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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Comic Cuts - 19 April 2015

The Wivenhoe "Sale Trail" took place yesterday and I confess it was a bit of a mixed bag.

We had everything planned down to the finest detail—but as you all know, planning and organisation rarely survive first contact with the enemy. The morning was beautifully clear and promised sunshine galore. We wandered over to the Co-op to pick up some rolls and a couple of cans of drink so we had something to keep us going during our five hours (11 am to 4 pm) selling.

We then wandered down to the William Loveless Hall, where we were planning to run a couple of tables supplied by the local council. The organiser  had tables ready. We chose our pitch—on the lawn outside the Hall, along the side of the driveway heading up to the main entrance where most people would be walking—and headed back to the house to start shifting boxes.

The sack-trolly we had borrowed wasn't up to the task. It worked fine with one box on the kitchen floor but not once you loaded it up on a steep driveway. In fact, it was so rusty that one tug on the handle caused the smaller front wheels to fold up underneath the frame. Forcing them back into shape, we managed to get a few boxes moved the 200 yards to the Hall.

Thankfully, we were able to borrow another trolly: larger and far more stable, we found this one a lot easier to use and the remainder of the boxes were all moved in one more noisy and rattly trip. Two tables meant that we had most of the boxes at table height and only a few resting below the tables. Helpful to the aging Wivenhoe population, in which group I have to count myself these days.

I parked the trolly and returned to the table where Mel was already conversing with a potential customer. He bought four DVDs. Before we had properly laid out the table or put up signs, and half an hour before the official start, we'd made £4! The day looked very promising.

There was an irregular stream of people coming past for the first hour. We were doing pretty well in both book and DVD departments. The day before the sale I had found a record box full of Mel's old LPs and persuaded her to take it down. We sold two almost immediately.

We had three other tables nearby, two selling jewelery and one selling a rag bag of clothing, trinkets and junk. There were more stalls inside the Hall. Only the W.I. had books and then only a couple of dozen. Pathetic compared to the 400 we had on display!

Not that quantity was attracting customers. Twelve to two was a dead zone. People wandered over saying that they didn't know anything about the sale; I'm not sure where the sale was advertised. We saw notices on noticeboards at the council's office and at William Loveless Hall and another board about half a mile away. If that was the extent of the advertising, maybe the lack of customers was understandable.

After three hours we we'd sold about £33 of goods and shortly afterwards sold another £10 of records. We were well on our way towards our target of £50.

On a less positive note we were both feeling the cold. The sun was bright but the breeze was cutting right through us. Mel went to get herself a cup of tea and bring back some coffee. The lady on one of the nearby tables asked me to keep an eye on her goods while she disappeared. For a tea, I thought, but she came back complaining that nobody was selling gloves. Adding to her woes, a dog pooped nearby and the owner didn't bother to pick it up, so we helped her move her table so her customers weren't standing in dog shit.

Dog walkers were amongst our main customers and footfall picked up after lunch—and I don't just mean because dogs have four feet. Mel had nipped home to pick up my coat so I was feeling warmer and quite positive that we were going to hit our target. In the next hour we made about £2. The dog walkers hadn't come out with buying goods in mind and the majority only had loose change on them. One dog took a pee up against a bag in front of one of the other stalls. I am appalled at how funny I thought this was. I'm an evil man. I will go straight to hell. But it was funny.

We went into the final hour about £15 shy of our target. Slashing prices didn't increase the number of customers, but it did sway some of them to buy. At four o'clock we were on £49.80... just 20p short of our £50. I wandered into the Hall to make sure we could get hold of the trolly in order to wheel all the boxes back home. As I came out, I saw we had more customers. We made three more sales, pushing us over the target by a couple of quid.

We wheeled home our boxes, having sold something like 13 LPs, 15 DVDs and 60 or so books. It was only later that I remembered that I'd set the target before we found the box of albums, so really, of the roughly £53 we took, only £40 was from my stock of duplicates. And you had to take £5 off for the cost of the table. So was it worth spending most of a day outside in the cold and then having to take 85% of our stock back home with us for the grand sum of £35?

So it wasn't brilliant, but I've had worse days. Our fellow stall holders were friendly and we had a good laugh with our customers, some of whom found the idea of people sitting around outside in the cold trying to sell books to a largely illiterate crowd hilarious. Probably the most telling moment was when a man picked up one of the cassette tapes we had on offer and showed it to his young daughter. "Do you know what this is?" he asked. She didn't have a clue. I've never felt so old.

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