" season in January and February will see these improvements made - more news of this in a later edition.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers who have come forward for the shop so far, as they have made it a pleasure for me to do this job, and I am extremely grateful for their loyal support.
TALES FROM RETAIL
It must be about eight years since I last wrote an article for Semaphore in my capacity as Catering Manageress, and those of you long enough in the tooth will remember that I used to entitle it Food for Thought - a phrase I thought at the time appropriate, if a little hackneyed!
Eight years on, and I now find myself searching for an alternative title to attract your interest enough to read further - if you can come up with a more original and punchy heading for me to use, then Ill treat you to what better incentive than a piece of Robbies excellent chocolate cake and a cup of tea when you come to the station!
You will have gathered from Bobs article, if you have read it in the Semaphore before this one, or even perhaps from what I have just said, that after an eight year rest from Railway matters, I have volunteered to take on management of the Shop.
With Hubby now spending all his waking retirement hours at Bitton Station, its become a case of if you cant beat em, join em. So, in spite of the fact that Im still having to do a proper job, albeit a part time one, in order to keep us in the manner to which we have become accustomed!, I might as well take on a new challenge so that I have something to occupy me when I retire - sometime, whenever or if ever!
Bob and Olive will be a hard act to follow, as they have put a tremendous amount of effort into keeping the shop open, along with all their other commitments to the Railway, but I hope that my taking this on will give them more time to concentrate on the other, more demanding tasks of the new AVR Heritage Trust.
I would like to see the shop become as profitable a source of income to the Railway as catering already is, but this can only be done with team effort, and in actually having the shop open to the public. My first task is, therefore, to raise that team, as I have only inherited a small number of volunteers, whose assistance is greatly valued, but who cannot be expected to cover the opening hours we envisage for the future. I do not want to be obliged to spend all my weekends actually serving in the shop, although I aim to be there as often as I can - that would not be managing, so much as running it single handed. We need a good team of volunteers - at least ten people - on whom I can call on a rota basis, so that no-one need feel that they are being asked to do too much, unless of course they wish to.
Would you like to play a part in this challenge by volunteering to serve in the shop? - remuneration is nil, but the rewards are camaraderie, and a sense of achievement at contributing in a positive way to your Railway. Age is no barrier, from teenagers to third-agers will be welcomed with open arms (we already have one lady who I hope wont mind me saying, that she is an octogenarian, and is an excellent sales lady). All we ask is that you are reasonably numerate, and are prepared to learn to use a very simple cash register, for which training will be given.
Please, be bold. Dont hesitate. Pick up the phone now and ring me either at home on 0117 9690654 (Ive a BT answer phone system so will call you back if you leave your name and number) or ring me at the Station on 0117 9325538 generally on Mondays and Fridays. I really look forward to receiving lots of calls and making lots of new friends.
Thats probably enough from me this time. I could waffle on about our plans for the shop and how we hope to make it a much more inviting place to visit and work in, but Ill leave that to the next issue when I shall have had a few major weekends under my belt. Oh I do hope I shall have that team helping me for both those events, so please do ring soon!
Following several years of managing the shop and establishing a good retail income for the railway, it became more difficult for Olive and I to run the shop and carry out our other responsibilities.
We have given up the management of the shop from January, and Dot Bryant has now been appointed by the Trading Company to manage the shop.
We will still both be helping to serve in the shop as well as working on the gardens and being Chairman of the Trustees. We wish Dot all success and thank everyone for the help they have given us.
One of the last things we did was to apply to 'Severnside Heritage Trust', which is run by one of our shop suppliers, for a grant to improve our retail facilities. We are very pleased to say that a grant of £500 was made which was presented to us at a recent event held by the supplier 'Severnside Wholesalers Ltd'.
Bob & Olive Hitchings.
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This page last updated by Tony Wray on 14/1/2004.
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