Showing posts with label shopping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shopping. Show all posts

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The best boulangerie

The woman at the front of the queue was in full and belligerent flow. I don’t know who she was talking to on her mobile but she was certainly giving them what-for, effing and blinding away and yelling that she f…... wasn’t going to be treated like that.

The weary-looking shop assistant (at a chemist's in a nearby town) had clearly seen it all before. She didn’t turn a hair, just waited for the woman to finish ranting, raised her eyebrows ever-so slightly and then slapped her change into her hand. The loud-mouthed customer grabbed her shopping and stomped out without saying a word to the assistant. No thank you. No nothing.

I haven’t blogged about France for ages but it suddenly struck me how different shopping on the other side of the Channel is. At my favourite boulangerie the lovely proprietor is so charming that her devoted regulars don’t mind how long they wait to be served. Her freshly-baked baguettes and tartes aux framboises are so delicious that the lunchtime queue snakes out of the shop and down the pavement - but no one bats an eyelid, let alone complains about the wait.

When we get to the counter she always greets us personally, compliments my children on their French and smiles as we fumble for the right number of euros. She packs everything into exquisitely-wrapped paper parcels, tells us a bit about her time working as a hotel receptionist in London and wouldn’t dream of letting us leave without a cheery “au revoir, bonne journée.”

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Not on the High Street - the best place to buy presents

Setting up your own business (and turning it into a rip-roaring success) is tough. So hats off to Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker, who’ve turned a gem of an idea into a business with millions of customers and a cool £26 million turnover.

Sophie and Holly set up their shopping website six years ago. They both love browsing for the kind of unique, gorgeous things that “you might stumble across in cool urban markets, village fairs and tucked away boutiques” - and hit on the idea of launching a website where everyone can buy them.

When they started they had around 100 hand-picked small businesses on board. Now there are more than 3,000, with more joining by the day. I buy virtually all my presents from these days – from a More Than Words personalised bag (above) for my daughter to a stack of stunning blue and white bowls from Horsfall and Wright for my sister. The only trouble is that there are so many stunning items I can easily while away hours on the site.

It’s been a long, hard slog to build the business into the shining star it is today though. As Sophie (the daughter of bestselling novelist Penny Vincenzi) told Grazia magazine last week: “It wasn’t just us that needed to make this work, it was also the small businesses who had bought into us – they were relying on us.”

And now the duo have added a new string to their bow. They’ve learned so much over the years that they’ve written a guide for other budding entrepreneurs. Build a Business from your Kitchen Table came out last week and gives advice on everything from finance and investment to marketing and PR. So if you’re inspired by Sophie and Holly’s story and want to launch your own business, the first step could be to read their book…

Build a Business from your Kitchen Table by Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker (Simon & Schuster, £14.99)
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