Wednesday, May 28, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

It often seems to those of us who have seen a few New York springs, that the hot weather abruptly arrives at the end of May, around the time of our Memorial Day holiday. That is what happened again this year. It's finally fine to wear sandals, and to shed a layer or two of jacket or sweater.

There has also been lots of rain, and the park is very heavily green. Rose bushes in sunny places are beginning to bloom, and some folks on my block have planted begonias, impatiens and pansies to bring a little color to the concrete and asphalt.

Although I have yet to see them, new neighbors have moved into the recently renovated apartment next door to mine. Last night when I returned home from work and was unlocking my front door, I heard a baby crying from behind the door next door. Previous neighbors in that apartment have had babies, and it is a testimony to the design of the building and the thickness of its walls, that once inside my home sweet home, I heard no crying.

I do hope to meet this new family soon.

After some blustery rain last evening, today is a lovely day, made more lovely because it is a day off. We will host a "special" event at the shop tomorrow, focused on our petite-sized range (theoretically for those 5'4" and under.) This event is not a very extravagant affair, featuring some light refreshments, and the opportunity for customers to meet with the company's petites specialist, and to have 10 per cent of the amount of their purchases be donated to a worthy philanthropy.

I am a bit worried that not too many folks may attend, despite our publicizing the event. Often our events give the customers a certain dollar amount off the price of an item, or give them a gift with each purchase. That will not be the case tomorrow. Customers making a purchase will received "double points" for their purchases, however. (We have a program that grants a customer a point for every dollar that is spent. When the accumulated points reach 2,000 ... no matter how long it may take, the customer receives a gift card worth $100.) It is my sense that a gift with each purchase would have been a stronger draw, but we will know more tomorrow.

After working so very hard, day after day during the retail month of May, it was very disappointing to my staff and myself that we did not meet our sales goal. Therefore, we won't get a bonus check for May. The checks that we each received for our April success were quite substantial and quite welcome in these inflationary/recessionary times. We think that what kept us from our May goal was powerful Mother Nature, who provided two very, very cold and rainy days, when few customers ventured out to shop.

Now it will be my task to motivate the staff to keep going strong during June.

My assistant manager and I will be out of the store for two days next week, attending out of town managers meetings. We do value our staff and their ability to flourish without us, but all the same, I really wish that both of us did not have to be away for so much of next week (the two meeting days, plus our regular two days off.)

It is now the season when staff will begin taking lots of holiday time off, so it is a bit of challenge to juggle the schedule, making sure that everyone does get the free time they request, but also making sure to keep the shop adequately staffed. I try to be fair to everyone.

Since the weather is so good today, I will now put my sandals on and go outdoor to check on those roses.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

Our springtime here continues to be on the chilly side, but that has helped to extend the flowering season in nearby Central Park. We have had lots of April and May showers and the still new leaves on the trees are very green and very heavy, really weighing down some of this year's fresh branches.

On a recent Park walk after recent rain, I took this photo which give you a little idea of the mood of that overcast day.

I regret that I have not had more time to take such walks in the Park due to having the usual busy times at the shop. Despite media reports of our being in a recession (or maybe just on the edge) our shop has had its busiest spring ever.

How wonderful that I was able to add another staff member, and that she is terrific. We all just work together, enjoying each others' company, and trying to keep our customer service skills high. Many evenings when 7 p.m. (the posted closing hour) arrives, we still have customers in the fitting rooms, trying on clothes, making their decisions. The two or three of us who are still there as the "closing shift" are by then so, so tired, but we do try to remain poised and gracious until that last customer has left the shop.

This results in great sales figures, but also in very tired folks, who have been working a physically and mentally challenging job for over eight hours. Still, we laugh and compliment and complement each other, and get up the next day to do it again!

This past Sunday was Mother's Day here in the States, and I was able to let all but one of the mothers on my staff have the day off. The four of us who were to work on Sunday wondered just how busy we would be. The answer was ... very. As a gesture on that day we had purchased lots of deep red and pale coral roses, so that we could present one long stem to each lady who visited us that day. It was a simple thing to do, but seemed to be quite popular.

Yesterday was super rainy and windy, and not an ideal day for a celebration, or maybe it was. Scheduled months ago, it was the day of my employer's annual service awards luncheon, which honors folks reaching milestone anniversaries with the company ... five, ten, fifteen years and more. I attended to support two members of my staff who were being so honored. We traveled via a chartered shuttle bus from the company's Garment District showroom to a beautiful site overlooking the Hudson River. The building was once the home of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.

As always, the luncheon was beautifully catered, and it was great fun to get re-acquainted with old friends, and to meet new ones. The event is usually somewhat emotional as well, because we all really do believe that our company is just a bit different in that we do care about each other.

Afterwards, the shuttle bus took us back to the City. Of course, many folks attending the event drove their own cars or used other transportation. We do have many locations in the metropolitan suburbs and anyone living in those areas cannot rely, as I do, on public transportation.

I also wanted to thank all the folks who have been posting words and comments about their beautiful gardens, and the exercise and delight that those gardens ensure. I have mentioned before that my apartment is not at all plant friendly, and thought that I would share with you a little photo that proves my words true.

These two scraggly survivors are too stubborn to totally give up. This view is from my living room and, as you can see, has a vista facing across an air space to other apartments. Thank goodness that the view from my bedroom is much more open and lets me see sky, trees, interesting architecture.
Perhaps you now know more of why I do have country dreams.