Hello and happy Tuesday everyone. I’m back after a couple of days off last week when as you might remember, Mr MC and I intended to make a plan for the next few months. We wanted to focus mostly on our business but of course like most people’s, our work and life is so closely interwoven that we needed to consider everything else as well. So, we sat down with coffee and notepads and after some drumming of fingers we looked at each other and laughed. Because you can’t plan at the moment can you? We’re all still hopelessly out of control.
It’s a feeling I hate and just as I think I’ve got used to it a desire to organise surges up inside me and so I try again. In the end we concluded that we can only really see about three weeks ahead… and those three weeks are still going to be mostly lived under lockdown. So nothing will really change and we’ll just have to do what we can to keep our business ticking over. But at the end of those three weeks we’ll be heading into the summer months when everything usually goes very quiet until the third week of September. Will that happen this year? Who knows but it strikes me that for a lot of sectors (apart from education and leisure maybe) this is very unfortunate timing for the lifting of lockdown.
However worrying won’t help so we all just have to go forward. I’ve been thinking about the blog too because during July and August a lot of people tend to stop reading and so it would make financial sense to cut my posts down during those two months. But then again this year might be different so I’m going to end this post with a questionnaire that will help me to know what you’re going to be doing and also what kinds of things you’d be interested in discussing on here. So please help me before you log off, my question is women over 40 tell me – how is it for you? Oh and I’m doing two, one for UK readers and one for international so please make sure you answer the right one.
The state of retail and lost stock
Before that though there are a couple of things I want to mention. Like many people I have a real sense of unease about the way that so many retailers cancelled orders in March without any regard for their suppliers. It’s resulted in extreme hardship at a personal level in manufacturing countries such as Bangladesh. Even though stock was sitting in freight, ready to dispatch, a number of store groups said they wouldn’t accept it if it was delivered and also refused to pay for it, even though it had been made specifically for them and was already branded. I believe some of our favourite retailers are involved in this but I don’t have sufficient factual evidence to be able to write about it. There’s a feature with more information about brand behaviour here but bear in mind that it’s now two months old.
Surprisingly some of the better behaviour is currently being found at the lower end of the market. Primark cancelled all orders on 23rd March but made a start last week by committing to pay for everything that was scheduled up until 17th April with a promise to push payments through quickly. Despite having been through their very convincing CSR strategy, I still find it hard to reconcile the ability to pay fair wages with the prices they charge however at least they are paying. On the same day as they announced this, New Look rather shockingly declared that it was extending its payment terms to suppliers indefinitely. So there you have two retailers at the same high street pricepoint behaving completely differently to each other. I’m keeping an eye out for all information on the way that brands conduct themselves during this time and I’ll pass it on when I find it.
In the meantime there’s another option and that’s Lost Stock which has been formed by a start up in Edinburgh. You may well already have heard about them, if not, they’ve collated stock from the cancelled orders of over 180 UK high street retailers. All branding has been removed and it’s now being resold by them as a mystery box. This is a concept that’s really popular with the 18 – 30 year old marketplace and it’s been used by brands for a while to get rid of excess inventory but it hasn’t been tested on an older demographic. It reminds me of the lucky dip bags we used to get when we were little. The idea is that you specify your age, size and preference for patterned or plain clothes. You place an order for £35 and in about six weeks’ time you’ll receive a delivery of three items worth at least £70.
It’s a complete gamble and in one way it goes against our intention of buying fewer clothes and being very careful about what we choose. However if you can afford to take a risk that you might not like anything it’s an idea you might like. Each box sold buys essential supplies that will support a family of four in Bangladesh for a week. If you don’t like the contents you can always send them to your local charity shop and somebody else in the UK will then benefit from new clothes at an affordable price. I’ve ordered a mens’ box as an experiment so I’ll let you now what we get when they arrive, in the meantime you can find out more here.
More retail updates
It’s going to be interesting to see how shoppers react when stores start to open again next Monday. It’s a brutal landscape for retail – you may remember me alerting you to the fact that Mulberry was offering a very unusual 50% off at John Lewis & Partners a couple of weeks ago. Today’s news that they’re axing 25% of their workforce now comes as less of a surprise. Other groups that are teetering are Monsoon/Accessorize which is said to be on the brink of administration along with Intu shopping centres, Victoria’s Secret toppled in the UK last week as did Aldo shoes, Jigsaw lost most of its board of directors so nobody’s quite sure what is happening there. Harrods is opening an outlet store at Westfield in London to clear a backlog of stock and it’s suspected that even the Inditex group (Zara / Mango / Massimo Dutti etc) will announce its first ever losses later this week.
So it continues to be a time for thinking carefully about who you’re spending with because it will influence their survival. July and August are always difficult months in retail and I suspect that we’ll see a lot more brands struggling to make it through to the more profitable autumn/winter season.
