Author Archive

Choice in eCommerce

July 23, 2013

Last week saw the end of an era with me and one of my suppliers. It’s been a hard slog doing business with them. On the one hand they have one of the most fabulous ranges of giftware on the market, on the other, they are the most difficult, unreasonable and non-customer focused company I’ve ever come across, retail or otherwise.

I have only ordered from them 4 times over the years, as with each order, comes another set of unworkable conditions. The orders arrive late, sometimes 5 months late, their finance dept send out invoices for orders which have been returned, then threatening letters, they seemingly have no paper trail, no stock control in the warehouse, their account managers seem to have no grasp of your history with them, so do not anticipate the hesitation around ordering. Every experience has been a bad one, yet their goods, once you finally get hold of them, have won countless awards, are design  led , well made and exactly the kind of product we want to sell.

Last week I received a circular letter from their MD stating that from September onwards they will not be supplying retailers who put their work on eBay, Amazon Marketplace or similar platforms. Amongst other problems, there’s an issue of copyright causing them concern, they don’t want any images they supplied used in future and if sellers continue to put their ranges on those platforms then they will close the account.

We’ve had an eBay shop for a while now, where newroomsoutlet sells end of line at a reduced price, but also current lines at the RRP. We’ve never sold under the RRP for the company in question on their latest lines, used only their approved imagery and given credit where credit’s due….but that’s because we ourselves do not perceive eBay to be the online car boot sale, which is clearly how some suppliers are viewing it.

Indeed we only started an eBay shop in the first place to remain competitive.

I was asked a while back to take down one of their ranges from eBay as the brand lending their name to the range apparently saw it as discrediting the brand. …….ironically the same brand which sells end of line fashion in TK Maxx.

Initially we did as asked. But then others remained selling it and so we put it back up there. When we were sold the goods originally, there was no question of eBay being a problem so it felt more than a bit rich to be asking what we see as a change in terms and conditions of sale. So we politely suggested that they buy the goods back off us, thus avoiding their sale on eBay and, to be fair, a deal another supplier was only too happy to offer.

The reply was that they didn’t offer a sale or return basis for business….which is not what this situation is. Surely if you change the terms of sale once the items have been sold, then you leave the buyer no alternative but to return the goods.

They’re having their cake and eating it so we are happy to keep the goods on eBay and for them to close our account. We both lose, sadly.

What does make me smile, however, is that in an era where like it or not, we are still in recession, giftware is not a life essential, so sales are not easily won. A company who can afford to put such limits on its product must be doing well, which is good news, but I wonder how long before there is a U-turn in its decision. How long before manufacturers or rather their sales teams acknowledge that eBay and Amazon are search engines?

People no longer Google something they wish to buy but go straight to eBay and Amazon. Only once they can’t find what they want there, do they then Google the product. #fact

Today we have received the following circular from eBay……….a counter attack, we wonder?

Today, we would like to ask you, as one of our professional sellers doing business on the eBay marketplace, for your help in supporting a very important initiative. It is aimed at making sure we keep ecommerce as an engine of growth in Europe.

What is going on?
Some brands and manufacturers are attempting to limit the sale and resale of their products online. Increasingly, these brands and manufacturers prevent their authorised sellers from selling their products on online marketplaces such as eBay. These unilateral bans harm you as a seller, your customers, eBay and commerce as a whole. 

What can you do?
Some sellers have founded ‘Choice in eCommerce’, an initiative which fights sales bans on online platforms. This initiative is inviting all business sellers to sign a petition. This petition will raise awareness of the problem amongst manufacturers, brand owners, online marketplaces, national and European policy-makers, as well as public authorities.

Sign the petition!
The petition can be found on the Choice in eCommerce’s website at: 

We encourage you and all our sellers to support this initiative and sign this petition in order to promote fair and open online-trade.

We thank you for your interest and engagement!

Best regards,
The eBay Team


I suspect brand owners and their manufacturers take a long hard look at e-commerce. There seems to be a throwaway assumption that all those selling on eBay are unprofessional, use bad imagery and do cheapen their brands, There are, however, sellers on there who don’t operate in such a way, who are simply keeping abreast of the trends and have to be in it to stay afloat.

