Well, I’m in! My products are stocked at the East Cliff Creatives shop in Marine Walk Street, Hythe, Kent and I am doing my first shift. This is my dream - for about 15 years on lunch breaks from my office job, I have wandered the High Street looking wistfully at empty shops and dreaming of filling them with beautiful things - but honestly, without a lot of money behind me it probably wasn’t going to happen for a long long time to come - if ever.
When the opportunity came up to sell my goods in this beautiful little shop, just off the High street in Hythe, I jumped at it. It might seem a crazy time to put my items into a bricks and mortar shop. The High Street is slumping, after the effects of COVID-19 has forced businesses to go online. There are growing numbers of empty shops across the country and each one represents a business which has had to act very quickly to establish an online presence, or has disappeared altogether.
In the midst of the pandemic, however, I discovered there is strength in numbers. I became a member of the East Cliff Creatives, which is a collective of talented artists and makers in Folkestone and the surrounding areas - and in the face of the pandemic, they banded together to run not just one, but two shops which gives local people a place to sell their goods directly to the general public. (The other shop is in the Old High Street in Folkestone).
Some people think the High Street has had it’s day. But there is a real charm about being able to go into a shop, and luxuriate in using all your senses to choose the perfect gift. I don't know about you, but I have definitely missed that over the past year.
Online, you can never be sure if something is exactly as it appears. Does that handmade candle really smell great? Is that cushion really squishy? How big is that bag in real life? Maybe one day, going into a gift shop and buying something off the shelf will be a rare occasion. But I hope that day never comes, because the joy of running a creative business is having the opportunity to meet customers face to face, and for them to be able to see what you’re selling up close rather than through a screen.
In this post pandemic world, we need shops for the sake of human connections between makers and customers.