Pre-loved Pop of Colour
On another note, a reader has been in touch with one of the much sought after orange leather Midlifechic Pops of Colour that she’s offering for resale (this is an old photo obviously – aaah that neat and tidy hair!). As always, it’s made from high quality saffiano leather with chrome hardware and it has a locking strap and leather pouch inside for loose items that is attached by a strap. It’s been lightly used and so Lindsey is offering it for half the usual price which is £117.50 instead of £235. Let me know via the contact form if you’re interested and I’ll put you in touch with her.
My goodness it’s hard to know what to say because not much of any interest seems to have happened. We abandoned our somewhat directionless meeting and got on with decorating the office, it isn’t finished yet but it’s now feeling fresh. The landing project has been frustrated by slow deliveries again but they’ve arrived today and so work can finally recommence. It’s probably a good thing that it’s been quieter down there because we’re surrounded by hatchlings. We have a swan’s nest and can announce the happy arrival of five cygnets along with a nest of squawky sparrows and… even more exciting… the tawny owls have had babies too this week. Mum owl has got to know us quite well. Like most new mums she seems to be awake around the clock and she sits by her nest and blinks at us as we’re working in the office.
The eldest is still doing his best to hunt for jobs but there are very few vacancies around. Mr MC and I keep telling him that he may just have to lower his sights as we did when we left uni. Both of us graduated into a recession and so started from the bottom up – I began my career on car magazines and Mr MC worked in the cheese fridge at a cash and carry for a month before getting his first design agency job. We’re trying to tell him that sometimes it’s better to work your way up and the advantage of being able to show that you have a London address is a sad fact of being a northerner. Of course it wasn’t as expensive to live down there in the early 90s – you could rent a one bedroomed flat for £600 a month.
The middle son has had really good news, his university (Northumbria) is planning to start term on schedule with distancing measures in place. Freshers Week will be quite different and is apparently going to take place in their student flats so let’s hope they all get on. So far he’s the only boy in a flat full of girls which he seems to be quite happy about!
The youngest has exams at home all week this week. He’d been quite laid back about them until the news came saying that A Level grades may well be based on teacher predictions rather than exams again next year so he’s suddenly had to step up. His school has only reopened to students who haven’t kept up with their schoolwork which I think is a shame, I’d have liked him to have the option of going in.
As far as I’m concerned I’ve been feeling frustrated. My running’s been coming along as you know and I was almost at the point where I was running 5k faster than I used to in 2006. I’ve probably pushed that goal too hard because now I have Achilles tendonitis and am having to rest. Thank goodness the shops are opening again next week, I have an appointment for gait analysis because I know if I stop for too long I’ll just give up.
Last week was mostly spent in painting scruffs but here are a couple of recent outfits from the weekend.
As I said when I first showed it to you, this shirt has finally solved my problem with making the simple white shirt and jeans look work for me, thanks to its drape. It’s sold out in most sizes now but hopefully they’ll restock for the autumn. These girlfriend jeans have been completely sold out since they launched but new stock is now just arriving so you can backorder them. They’re a higher waisted alternative to the boyfriend jean and a great mid-blue wash for summer. And yes I’m wearing low heels in the garden – before someone tells me I’m mad it’s to support my achilles .
This was when we popped out to pick up a takeaway. I’ve offered to support all of the small brands I know as we go into the summer and this dress comes from Midlifechic reader Harriet’s tiny boutique. She has an online store too so do support her if you can. Coronavirus has completely cured me of my dislike of pattern, it must be something to do with living more simply that makes me want something more decorative in my life. This dress is viscose so it’s cool and wafty to wear in the sunshine, it also comes in blue but the pink with orange trim is the one that I fell in love with because it’s my favourite summer colour combination. I think it’s the first time I’ve paired a bag with an outfit since March, I’ve been using my gym tote on a daily basis because it’s the last thing that came through the door with me before lockdown!
Dress (I’m wearing a medium, gifted SS20); Clutch (Midlifechic – still available if you’d like one contact me); Sandals – And Other Stories, (sold out)
That’s our catch up done so let’s move on to the survey where I’m asking you to tell me – how is it for you? Once again it’s completely anonymous, I have no way of knowing who you are and I’m capping each one at 3,000 to manage the cost. Your answers will help me decide what to do with Midlifechic over the next few months, how often to publish and what to write about. Please make sure that you fill in the right one, I need to separate UK readers out because we’re not as far out of lockdown as other countries so we’re in a different mindset. The first is for the UK, the second is for international readers. It should just take a couple of minutes, thank you for helping me, I do appreciate it and I’ll share some of the results with you when I have them. Here goes: UK readers first, scroll down and click the link for international.
UPDATE – THANK YOU FOR THE OVERWHELMING AND ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE – THE SURVEY HAS ALREADY REACHED FULL CAPACITY AND SO IS NOW CLOSED
Disclosure: ‘Women over 40 tell me – how is it for you? And a catch up’ is not a sponsored post.
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