Stop being so lazy and do some policing. Every time you sell to an online outlet, do a mystery shop, then send the goods back. See how you like/don’t like the experience and on that basis then start closing accounts but not as the first and only course of action.

I am tired of ill informed, dated sales folk who have no idea about online selling, what is and isn’t achievable. I would love them to work within the parameters they lay down and see how unworkable it can be.

For now, we will continue to sell from both our sites and trust that some suppliers out there wake up to reality.


Furry friends an asthmatic can enjoy!

June 13, 2013

I’ve been allergic to all things furry and hairy since birth and it never ceases to amaze me that people still say, “oh you don’t like animals do you?”

In reality I could go quite gaga over a pug, thanks to Men in Black’s Frank and his excellent rendition of I will survive!  I do genuinely think pugs are gorgeous, schnausers running a close second, and of course a big, golden lab would make my day, and doubtless the day of Ventolin as I would drain them of their supplies within the minute!

When I had a physical shop I could sell no end of cat themed products, dogs were, in contrast, in short supply.

So I loved it when I met Hot Paws & Trogg for the first time. Their adorable terrier themed oilcloths and linens were ideal for the site. Their retro feel was perfect for the current gift market, I’m only sad that, as far as I can tell, they have gone out of business.

Pink Terriers Tea Towel

While not the cheapest of items for the home, the quality is not negotiable. And they don’t scrimp on sizes either. This washbag is cavernous compared to others out there.

Blue Terriers Washbag

Following my twitterstream this morning I fell in love, instantly with this, posted by Bella and the Moo. Terrier bunting! At £4.50 per metre I think it’s fabulous!

terrier bunting

And that got me thinking about what else might be out there……

Behold Pugs Not Drugs – The T-shirt! Surely a bargain at £16.00?


Or maybe you prefer these from my favourite online foody people – Biscuiteers – Best in Show at £38.50 per tin of 16 biccies!


Could there be any better way to gain weight?

Of course, as we’ve mentioned countless times, the default gift of choice has to be the humble mug… you can indulge your doggie passion with Lots of Dogs, from Tyrrell Katz…

lots of dogs mug

or if that doesn’t whet your appetite, then why not consider the humour of Repeat Repeat…..features a blue Dachshund stating “Fetch it yourself… threw it”. At £7.49 for a bone china mug, we think that’s a steal!

You threw it

Reena – MMU Agency Life Teamster!

March 5, 2013

Reena is the last member of our MMU Agency Life team left to introduce to you.

A great Prestonian, Reena turns up every week making me look dishevelled and decidedly uncool – I consider her the ultimate Bond girl, she combines style with fun and intelligence , doubtless, set to have a fabulous career ahead of her……with her own Event Management company, I can see more freelance opps for me! Yippeee!


Here are her 20 questions…….except there are only 19……no idea what happened to the last one!

  1. Name – Reena Chauhan
  2. Nickname – Most of my friends call me Ree for short
  3. Age – 21
  4. Course of study at MMU – Retail Marketing and Management
  5. What is your dream job? – My dream job would be to own my own Events company
  6. Where do you see yourself at 30 years old? I hope to have travelled the world, be living in a large house with husband and kids. I want to have my own company that’s successfully earning a lot of money and enjoying life
  7. Kit Kat or Tunnocks Teacake? – Kit Kat
  8. Favourite TV Show? – My Wife and Kids shame it doesn’t come on TV anymore
  9. Who is your role model?  – Beyonce Knowles is my role model as she is an amazing businesswoman, married with a child yet she keeps her family life private
  10. What is the last book you read? PS I love you
  11. What is your favourite film? –  Mrs Doubtfire a childhood classic
  12. What was the last CD you bought? – Michael Jacksons album a very long time ago
  13. What made you choose Manchester for your degree? I chose to study in Manchester as I love the city. Compared to where I live, Manchester is a lot bigger which helps me gain more independence
  14. What is your most commonly used word or phrase? FABULOUS..!!
  15. If you could invite 4 famous people to dinner, who would you invite and why? Nicki Minaj – think she is an amazing singer, seems fab to be around. Alan Carr – hilarious human. The Queen. – she is a cute old woman and she is the Queen..!! Beyonce Knowles – a very private celeb, fantastic singer an amazing family woman also my role model.
  16. Where is the one place on earth you’d like to visit? – New York – Shopping..!!!
  17. How much is a pint of milk? £1 I think..!
  18. Who’s going to win 2012’s X Factor? Not really watched it much but I think Jade is amazing
  19. Of all the products available at newroomsonline, which is your favourite? Champagne glasses I think they are very classy an a cute gift

