We caught up with Tabi Marsh, owner of the Thornbury store, to discover how her business survived lockdown, how it feels to open again – and what’s selling well

Tabi, how did you cope when non-essential shops were told to close? We have a ‘disaster plan’ so put that into place, contacted all our suppliers with outstanding orders and invoices to maintain communication with them throughout the closure. Once we’d done all the HR bits of furloughing the team I had five days off to give my head a bit of space and then started the process of working out what to do online and start dreaming for the future, as well as our stock take.

How did you find government support? Furloughed all staff and took out a bounce back loan – although, having applied right at the beginning, it only appeared the week before we reopened!

Did you have an online presence to keep a revenue stream flowing? We didn’t, but managed to sell most of our Easter chocolate via Facebook and local doorstep delivery. A lovely customer also offered to write and post greeting cards for us, so I gave her a box and would tell her which card had been sold via social media and postage details.

Lesser & Pavey

I continued with social media and developed a web shop, that we launched a few weeks before reopening. This is now there to help us for the future and any localised lockdown.

Any other changes you made during this time? We did a refit in our fashion room that had been scheduled for last September but hadn’t managed to happen. We’ve also cleared out the massive 40-foot storeroom outside that hasn’t been sorted since the original owners in the 70s. Our plan is to do a bit of building work and split it in two to give us a workshop space that can be rented out as another revenue stream.

How have you found the reopening process? Customers are happy we are open, but after the first week footfall has dropped. A few customers have refused to use the hand sanitiser and walked out, but for the safety of everyone we are insisting on people using it upon entering. Half of our business is a cafe and the reopening procedures for that is a whole other ball game! Whatever happens we are still striving to do what we do best which is excellent customer service and a shop that is welcoming to all. 

How are stock levels at the moment? We have been restocking our cards and a few other lines to bolster stock levels to help with running a webshop efficiently. We’ve also been buying in a few extra things like kids’ games and hair accessories, as these are areas that are now in higher demand. 

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