Joyful faces worth the struggle
It's a story many Taranaki Daily News readers will be familiar with.
Last year New Plymouth woman Alison Jarvis read in the paper that the Santa's Choice Christmas shop was to close down because the aging owners hadn't found a buyer.
As a passionate customer, she was horrified. Her husband challenged her to do something about it. She did.
Despite not having any experience in retail, she bought the shop. As you do.
That was a year ago and we thought it was time to check on just how things went.
Alison is honest as she recalls a year like no other.
"Was this a good idea? Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? Honestly, I'd have to say early on there were times when I did doubt my decision and my ability.
"There have been huge challenges, some tears and nights where I have worked well past midnight just to get the paperwork done. But every day the shop was open was fantastic."
Jarvis soon found out just how much affection there was for the little shop that makes Christmas time magic for so many.
"After the newspaper ran a story about me buying the shop, I was frequently stopped by people I didn't know. All over New Plymouth for weeks afterwards, people were thanking me for taking it on."
It almost goes without saying that her first year was far from smooth sailing.
"What I so underestimated was just how much time, effort, skill and money it would take to get through my first season. If it wasn't for my wonderful experienced staff, I really don't think I would have made it."
Jarvis had a plan, and some of it even came to fruition.
"My plan was to give the shop a fresh look, bring in some new product ranges, display the stock in a themed way that allowed people to enjoy seeing all that we had to offer."
The season went really well, she says, and Jarvis bases that on her harshest critics - her customers.
"We had great feedback from them. Most, but not all, people really seemed to like the new look and layout of the store. That feedback gives me confidence to know I am at least heading in the right direction."
But did she make any money?
"I've pretty much worked for the last year for the love of it only. I had to invest a lot into the business and also needed to spend heavily on advertising - especially as it was so widely advertised that the shop was closing down at the end of the previous season."
Jarvis has some big plans for the future.
"Like any new business I need to increase my sales. One way will hopefully be through using social media. I also plan to sell online this year. It's exciting knowing that people come from other regions primarily to visit our shop!"
Other ideas include promoting the shop more during the mid- winter Christmas season, holding demonstration and fundraiser evenings and creating a new look for the shop each season.
Jarvis finishes by answering her own question: Was it worth it?
"Just to see people's faces light up when they walked inside the shop, to see their delight as they wandered around taking everything in and pleasure when they had found something really special to buy - that made it all worth it.
"It was a good idea, absolutely."
Taranaki Daily News