In the last 3½ years, since I took over Johnson’s, we’ve done loads and loads of work on our beautiful building that probably wouldn’t have seen another winter out, and a shop that was at best an Aladdin’s Cave that took shabby chic to the nth degree.

I wanted to improve how the building, the shop, looked from outside, I had to learn to ‘dress’ our shop windows. Coming from an educational background, I did my research, but there were no courses teaching how to dress shop windows, a huge part of visual merchandising, or visual merchandising in general. Is it any wonder small shops are sometimes a little haphazard and unattractive! There are no courses other than NVQs teaching very basic retail to school leavers and degrees teaching retail at an unnecessary level for a small shop. Is it any wonder our high streets are in such horrific decline! Big chains of stores like Marks and Spencer’s, Debenhams and Morrison’s have their own courses to teach their staff such skills, but this is out of the financial reach of the small business shopkeeper. I did find a book on the subject, and managed to find a morning’s private training and then have developed my own ‘eye’ for placement and style. We now get lots of compliments and praise about our window displays, and so we’ve produced an asset.

I cleaned, and sorted, and primped, and cleaned again, and polished, and primped. It’s been a boon that I have slight OCD tendancies, I’ve been able to put it to use. All our products have to be displayed in a careful colour order, so that it all looks pretty and attractive, viciously tempting poor, craft stash-builders to part with an extra few pounds. Every extra few pounds being religiously put to the ‘prettying everything up’ fund.

I wanted to replace all the display furniture, it all needed throwing away. How the heck could I get new display furniture? I did buy a unit from our local hospice’s 2nd hand furniture charity shop for about £40. When I got it back to the shop, it looked fabulous with our range of Stylecraft’s Special double knitting yarn on. It was the beginning of a huge buying project. I have spent more than £3,000 with the hospice on dark wood furniture that nobody wanted then, and again we get lots of compliments and praise from customers for them. They just fit in with the Victorian era of the building perfectly, and keep the little nooks and crannies that keep shopper’s excitement up, wondering what’s around the next corner.

I suppose the biggest, and most noticeable piece of renovations done, that I think has made Johnson’s into the amazing emporium that it is now is the work we mostly did over last Christmas. We opened up the main room, getting rid of all the 1970’s partitions for the little market shops, and brought into view the stunning, newly repaired and painted ceiling. We also laid a stylish and hardwearing new floor and installed a handsome new front vestibule with wood and glass doors that remind customers either of the old bank or their school days.

Now, after all that elbow-grease and primping and prettying, we now have something that looks like a scene out of the TV series ‘Mr Selfridge’; a hub for all the beautiful people; a palace of delight ;-))