Stylish advertising makes a return

February 14, 2013

I am only human and to deny David Beckham is an attractive man would only be two signatures away from a committal!

And so it was with glee that I saw the new H&M advert. I think it’s fabulous. It’s beautifully shot, it makes you want to buy the product and David Beckham pulling his kecks out of his bottom at the end adds just the right amount of humour.

A superb job the like of which I haven’t seen in a while. I know Sony Bravia did all the great stunt work with paint and coloured balls but I don’t recall fashion TV adverts having been so stylish for a long time.

I loved the Levi’s ones from Brad Pitt….

to Nick Kamen….

to being mad about the boy with Dinah Washington….is the new H&M a slight nod in its direction?

to Flat Eric…

Few adverts actually make me want to buy anything at all, I credit myself, along with countless others for NOT falling for the hype but as soon as I saw the GAP Khakis Swing advert I immediately went out and bought a pair and loved them all the more for thinking I was that cool!

And maybe that’s it…..finally being told something was cool that I felt really was…..and now I was too! Wish they still fit….sighs.

Away from fashion, many years ago, to my joy, there was a Take The Pepsi Challenge tand on Preston market place. At the ripe old age of about 35 and always having wanted to take it, I took it. I knew #fact that I would choose Coca Cola…..there is no other.

But I chose Pepsi. I was mortified. The tall, impossibly attractive blonde promo girl stated very matter of factly “So you’ll be buying Pepsi from now on then?”

“Er no,” I replied.

“But you just chose it over two others? Why not?”

“Yes I know but I like to have a Coke and a Smile, I’d like to Teach the World to Sing….SANTA CLAUS IS COMING!!!!!!”

She knew she’d lost the argument but really…..why would I?

I could go on…..who could forget the Nestle advert of the woman in the VW making a cup of coffee in her car? I wanted a Beetle and a portable element for years after that one.

It’s really good to see some chic in our adverts at this time of austerity…and while I know DB abounds, he is everywhere, we forgive him because, well, he seems such a bloody nice chap!

I applaud those making 2012’s Christmas ads who didn’t go all out on huge celebrity casts to flog us stuff that we were always going to buy regardless of who was flogging it, but seeing David Beckham in his trollies brightened my day!

Here’s one for the fans…..oh…and thanks Guy Ritchie too!


HSBC Global Iris – the online death knell for Merchant Services?

February 12, 2013

About four or five months ago I had a call from HSBC Merchant Services with whom I have the payment gateway for newroomsonline.

I love HSBC and have seldom had cause to complain about them or their service.

They were calling to ask if I had managed to read through the new Global Iris merchant information that would be replacing my existing service.

As it happened I hadn’t given it a second thought pushing aside until it was absolutely necessary….that day had arrived.

The smashingly helpful Brian said he would walk me through the process.

We set about the task only to find that HSBC’s new software wasn’t a default gateway on the Shopcreator system to which I subscribe, so the process ground to a halt until I could have a chat with them.

“It’s ironic, “I said to Brian,”when so few customers elect to pay using the bank backed gateway anyway, I battle inwardly with whether it’s even worth my having it any more. Probably 99% choose PayPal to the degree that I know it no longer pays for itself. It’s just a tool that adds credibility!”

Brian kept a professional silence!

Evidently all that needed to be done was to point my checkout to a different address. Shopcreator made no bones about saying how banks were very quick to tell customers it was a five minute job when, in fact, it cost them a substantial amount of money to effect the changes. Bottom line, they would do it, but it would cost me £500.

So I refused.

I got back to HSBC and said that in all fairness why should I, or Shopcreator, for that matter, have to foot a bill for a change which was none of my doing?

