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Summer of Kindness

Close up of our shop window with handwritten chalk pen banner stating Come & Browse, Free Prize Draw, #RetailWeek, #SummerofKindness

Summer of Kindness

Close up of our shop window with handwritten chalk pen banner stating Come & Browse, Free Prize Draw, #RetailWeek, #SummerofKindness
Close up of our shop window with handwritten chalk pen banner stating Come & Browse, Free Prize Draw, #RetailWeek, #SummerofKindness

We’re really seeing the benefit, goodwill and warmth that a campaign like Exeter’s Summer of Kindness can bring to a community. It’s following on from the buddy style plans that were due to happen shortly after lockdown began, but… well… lockdown.

Lockdown prevented the previous campaign launch

The original idea had been to team up with a business or businesses in a different sector or area from us, and come up with a plan to promote each other over a particular weekend in March.

We were going to put simple belt displays in Eat the Bird on Sidwell Street and in Recycled Candle Company on Gandy Street. In return we would display Eat the Bird menus in our shop and have a plate of their delicious wares in store during the Saturday morning. Obviously we would ensure that these were given out to our customers! A display of Recycled Candle Company’s products would reside in our shop too, and I had purchased a number of delightful cacti from them for our own product photography, for good measure.

Suddenly, city-wide, all plans changed; some were shelved, some were axed.

Summer of Kindness is Exeter’s latest city-wide advertising campaign

In a change to that previous billing, our local BID (Business Improvement District, known here as InExeter) have come up with the start of a team rescue plan. They have provided us with delightful paper daisies, that look fresh and inviting, to hang in our windows, giving a clear sign to customers that the campaign continues inside those stores. Participating businesses have been encouraged to team up amongst themselves, coming up with their own appropriate deals or offers that would invite their customers to visit the other businesses too.

Preparing a daisy for hanging
Preparing a daisy for hanging

Here at The Belt Makers and Friends, we have teamed up with Frocks in Swing Time (vintage fashions) and The Black Pearl (Italian fashions) on our own Fore Street; Zebel Bespoke (tailoring) who moved from Fore Street to just behind the High Street; and Loake Shoemakers Exeter on Catherine Street, in view of our most excellent Cathedral.

A whole new kind of shop display!

We have mannequins in our shop! Frocks in Swing Time have loaned us a gorgeous, lacy, royal blue dress with a matching sparkling necklace, which we have teamed up with a contrasting bright red, narrow belt. This compliments the nautical theme in their current window display.

The Black Pearl, whose mannequin is called Manny, is cool as a cucumber in a flowing, silky turquoise number, teamed up with a yellow necklace and silver shoulder mini bag. We have cinched in the dress at the waist with a turquoise belt.

Zebel Bespoke have sent us a blue suit jacket and matching waistcoat with a white woven shirt and a tie which picks out tones in the jacket lining.

Finally, we have a lovely pair of leather shoes with brogue patterning from Loake Exeter, in a delicious chocolate brown which works beautifully with the blue suit.

Those other terrific members of our #SummerofKindness team are also carrying items from our stock in their shops, such as belts, cufflinks and braces. They may choose to sell these on our behalf, as well as explaining to their customers where we are and inviting them to visit us.

Now let me tell you a heartwarming little story…

This week we had a visit from a lovely couple from two different continents, trying to get married. They, like so many other couples in the same situation around the world, have been struggling to organise their special day within the confines and uncertainty of COVID-19.

Having had to reorganise our own wedding due to Foot and Mouth disease (back at the turn of the century) we really felt for them.

They had bought wedding shoes from Loake Exeter and they needed to match a belt to the colour. The manager Kelvin sent them to us for a bespoke belt. We made up a couple of different samples for them, in different leather colours with different edge colours, and they picked their favourite.

During the conversation we chatted about cufflinks, and matching them to belt thread colours and to suit linings, and we were able to recommend Zebel Bespoke for the wedding suit. They headed back up the hill to make those arrangements and we will make the belt especially for them.

We were unable to help with a recommendation for the bridesmaids’ dresses as they are all in New Zealand (we did try!)

We felt all warm and fuzzy that we are all recommending each other and especially that we’d helped out some customers in need, in this time of such confusion and delay. I wholeheartedly hope that they manage to have a wonderful wedding in New Zealand, and that the organisation and travel for all the different family members and friends goes as smoothly as possible! 🥰

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Thank you for a fantastic week!

Social distancing measures: sanitising station and floor flow markings

Thank you for a fantastic week!

Shop front with Open artwork by Gus
Shop front with Open artwork by Gus

Ushering in the New Era

We opened our shop to the general public for the first time in months, on Monday 15th June. We had spent weeks pouring over government guidance and WHO recommendations; glued ourselves to Downing Street Briefings and we’d read everything sent to us by email, from local BID, council and national bodies alike; filled in forms and hung up the appropriate posters.

I think we’ve got it about right, until the recommendations are changed again, but that will be for another day!

Social distancing measures: sanitising station and floor flow markings
Social distancing measures: sanitising station and floor flow markings

We have a barricade down the centre of the shop floor, creating a one-way system that is separated from the second side. We have bright yellow floor tape marking both the direction of flow and the 2 metre intervals right across the floor. There is a hand sanitising station on the door and we are encouraging the use of face coverings but it’s not compulsory at this stage. I expect it will be soon!

We have disinfectant sprays for the surfaces. We’re keeping the socks in their plastic packaging so they can be wiped if necessary, and any belts that are tried on are being labelled and placed in the back room until their 72 hour quarantine is up.

Payment roundel floor sticker
Payment roundel floor sticker

Everyone waited politely on the little roundel (that’s two metres away from the till) to pay by card so, all-in-all, I think any uncertainty we had over whether or not we were doing all the right things, or whether we had missed anything, was put at rest.

Shopping for fun? I think I remember…

I do think it will take a while for people to get the hang of shopping for pleasure again, but by Saturday we had new window artwork by one of our Saturday staff, Gus, and there was music playing from the bar doing takeaway service a few doors down from us; the good old Fore Street atmosphere was well and truly dusted off and back where it should be!

We have been beautifully looked after by both regular and new customers alike and it is so appreciated, thank you.

We are so pleased to be able to bring such a lovely range of products to the Fore Street marketplace and this has been made partly possible by having the new website up and running so smoothly, so quickly. I need to give a massive shout out to Aaron from Takeoff Development for all his help and advice; if you need a website get straight on to him!

Do it your way

Remember, there are so many ways to shop with us. You can browse the website before popping in to the shop and you can try on a tester belt for size before you buy. You can order online for delivery, or for contactless collection: just let us know when’s best for you.

You can also book a private appointment for you and your household or social bubble. Pick your preferred contact option to book, or use your favourite social media and find us via #TBMandFriends.

Thank you for supporting our independent family business… see you soon!