Retail: “I’ve never had to work so hard in my life”

Image above: Sally Price at Insider Dealings; photograph Anna Kunst

Retailers have had a tough year. Trying to work out whether what they sell is ‘essential’ or not (flower stalls weren’t essential but garden centres were); redesigning their premises to lay out social distancing, refitting them with screens to protect their till staff and customers; closing, opening, closing again … Most have benefitted from business grants, a hold on business rates and furlough payments, but they’ve still had to pay a quarter of staff costs, rent and other overheads.

We’ve talked to three Chiswick retailers to see how they’ve fared.

Image above: Insider Dealings, 135 Chiswick High Rd; Interior design scheme

Insider Dealings

Sally Price, who owns the interior design shop Insider Dealings says she’s never worked so hard in all her life. She’s been at 135 Chiswick High Rd for 27 years. The shop is long and narrow and is a treasure trove of fabrics and colours. She’s been able to talk to people at the door, and carries on conversations with people pointing at things through the window.

She’s been working on her own a lot during the past year, as her staff have been furloughed for periods. The furlough payments have been a godsend, she says, but has left her working quite a bit by herself.

“It’s been unbelievably exhausting. I haven’t had a day off” she told The Chiswick Calendar.

Her work relies on her being able to meet people, showing them fabrics, feeling fabrics and measuring up. Technically interior design is considered part of the construction industry, so she could go into people’s houses, but she’s managed, more than she initially thought she would, to do quite a lot of work without visiting her clients’ homes.

She’s worked mainly with clients who she’s worked with before, with a few new clients. Everything has taken much longer, everybody’s working much more slowly. Instead of getting back to her straight away it’s been “we’ll get back to you when we can.” Overall the business has done half its normal turnover.

Origin 40

Origin 40 are not sure if they’re essential. They think they are – Holland and Barrett are open – and they sell products which are similarly bought for the purposes of health and well being. But they decided to err on the side of caution and stay closed, they told us, opening only for specific appointments and for click and collect.

Origin 40 opened the doors of its Chiswick shop at 288 Chiswick High Rd in July 2020, selling products which contain cannabis extract. Initially called ‘Beleaf’, it changed its name in January 2021.

The Chiswick store, the second Origin 40 shop to open in the UK, holds over 170 different products, from creams and balms, to drops, oils, chocolates and tonics, curated, they say, from some of ‘the largest and most reputable’ producers from across the globe.

Managing Director Marcus Fox told The Chiswick Calendar that whereas before most of their customers had come to them with complex, chronic illnesses such as arthritis, seeking relief from pain and discomfort, during the pandemic they’ve found that people have come to them almost exclusively for mental health reasons – looking for help dealing with stress and anxiety, or because they’re unable to sleep.

“Most of our customers want to have conversations. The majority have heard about products and want to come in and find out more about them”.

People who are already customers are happy to re-order online but overall he estimates that while the shop has been closed they’ve only been doing about a quarter of the business they were when it was open. Despite that, the company is planning to open two new shops in central and west London, believing that business will be booming when they reopen.

Origin 40 is a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme, offering a 10% discount to our card holders. Telephone: 07851 246767 / Email: Use the promotional code CALENDAR10 for purchases.

Image above: Chiswick Camera Centre; staff, with Andy in the centre

Chiswick Camera Centre

Chiswick Camera Centre has had a particularly bad year. Not only have they been closed, offering click and collect and mail order only, but they lost £40,000 in a break-in in November. Closed from April to June; open from July to October; then closed again for November with just two weeks’ trade in December, owner Andy Sands reckons they are at least 50 – 60% down on the previous year.

Andy is himself an expert wildlife cameraman. Photographers come to him as much for his advice as anything. To enable him to be competitive selling new equipment, he makes very little profit on new equipment but makes more on second hand gear.

When his shop at 4 Chiswick Terrace, Acton Lane, was broken into, he lost a lot of second hand stock. The insurance company only paid him cost price, so he has lost out on the profit he was relying on from those sales.

He’s been grateful for the Chancellor’s business grants and has claimed 80% self-employed profits. His staff have been furloughed and one has taken redundancy at his own request. He’s in the shop on his own handing the click and collect purchases from 10.00 – 2.30pm. He’s seen his online sales increase and has been doing a lot of click and collect trade.

“I am hoping that when we reopen we stay open. After the first lockdown there were a couple of quiet weeks and then we were very buoyant.

“There are people out there with cash in their pockets, who haven’t been able to spend it on holidays or restaurant meals. I am hoping they will spend it on their hobbies”.

Chiswick Cameras is a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme, offering a 10% discount to our card holders on all camera accessories.

Telephone: 0208 995 9114 / Email:

If the roadmap continues to go to plan the shops will be open again on Monday 12 April (13 April for Chsiwick Camera Centre, as they are normally closed on Mondays).

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: A year of pandemic – how has Chiswick fared?

See also: Clare Balding – I’ve never been at home as much as this

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