Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Gone Fishing!

As the UK economy continues to implode and the mighty Sterling stoops to new lows, it would be easy to put up the 'gone fishing' sign and head off to warmer climes until the dark clouds of recession make way for the bright lights of recovery. This however would not be in keeping with the stiff upper lip we tea-drinking British are famous for. I agree that the current environment is throwing up certain challenges and it is a daily battle to extract hard-earned cash from consumers' pockets. It is safe to say that the days of frivolity are gone and I suspect that even when the bright lights begin to shine once more, the halcyon days of old shall not return in their entirety. It is therefore imperative for businesses to focus on value and by value I do not mean discounting but ensuring that customers appreciate and understand that they are receiving value for money in terms of product, service and environment. In my opinion, the knee-jerk reaction of many retailers to go down the heavy discounting route is a false economy and will only throw up issues in the future with regards to brand devaluation.

What this environment has forced a lot of small businesses to do is look very closely at how efficient they are. In boom times, it is easy to get caught up in the moment and spend turnover at the expense of profit. In this environment, such a strategy would be suicide. At Tea, we are in the process of cutting costs through driving efficiency and reviewing our supplier base. We intend to greet the bright lights of recovery in good enough shape to take advantage of the opportunites that are invariably going to be ripe for the picking.

Good luck and may the leaf be with you.


Tuesday, 3 February 2009

24 little hours

Today was far better than yesterday in terms of footfall although still around 20% down on an average Tuesday. It appears that although the snow has stopped falling, the aftermath of the silent assassin's reign of terror is still proving an obstacle for some London commuters. In an outward show of defiance, we cranked up the heaters, steamed up the windows and ensured that our customers had a welcome respite from the cold.

All the extra heat got me thinking of spring and with the changing of the season comes a change in the menu. So I locked myself in my tasting lab, which encroaches under St. Paul's Churchyard, and began experimenting with some iced teas. Our first attempt at iced tea (summer 2008) produced some startling results; our Lemon Green outsold the mighty Coca-Cola on a daily basis. I am therefore keen to get the ball rolling to see if we can repeat such a feat. And just to explain what a feat this was; we UK-based tea drinkers do not really do iced tea, unlike our US friends, who consume gallons of the stuff, so it was
indeed a pleasant surprise .

Watch this space for how we do in 2009! For now, all this talk of iced tea is making me thirsty...

Monday, 2 February 2009

Let it snow

Although stunningly beautiful, London is excrutiatingly ineffective in the snow. Footfall at the teashop was around 60% down on an average Monday. Not a great start to the week and it is expected to get worse before it gets better. We operated with skeleton staff and closed at 2pm, which is better than most of the businesses in the area as they could not even muster an operational team. On a positive note, people do tend to wear the oddest attire in adverse weather conditions. The array of Wellington boots, furry hats, and all-in-one ski suits were enough to ensure that the day was fun, which helped counteract the painfully slow trade. A further positive is that the weather seemed to bring a certain camaraderie between the plucky souls brave enough to make the effort: I managed 'good morning' to three complete strangers during my walk to the Tube. All was lost however once below ground, as it reverted to form exacerbated by the irregular running of trains. A couple of scuffles, the hurling of abuse and lots of pushing and shoving ensured it was Monday morning business as usual. Happy days.

Looking forward to seeing what the weather has in store for tomorrow. Not holding out for a vast change however. I may even get round to reviewing a tea, which would be nice....

PS The fact that we do not have any tables and chairs outside does not appear to be impacting our business.