Well, wasn't 2020 fun? After having a couple of weeks to get through the Christmas madness, and over the New Years Shenanigans, I feel as though I am finally coming up for air after what has been an astonishing year! I have had some time to reflect on the year, what it meant for me, what lessons I have learned and what I will take with me into 2021.
First of all, I want to acknowledge the very many people who have been seriously affected by Covid. In speaking to you all over the course of the year, it has been apparent that Covid has been both "The Great Unifier" and "The Great Divider". From all pitching in to do our part and getting things under control, to the upwelling of different factions of beliefs. The debate about wearing a mask, or not wearing a mask has become one that pits people against each other, even within families. It has been both heartwarming to see the teddy bear trails, and the neighbourhood care groups, and devastating to see the bullying towards those who have processed the pandemic differently.
I have been fascinated observing my own response to Covid - which came at a juncture in my business existence, and forced me to make tough decisions, which had unexpected results. Let me explain... Back in March, I had to decide whether I was going to renew my lease for the Boutique on July 1 of 2020. I had worked so hard since opening in October 2016 to make the Boutique a viable business. The prospects in March, at the beginning of our battle with Covid in New Zealand, the uncertainty surrounding everything, made the decision to permanently close the Boutique the only one I felt I could make at the time - That was a horrendous place to be in my head. I came to grips with what giving up my business would mean, and finally was able to accept that doing so was the best option, and I was at peace with that. I was able to let go my hopes for the Boutique. I was not happy, I was terribly sad, but at peace with it.
And strangely - that's when everything changed. I was not the only one worried about the uncertainty; my landlord was as well. She was so willing to adjust her expectations, and allow for flexibility, so we came to an arrangement that has allowed me to stay where I am, and continue to serve in my community. From there, I began to see each day, not as a battle, but as "bonus time" and an opportunity. It has meant I have had to make daily decisions without any "normal" retail trends, it has meant being creative (remember our virtual online shopping?) it meant being flexible and using delivery, or contactless pick up. It meant setting up the store to allow for social distancing, and introducing more stringent cleaning regimes. It has meant getting up and going in, even when there wasn't going to be anyone there. It meant confronting, and processing the "how's" of doing business is a rapidly changing environment. It was, and continues to be, scary. But here is one thing I didn't anticipate. YOU!
Somewhere in everyones personal journey through this pandemic, something inside people has shifted. My amazing, beautiful, kind customers/friends - YOU have really made a difference - and not just to me - sweeping our little country has been a gracious and forceful movement to support smaller, local businesses, putting your earnings into our businesses. Making a concerted effort to get out in the little places and shop. And WOW! I have had so many new customers who discovered the Boutique while they were out walking in lockdown. Families at Christmas time saying they had determined to buy ALL their Christmas presents from their local community. Our birthday party this year, and our annual jewellery party were the busiest since I opened, and your kindness to me has been insane. I have literally, and figuratively, felt your arms around me through this entire year.
And so I stay - in my little Boutique, in my little seaside community, in the company of good neighbours, and amazing customers. I am actually amazed at how we got through it last year. Strength and Flexibility of mind, kindness, community, creativity. All things I will be bringing with me into 2021.
See you on January 12th.
All my love,
Leanne and her husband Gregory are both partners in Bath Boutique. Here she will share parts of her journey with Bath Boutique, from some of the Makers' stories, experiences and thoughts about Boutique Retail in New Zealand.