Monday, 11 April 2011

A Country Living Adventure.... The Epic Blog Entry...

Imagine, if you will, a young businesswoman and her mother giggling like children at 7am on a Tuesday morning, as they strap a gigantic picture frame, an oversized suitcase, a step ladder, and several shelves to the roof of a modest estate car with 15m of illuminous green washing line.  This was the beginning of the day on Tuesday 22nd March 2011, when the intrepid adventurers of Les Sacs Magique set out for the Country Living Spring Fair 2011.
I should probably explain the need for strapping things to the roof, I suppose the reason is obvious, the car was full! Actually, I feel that full is an understatement.... 10 apple boxes of stock, assorted plastic tubs of stock, a suitcase, a holdall, and yes, a partridge in a pear tree! Mum ended up having a crate on her lap for the entire 4 hour journey, as well as no room for her feet with all the extras we crammed in.
The contents of Alf, my faithful Vauxhall Astra Estate, was the result of months of 14hr days of work - hundreds of homewares, accessories and handbags made by my own fair hands, for the biggest event in the history of Les Sacs Magique: a five day shopping bonanza at the Country Living Spring Fair.

So exhausted before we even set off, after a frantic weekend of organising, packing and labelling (by my mum and sister, as I will still at the sewing machine!), we left for the Fair. After a brief panic that something had fallen off the roof (actually it was a machine in a field we were passing) we got stuck in 2 hrs of traffic, but eventually reached the Business Design Centre in Islington, relatively unscathed!
After carting crate after crate, box after box, and owl after owl (yes, my giant owl cushions weren't exactly packed in anything) we arrived at the modest stand on the sought after mezzanine level at the fair.  It was time to build....

Les Sacs Magique - Stand M98 at Country Living Spring Fair
My sister, Victoria, had designed the stand and given us specific instructions for building, and aside from a couple of kinks in putting up the shelves, the stand materialised pretty quickly.  Then for the daunting task of organising and arranging the plethora of stock. After 16 hours of packing, travelling we crammed it in, and decided it might be better to do the majority of organising after a refreshing night's sleep.  I arrived at the hotel at 10pm and quite literally collapsed into bed....

So at 8am on Wednesday 23rd March, mum & I were at the stand organising and arranging the stock into this shabby chic, mini boutique, which was the concept for the stand.
The Apple Crate Shelves Stocked with Homewares
Notice Boards, Stuffed Hearts & Peg Bags

A Les Sacs Magique Selection
The start of the show was a slight anti-climax, no trumpet fanfare declaring 'Here Ye, Here Ye' and all that jazz... After half an hour though, the first sale was made, and the day continued to be successful.  The stand received comments and praise from customers and mum's hand-knitted bunnies were the stars of the show!  It was interesting to observe the tactical shopping by the visitors to the fair, ticking off their favoured stands on a map to return to after they'd seen everything and had a spot of lunch. And lo and behold, they returned, which was hugely encouraging. Mum and I were coping well, even with the credit card machine, which had put mum into a panic with her first unsupervised attempt!!
Speaking to visitors to the fair, I found how receptive they were to UK handmade products, particularly with the fair having a relatively high number of imported goods, and my bestsellers (homewares) were selling like hotcakes!
Whilst exhausting, (I don't think my feet have ever ached so much in my life... note to self, put a chair in the next stand!!!), the show was rewarding, successful and fun! The Gala Evening allowed us a couple of glasses of wine and a giggle, as well as catching up with old friends, family and customers who had come to support Les Sacs Magique. 
The remaining 4 days of the show saw more Les Sacs Magique supporters come for a visit, as well as a growing number of customers.  Mum & I developed a shift system as the small space was a little overwhelming when manned by two people, and it all went without a hitch.  I sold handbags, noticboards, key rings, toiletry bags and homewares galore, and was encouraged by the customers who really valued my products. (Every now and then I do have to wonder if this business is the right thing to do, being permanently broke and overworked, but then you get a customer who thinks it's wonderful, and you know they will keep coming back, and I remember why I'm doing this, why I'm passionate about it, why I work 70 hr weeks...)
Stocked Shelves...
Owls & Bunnies Galore...
The Mother of All Noticeboards ;-)

So after 6 days of hard work, minimal sleep, living on picnic snack food, (although the last couple of days we graduated to M&S sandwiches... YUM!) the show was over! Sadly, because that meant mum was going home to Florida, we packed up the stand, and slowly but surely (with the help of 2 muscly porters) we packed the car (we had sold enough that it all now fitted inside! YAHOO!). 
It certainly was an adventure, the most successful event so far for Les Sacs Magique, and I can't wait for Country Living Christmas...
A Kooky Owl Bonanza...


  1. So pleased you had a great day and yes it is such a fab feeling that at the end of the day you find that everything fits in the car so the feeling gets even better!

  2. Thanks, a great 6 days in fact! Exhausting! Have you ever been to the fair??

  3. Wow sounds like you had an amazing week, and hopefully successful financially too!

  4. How exhaustingly fantastic! The number of hours you've put in....

    Those giant Owls and cosy cushions are marvelous (-;

  5. Aah, did I overuse the word exhausted?! eek! glad you like... thanks for the comments! ;-)

  6. Uhooi,,
    Wow,, This is great,,