“The times they are a changing” sang Bob Dylan in 1964. And he was right. And since then lots has changed, and the pace of change has left many by the wayside wondering what the hell just happened. But change is up there with Death & Taxes I’m afraid, unavoidable and forced upon us.
Companies that we have known all our lives like Woolworths are gone and others are just hanging on. Peoples shopping habits have changed very quickly, sped up by the recession. Technology is allowing the internet to become our new High Street, and large discount stores are wiping out whats left of our town centres. It’s not about service or product any more, just price. Who can sell items cheaper than their competitors, just stack them high and sell them cheap.
We have had to do a lot of head scratching here at Catstycam. We are turning over less than half what we were before the recession and the rise of the internet and discount stores gave us a good kicking. Redundancys have been made, ranges tightened up and plans that would cost money to implement dropped.
I have been wondering if an independant Outdoor Shop in a Lakeland Village is just not relevant any more. People do their shopping online and at discount stores, and every high street has a few Outdoor Shops so people are sorted before they get here. I always thought an Outdoor Shop in a destination place like Ullswater would be the safest business going, but I didn’t recon on our old mate Change stirring things up and doing his evil work.
We can no longer afford to hold more expensive items as we can’t match the internet and discount stores on price, and if it doesn’t sell then we have wasted a big percentage of our budget. We can not afford to have permanent staff any more, paying wages through the quiet winter months would wipe out any money made in the sumer. Georgia is still with us though, running the Pooley Bridge shop and helping me with Glenridding when she can. And good old Chris (of the more sureal blogs) covers our days off so the shops are always in safe hands and the quality of service we offer is consistantly excellent.
But I don’t want to leave you with the impression we are on our way out. We have been massively affected by outside influences, and had to change the way we run the business and the stock we hold, but we are still here and plan to be for many years to come. As the business has shrunk, we have become more of what we started out as. An old fashioned Outdoor Shop keeping people safe and comfortable on the hills above Ullswater. You will get served by Georgia, Chris or me (I’m not being big headed but we are all very good at looking after our customers) rather than any seasonal Saturday staff so you will always get the best service.
By making these changes and tightening up the way we operate we will be here at Glenridding, Pooley Bridge and online for years to come. I am very proud of Catstycam and the reputation we have earned over the years. I am proud to be an independant retailer in a corperate world where chains shout about the great service they offer but fall well short of the service always offered by independants.
So next time you are walking around Ullswater and your boots/jacket/gloves/laces/map/gaiters fail, don’t worry because there are still a couple of excellent Outdoor Shops to supply you with the correct replacements at a sensible price. We are still relevant in this modern corporate age, just a scaled down version of our old self, concentrating on service and looking after our customers the old fashioned way.