Jul 31, 2011

Shop by Flash Light


Our landlord arrives late but we're into the basement shop by 10.30.  Still working through the aftermath of heavy rain this year in a country that simply does not do humidity. 11am and folk arriving on the late night / early morning flights are wandering in, trying to stay awake and trying to get their bearings.  Others who are getting ready to leave are doing their final shopping.

Pitch Black in the Basement

We are suddenly hit by the UB power cut; the shop is in total darkness - but calmly our staff grab the safety lights to prevent customers from having accidents; another staff saves vital information and closes down the computer. And then ...

Break out the Cave Lights

Our manager informs customers that now everything is under control they can continue to shop ... looks of disbelief until our manager helps a customer to put on one of our Cave Lights ... and shopping continues as though it is quite normal to "look for products" with your shopping flash light.

Breaking with Tradition

Word is getting around and more shoppers are arriving for a possible once in a lifetime experience.  An orderly queue has formed at the door as other shoppers and their personal shop assistants fill their baskets.  No electronic point of sale - just back to the trusty notebook.  But the fully charged Credit Card machine keeps chugging away.  We refuse to close!

The Fun Continues

So the sudden power cut which no one knew was going to happen, and expected it to be short, continued for the rest of the day.  Shopping continued until the lights became dull and it was normal closing time.  Mary & Martha are convinced shoppers just loved their experience - where else can you go and shop in the basement by Cave Light and still pay by credit card.

Going the Extra Mile
Mary & Martha are keen to look for innovative ways of serving our Artisans by continuing sales at all times and very keen to give customers a genuine Fair Trade experience despite "normal" UB actions such as power cuts.  COME SHOP WITH US. 

Jul 17, 2011

Highs and Lows of a Mongolian Naadam

High 1 - Completed the half year returns; hard copy, internet, employee tax, VAT and company tax.  All went well and we're finally into profit territory this year.  Slight glitch - the Employee tax authorities hid their new software inside the VAT software and did not publish the fact!  Caught it reading the new menus in Mongolian in the downloaded VAT software.

High 2 - Had our best day ever the day before the official Naadam Holidays - sales greater than January and February put together!

Low 1 - The Stationery Shop hold the only key to our shop.  They took off for a 3 day picnic during the Naadam Holiday - potentially the busiest days of the year for us.  We used "The Deck" to engage the public but still believe we lost 50% of our business on those days to The State Department Store.

Low 2 - It rained "cats and dogs" on July 11th so we came upon our flooded shop on the 14th when our dear land lord came back with the key.  Lots of damp to deal with and drying of products as well as cleaning of muddy floors - but by about 2pm we were back in business.  However we're still airing stuff 3 days later!

Low 3 - Our wonderful "Made from the Heart" cooperative held their Naadam early (1-2 July) and were then going to set about our extremely urgent Export Orders for Hong Kong and the now famous Snooshies for Holland.  Half of the cooperative decided to take another week's holiday and in so doing are causing us to miss both Export deadlines.  In one case we will simply send the order less the missing products.  A loss to us and the cooperative.  Snooshy is being patient with us but we fear repeat orders are in danger of evaporating.  Folk want money - usually quickly - but have no concept of keeping commitments or that customers have long memories.  Our Following the Blue Eyes cooperative delivered substandard knitwear for our Hong Kong Customer and were surprised when all products were rejected even though they knew they has deliberately ignored our specifications. The whole of society is so used to hearing "unavailable" in shops and restaurants (despite extensive brochures and very long menus) and long term business thinking is in the hands of a few who really work for their future.  The good news is a number of Mongolians who have visited other Asian countries are starting to expect better from their own.

Low 4 - Keeping the nation pure - Mongolia has a growing number of dissatisfied men who tend to have limited education, limited prospects (due to their behaviours) of gaining wives and have taken to harassing Mongolian women who happen to be with foreign men / Foreign men with Mongolian women.  Mongolian women are looking for foreign husbands who will show them care, attention and respect.  So I'm standing on the street outside our shop holding an umbrella over one of our leafleters to keep the sun off the young lady and one of these "thugs" comes up aggressively questioning what she is doing with me AND seems surprised when she says she works for a company making a positive difference to Mongolians.  he strutted away with a puzzled look!

Low 5 - Pick Pockets Paradise - From mid May to the end of August each year the pick pockets come out in force.  Fearless because in the height of tourist season the police presence (uniformed and plain clothed) seems to disappear and because Mongolian Joe Public will never lift a finger to stop someone being pick pocketed.  There may be a streak of nationalism which finds its roots in the CK hero but little sense of ground up changes to society to make Mongolia a safer place for all.  Ok so I reacted to one pick pocket working on a Mongolian lady's handbag in clear view of several people.  I admit I meant to grab him but I guess rugby days came into play and the next thing was him out cold and me on top.  At that moment I remembered I was on concrete not grass and realised I had left blood skid marks from my own knees on the side walk.  maybe I should be less spontaneous in future!

High 3 - We need to remember that our turnover this year in country is more than 35% up on last year across all our products which means that our Artisan's businesses are also up similar levels.  With all the lows we need to realise we are still being blessed in our work.