Christmas is an amazing time of year for most people, unless you are an independent retailer and then its a stressful nightmare.
Financially the Christmas period is a juggling game of cash flow, with goods arriving in August which may not start to sell until late November/December. That’s at least three months of stressful bills with few sales until a few weeks before Christmas, when it all kicks off.
It is a hectic and stressful mixture of predicting pre-ordered stock that you hope to sell, mixed in with massive overheads such as business rates, utility bills, wages etc. It’s that age old saying “If you’ve not got it, then you can’t sell it.” On top of all that financial stress, you have the added stress of sending out goods to people on tight deadlines hoping that they don’t get lost in the postal network and hoping customers don’t pretend that they haven’t had the goods when they have. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve caught people out on fraud!
It is truly a fine art balancing everything and still offering the best customer service you can, whilst keeping a roof over your businesses head!
Well it’s the Thursday before Christmas, December the 20th, and I’m sat feeling like death on the sofa after coming home an hour early from work. Long days and nights working are taking their toll on me. I’ve a low immune system and I’m having treatment tomorrow and god, don’t I know I need it. Two other staff members have had a day off each due to illness, but I work for myself so taking a day off work isn’t an option, especially at Christmas. So I carry on the best I can covering their job roles and my own.
Suddenly the door bell rings and its my friend holding out a packet of cough sweets. I’m thankful as now someone’s in to make me tea, but mustering up the energy to become sociable is harder than I think. Like a vegetable I’m sat there unable to do much as Tams, my friend, runs round fetching me tablets, food and drink – my husbands gone to Milton Keynes snowboarding with the staff and team which when you are this ill, is a blessing as I just wanted to die quietly on the sofa.
We nattered, but Tam’s knew I was slowly dying from a cold and kept saying she’d leave. I had treatment in the morning in Oxford which I had to get up early for, and had zero energy. I remember sat wondering how I was going to even manage getting up in the morning at that point.
Unfortunately we hadn’t sat down and nattered just the two of us in months, so had lots to talk about, but I was extremely concerned that she was going to catch this cold from me, so didn’t want her to stay long. We’ve said goodbye 5 times by this point, but one of us would say something which would keep us chatting a bit longer. I said that night there was a reason for her spontaneously coming round.
Suddenly my phone rings, my home one. We both looked shocked as Tam’s knew it would be one of two people calling; My mother or our burglar alarm company. Looking at the time and knowing I was ill, the likeliness of it being my mother was slim. I answered the phone and asked them to repeat who they were.
I looked shocked, as I stood up reaching for my jacket and keys. “A sensors gone off, I need to go.” Tams instantly said she would come. Half of me thought its one sensor, not two, so it’s most likely a box which has fallen in the warehouse. I know I’m going to have to drive fast and safe because its wet. I make sure she’s got her seatbelt on for the ride.
It wasn’t long before some boy racer was at the side of me trying to race me. I decided to go another route as I didn’t want to cause him to have an accident, let alone me.
We joke that its going to be a box fallen over and that I’m going to want to kill someone on Friday morning, but in the back of my head I think this is going to be a real call, as I wasn’t on the phone long enough to know if two sensors had tripped.
We get closer to the warehouse and I ask Tams to look, as we drive past a car park which is behind our warehouse. There’s a small silver car driving around – looks like a Vauxhall Corsa, the old shape one. It could be nothing, but it could be something?
We drove into our warehouse car park, my eyes adjusted, I couldn’t work out what I was seeing as it was raining but shouted to Tam’s to call the police. My hand firmly on the horn as I wanted to scare anyone out from inside the wrecked building, but no one came.
The warehouse shutters were ruined. I couldn’t work out what had happened. At first I thought we had been ram raided but later on discovered that 3 men had spent about 2 hours in the rain ripping the shutters apart on and off. Was it worth it for them? Well for about £4k’s worth of damage they took less than £100 in total, which divided by three people wasn’t really worth all that effort?
Even the kids at the skate park knew that most people pay by card. What stupid idiot thought that it was worth spending two hours in the freezing cold and rain for the till float?!
