By Kate Marsden
I’m keeping it local this week and heading to a shop that’s walking distance from my house! Calladoodles in Carshalton Village has been a fixture around here for longer than I have, and owner Clare and her shop have become integral parts of the local creative community. It’s always great to see the work of so many of my artist friends on sale alongside a wide range of cards and gifts.
At a time when plenty of shops in Carshalton have come and gone, Clare talks about the importance of the Just A Card campaign, knowing your local customers and more…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
My name is Clare and I am the founder of a small card and gift shop in Carshalton Village, Surrey.
What does a typical day involve?
Getting the kids up and ready for school and nursery. Then juggling everything else around that! I run our online shop, so will check up on orders and emails and then (depending on which day of the week it is) I'm in and out of the bricks and mortar shop as often as possible or on the phone to my colleagues sorting orders.
Where do you work? What is your shop like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I work at Calladoodles. I set up our little card and gift shop nearly 9 years ago now with my Mum.
Considering how little it is, we have a huge range of cards and lots of special gifts. We try to embrace our local artists' work and have a growing 'local artists corner'. I love meeting the people who make our cards and products. We are so lucky to have some fantastic stockists and reps who make our work fun.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing shop/gallery owners at the moment?
Since the moment we opened we have been relying on people to visit their local high street. Foot fall and loyal customers are our bread and butter! Without customers we are finished.
Carshalton High Street sits just across from the beautiful ponds and park. Although it does have a great community feel, there is always that worry about high street shops closing down. We have watched several neighbouring shops on our street shut down over the years. It's always sad to see them go and also to see our high street try and recover each time. We are still here but we never feel complacent.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
Over the next few years we would like to keep doing what we are doing whilst also growing our online shop. While my children are both quite little it's hard to make grand plans! But as my time frees up, I hope to create some of our own designs. It's something I've always wanted to do. My friend Louise and I have designed wrapping paper and cards in the past and it's definitely something I would love to do more of.
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Times are changing all the time! I'd probably say they need to make sure they know their customers. If you're setting up a shop make sure you know your area and what the local people are looking for. If you don't have your local customers on board it will be tough. Speak to people and even more importantly listen. Oh and don't forget why you wanted to do this in the first place. Whenever we hit bumps along the way, I think back to the beginning and why we started this and it helps us all stay true to our core values and beliefs.
As for online businesses - we are learning as we go. We only launched our online shop last year. I'd say making links with like-minded businesses is helpful and joining campaigns like this one. As a small business, it's easy to get lost! We need to stick together.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
We know that a card is the tip of the iceberg! At Christmas time we talked a lot about #justabauble - it's certainly not just about cards in our view (although cards are our speciality!) Any small business knows, it doesn't take a lot. We rely on our regular, loyal customers who just pop in for a birthday card or a candle to keep us here. Without them, we are finished. It's all too easy for people to go to the huge supermarkets and stock up on everything but we want people to save our high streets. It's the small independent businesses that make your high streets colourful and special.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
Just A Card is vital. As I've said above, without it people easily forget. We all need reminding that every little purchase makes a difference to a small business. We all have a choice too. Do we want an interesting high street with unique shops, gifts and cards? Or do we want the same shops, with the same products on every high street across the country?
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?
It's hard to remember but I think it must have been from you, Kate Marsden? It feels like the Just A Card campaign should have been here forever?! (You can find Calladoodles on Instagram here.)
What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
Anyone can support #justacard by visiting the small shops and businesses. If you don't use them you'll lose them. We only exist because of our wonderful customers.