And since then nothing has happened until this week.

Shopcreator and HSBC have arrived at an agreement where I have not had to pay but they have carried out the software migration nonetheless.

So this morning I had my mini tutorial on the new software which seems far more straight forward and intuitive than the last but is not without its anomalies.

They advise we use Internet Explorer as it just seems to do better on IE……but I use Chrome for everything! It will work on other browsers apparently but functions best of all on IE.

Which begs the question for me – why?

Why launch a software that doesn’t work equally across all browsers? (or is that my naivety?) When I am constantly being told that Chrome is a safer place to do business why would a bank elect to use any other out of preference?

Secondly, and perhaps more irritating is the fraudshield aspect.

The old software was linked to the ordering system, flagging up automatically any transaction that it queried as potentially fraudulent. This is commonly where a customer might have completed the invoicing address incorrectly, a mistyped postcode or, more often than not, where a house has a name and a number and the customer has not put them on the order form in the precise way the bank sees the address on their system. On the other hand it identifies fraudsters.

So when an order was marked FRAUDSHIELD REVIEW, I was instantly aware that the transaction had not been processed and had to log on to the merchant’s system to either OK or refuse the transaction based on the reason for its being flagged up.

The new software, however, does not do this. Consequently all transactions have to be gone through manually each evening to ensure that nothing has been flagged up as dodgy.

This might be OK if you’re a huge business and can dedicate a member of staff to the task, or if you are so small and have so few transactions that it’s not an all consuming task.

All I could think, however, was, thank God everyone IS choosing PayPal or this would sound the death knell for me and the HSBC gateway.

But it begs the question, if something were to go wrong with PayPal and I had to rely on HSBC I’d have to change all my terms and conditions regarding shipping times because I can easily see that I could not promise shipping within 2-3 days……as I’d have  my nose stuck to a spreadsheet all day. It’s not a good day for the SME working in online retail I have concluded.

I am fascinated to hear of any teething issues which have arisen for other vendors who might have been using Global Iris since its inception. Anyone?


Here’s Amelia – teamster No. 4!

February 11, 2013

Amelia is the next member of the newroomsonline team to introduce to you all.

A driven individual for whom nothing is too much trouble. I have a feeling that she would survive and thrive no matter what discipline she chose to follow.

A former competitive equestrian who drinks in all things marketing, she keeps me on my toes, alerting me to new ideas every week.

So while she offers no nickname, let’s say I’ll call her the Boss from now on!

Topshop – take heed, please don’t miss out on Amelia!!!!

The Boss!

The Boss!

  1. Name – Amelia
  2. Nickname – n/a
  3. Age – 19
  4. Course of study at MMU – Retail Marketing Management
  5. What is your dream job? – Head of Marketing at Topshop.
  6. Where do you see yourself at 30 years old? – Living in New York or Sydney.
  7. Tunnocks Teackes or Kit Kat? Peanut Butter Kit Kat!
  8. Favourite TV Show? – The Inbetweeners or Sex and the City, bit of a difference!
  9. Who is your role model? – My Auntie, she lives in Spain doing what she loves.
  10. What is the last book you read? – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  11. What is your favourite film? – Lord of The Rings, best films ever.
  12. What was the last CD you bought? – TNGHT ep
  13. What made you choose Manchester for your degree? – Manchester is my favourite city in England.
  14. What is your most commonly used word or phrase? – ‘I love [insert random object/thing]’
  15. If you could invite 4 famous people to dinner, who would you invite and why? – Miley Cyrus, because I love her, Ed Westwick, because he’s gorgeous, Mila Kunis because I have a massive girl crush on her and Zach Braff because he’s hilarious.
  16. Where is the one place on earth you’d like to visit? – I couldn’t name just one, I hope to see the whole world before I die.
  17. What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done? – I am the biggest wimp, so that would probably be learning to horse ride and eventually competing on my own Horse.
  18. How much is a pint of milk? – 50p
  19. Who’s going to win this year’s X Factor? – I really don’t care.
  20. Of all the products available at newroomsonline, which is your favourite? – The Chupa Chups Umbrella, you can’t survive Manchester without one!