Most of the items in our shop are £100, so no one comes in with much cash, its just that simple! Plus all cash is secured off site in the bank!
We sat for a couple of minutes in the car calling friends and family over to help, while we waited for the police. Two friends even kindly left the Cotswolds to come to my rescue. To them I will be eternally in their debt.
In just minutes the police arrived closely followed by the police dog – Swindon police were amazing.
I sat there thinking I’d rather go in first than a police dog or officer – I wouldn’t want anyone or anything getting hurt especially a dog for our shop! A very beautiful, bouncy happy German Shepherd came out. The only thing he found was a tennis ball thankfully belonging to our shop dog Abbie. The men had left only minutes before I had arrived we later saw on CCTV.
I scrambled though the wreckage of our shop front and into the office then shop and broke down in tears. The adrenaline left my body and the shock hit.
I can’t tell you how crushed I felt looking at all the damage. 18 years of hard work making ATBShop into something our family could be proud of in ruins; Skate park and two shops for all to enjoy, smashed up in a matter of hours, made everything we had ever achieved feel worthless. I remember crying out “Its not worth it any more” as I covered my face with my hands feeling so overwhelmed. Tears rushed down my face. I was in pain, but it wasn’t physical. My heart broken. This building called ATBShop is our life’s work, practically our home and someone wanted to take that from us for their selfish greed of not wanting to work.
Standing there wet and cold from the rain, tired and very ill I felt like I couldn’t go on. Stood in a room full of people I felt so alone.
These vile humans will never know the extent of damage they have caused for the pitiful amount that they stole. Not just the £4k’s worth of shop front they’ve smashed and destroyed, £100 till they took and smashed over the floor and cash float they stole, but the fact that I didn’t get my treatment that week from Oxford. That I’m still so ill from being stood in the cold and rain I’m amazed I’ve not got pneumonia for the 12th time. The phycological damage of being on edge from the break in. They ruined our family’s Christmas. It was already hard enough drawing the energy to celebrate Christmas with a family member terminally ill, but this just pushed us into a worse fragile state.
These pathetic individuals are the lowest life form in my books; Stealing from a small family run business, who’s main aim is to only do good, keep children off the streets and into active sports. If you knew our family then you will know we are the kindest people you’ll ever meet and would literally do anything for anyone.
Thankfully we have insurance to cover this damage which will cost us approximately £4k, but this could have cost us our business and our staff their jobs if we weren’t insured, all because of a couple of people wanted to steal rather than to work. Totally disgusting and extremely callous.
It wasn’t long before everyone had raced over to our aid. I don’t have friends… I have super heros. My life long friends Ant and Sam had travelled an hour from the Cotswolds to help. I told them I’d be ok, but they said that they would come and help as I was on my own with Tams and the police. My pensioner parents had left their beds in the dead of night to come in, and the boys left the snowdome to come back and try to piece back together what was our beautiful shop front.
Even my wonderful neighbours walked our dog and tucked her in for us that night, as I had to leave Abbie at home wanting to keep her safe.
Felling hurt, crushed and ill, we dusted ourselves down and picked ourselves back up and fought back to open for midday the next day. It was hard as I was working on less than two hours sleep by the time we got back home and had to wake back up to get in for work. I have to say I hardly slept for those two hours and spent the day spontaneously crying which is very tiring .
I had to keep telling myself that yes there are some terrible people out there, but there’s also some truly amazing people who are out there, who have supported us.
Lots of people keep asking how they can help us. All we will say is please come in and support us by shopping with us. Buy a coffee from us, use our skate park, buy your next scooter or skate board from us. Pay and have your skis or snowboard serviced, just use us. Whether you snowboard, kite, mountain board, scooter, skate, longboard, surf, or wakeboard rider, then pop in and support us – its that simple.
We don’t need a go fund me page or crowd funding account, we just need people to come in and use us and we will be fine and will fight back so this doesn’t happen again. We have fitted more sensors and added even better CCTV and monitoring sensors so this won’t happen again but it was surviving the emotional stress that was the hardest and one that I still won’t get over.