Lockdown wouldn’t have been a word I’d heard of last year but it is certainly one that we’re all very familiar with now. The Covid-19 pandemic has been something so sudden and so devastating that it has affected the lives of the majority of the world’s population. We are fortunate in Salisbury to be living in the region of the UK that has been the least affected but sadly there have still been fatalities in our local hospital so we, as a family and a business are taking the lockdown very seriously.
Back in March things were changing fast and I was having daily conversations with the staff about how we should change the way we were working in order to comply with the spirit of social distancing. On Sunday 22nd I made the decision that we would close the next day and that evening the prime Minister announced that all non-essential businesses would shut from 23rd March so at least we were ready. The next day was spent changing the shop displays so that the space would all be fresh for our reopening and on Tuesday evening I came home to start my new lockdown life.
Running a business single-handedly is great in so many ways. There is no one to hold you accountable, to nag or chivvy and the Casa Fina girls are all tremendously supportive and prop me up when things are tough. Time is the one thing I’m really not good at managing and I tend to fire fight and do those things that are on the urgent list. The gift of time has therefore been very precious and I have managed not only to tackle the regular household chores but those that hadn’t as yet climbed to the top of my list – cupboard and drawer sorting, photographs and computer files, dirty windows and, bless the sunshine, the garden.
I volunteered to be an NHS Volunteer Responder and subsequently a Wiltshire Community Volunteer thinking that I would be at a loose end but due to the incredible volume of people putting themselves forward I’m yet to be called. That may be just as well as I’m a director of the Salisbury Business Improvement District (BID) and there have been meetings and webinars filling my diary as we’ve been keeping up to date with daily government updates, grants, furloughs and loans. I have been teaching myself new social media techniques and working with Unstuck Design on a renewed website. ‘Zoom’ is another new word this year and I’m a big fan.
My shop paperwork, VAT and accounts are up to date, I have written a newsletter and five blogs and I am beginning to understand the challenges that might be ahead of us when we reopen. In 1983 my mother and I opened Casa Fina and for nearly 37 years the shop has been a traditional High Street store. This is a business model that has been going out of fashion for some years and in 2018 Casa Fina launched a new website which has a small and changing online shop. As my insurer requires me to check on the premises on a regular basis I have been able to fulfil the odd order taken by email or Instagram / Facebook message. I have delivered the goods on my way home, several have been collected at the door and I have sent some by courier. I’ve even had one lovely order from Belgium!
When our businesses are able to open it will be wonderful to welcome back our regular customers into the shop. We have been planning for social distancing and customer safety and it will be a very different environment, at least for the first few months. At the same time we will extend our online offer and will continue to sell via our social media channels. We now have some exciting plans. There are some great products on order including new Salisbury mugs and baubles to celebrate our wonderful city. We will be offering personal shopping opportunities, both privately in store and also remotely by email, text or video call. We will be rewarding our loyal customers and have ideas for fabulous Christmas events if we are able to invite more people into the shop by then.
So lock down life has been busy busy. I’ve tried not to worry and stress too much about things that I cannot control and have embraced the chance to live the slow life. My daily walks have mostly just been around our village but it has made me very thankful that we live in such a beautiful county and I have been able to witness the spring literally unfolding in a way that I would have missed if I had been at work. Strangely my house is not the tidiest that it has ever been ( I now recognise that the promise of family or friends popping in acts as a spur to get things done) but my garden looks great – I am winning the battle against ground elder and boy is that satisfying!
When we look back on this period in our lives it will be with sadness for those who didn’t survive or who lost loved ones, gratitude for those who kept on working to keep this country running and with determination that all the sacrifice will mean that we will learn and improve but also that we will appreciate the things that we took for granted before 2020.
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