Virtual Shopping comes to Chiswick

Leona and Mark Janson-Smith opened PostMark in Turnham Green Terrace five years ago. One of four shops, the first of which they opened in Balham fifteen years ago, they sell gift cards and stationery. They have been named best independent card retailer in London an unprecedented three times. Their other two shops are in East Dulwich and Greenwich.

PostMark has a website which handles online sales, which has most of their gift cards available on it – postmarkonline.co.uk – but, says Leona, not everything they sell is on there.

“There are lots of things which are too bulky to send in the post – some of the bigger things such as roll wrap, sheet wrap, party stuff such as balloons and candles, kids’ activity books and novelty stationery items”.

The post has also been problematic, so if you live locally, it’s much easier and cheaper to talk to them personally and then go and collect.

Images above: Mark and Leona receiving an award; interior of the shop in Chiswick 

Personal customer service and no hassle with posting

“We also wanted to connect with people” says Leona.

They are big on customer service; hence the virtual shopping idea. Having tried it successfully in the Balham shop, they tried it out here in Chiswick yesterday (7 May) and are planning the next one in Chiswick on Friday 15 May.

You ring and make an appointment, and Leona or Mark will walk round the shop showing you what they have in stock over the phone. It means you can have a proper look, they can take things out and show you, and you can ask questions. When you’ve made your selection, you pay over the phone and arrange a time to go and pick up your stuff.

“If on Sunday we’re given  a road map to reopen and we can bring some of our staff out of furlough we will be able to run virtual shopping days in Chiswick on a more regular basis. At the moment it’s just my husband and I working so we have to spread ourselves around”.

For Leona and Mark, installing a perspex screen around the till doesn’t work, as their desk is open on three sides and they need access to a trap door to their store room below, so when the shop reopens they will be wearing visors and gloves and offering customers hand sanitiser and wipes, letting only a few people in at a time.

Franking service available

A huge plus for many people is that they also act as a mini Post Office, offering stamps and a franking service – to weigh your purchase and give you a label so you can take it and post it the same day without first having to find a Post Office that’s open and then queuing ages.

Could this be the solution for many of Chiswick’s independent shops, which are too small to do social distancing effectively without drastically reducing footfall? Maybe we will see more ‘virtual shopping’ in Chiswick.

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See also: Fifty years of Foster Books 

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