When design goes wrong? XL jewellery!

February 8, 2013

As many others, I am a huge fan of the Domestic Sluttery blog.

By and large I love everything they choose to blog about, their foodie items being sumptuous, their fashion irresistible.

But then yesterday, this cropped up in my Facebook newsfeed and I was a more than a little shocked.

anne morgan contemporary jewellery handmade in wales UK Cardiff 2013-02-07 10-58-11


Accompanied by the question, isn’t this nautical necklace lovely, my heart went out to them….given mine and others’ responses.

Far from winning votes and hearing that cash register sound, of the 94 comments left, it seemed almost everyone did not share the love, many stating that it looked more like a noose, proffering lots of jolly un-nautical statements about hangmen or suicide! For me I could see nothing more than the Emperor’s New Clothes and questioning in my own mind “OMG have they lost it?”

What is a shame is that the rest of Anne Morgan‘s collection is stunning. I’ve seen her work before and love it. Added to which there seem to be fewer and fewer galleries, certainly around our way, stocking what I would describe as craft jewellery.

I’m nervous of describing it thus as the word craft, for many, implies old women making lace covers for toilet rolls, or people thinking their Fimo jewellery is the next big thing when really you wouldn’t give it house space! I mean craft as the height of craftsmanship.

Some noted that it was the first thing Domestic Sluttery had ever featured which didn’t get a unanimous LIKE! and a thumbs up.

For me the most astute observation came from Lucilla Dale who noted that it looks like something you would design for the catwalk. I couldn’t agree more. A one off maybe, that was never meant to adorn women everywhere but a statement piece for one specific occasion, from which more conservative designs would be derived?

If nothing else, it got us all talking, and did take me to Anne Morgan’s page, which is utterly delightful. I do urge you to take a look. Her designs are contemporary, having a really clean cut, fresh edge to them.

and in case we all thought they HAD lost it at Domestic Sluttery…….oh no, today’s shoe collection is to DIE FOR!


Lighting design…. ceci n’est pas une lumiere!

February 4, 2013

I was skimming through twitter the other day and came across this highlighted by Retro To Go – a light which seems to have gone round the block so frequently of late, that I am wont to ask – are people just not buying into it?

jeeves wall lamp


It’s the Jeeves wall lamp from Innermost by Jake Phipps, featured on Retro To Go’s site via Minimal Home.

What surprises me is that I am a fan of both Innermost and Retro To Go, having shopped with the former for my past home….yet this really does not grab me at all…..I find it really quite naff but I can’t explain why. Possibly because it seems a gimmick and nothing more to my layman’s design eyes.

I’m glad they used a Magritte to exemplify it…as it is exactly what I thought of as soon as I saw it… opposed to Jeeves!

Lighting seems to be such a niche thing these days.

Taste is always subjective but this just reminds me of the conversation I had with Jacqui Jones at Design Conscious a few years back when the Philippe Starck gun lamp came out….the most attractive part of it for me being inside the shade! I almost choked at the design….what was Starck thinking? And who is his market? BMW driving drug dealers? I know that’s all too sweeping a statement and doubtless shows me up for the naive fool I obviously am but…?



I can’t appreciate this no matter how I look at it.

It’s up there with the Mooi Rabbit Lamp……what’s going on? Is lighting becoming the emperor’s new cloths of interior design?

Before I moved into my new house all I wanted was this…the Glo Ball!


Perfect, elegant, dreamy….or maybe this too, love these caboche wall sconces.


I have to say I am also madly in love with this….O Space


Sadly for me, however divine our new abode is….the ceilings are too low as to allow for suspension lights.

Still…it leaves me more time to research emulsion!


Valentine Schmalentine!

January 30, 2013

As a gift retailer we should really be about flogging you as much as we can this Valentine’s Day but a straw poll around the office and immediate vicinity would imply a distinct amount of cynicism when it comes to grand declarations.

What's love got to do with it?

What’s love got to do with it?

Whereas our male contingent was eager to woo, romance and offer the consummate dreamy day for his beloved, the girls found the idea of receiving flowers and most gifts almost pathetic!

Maybe it’s my generation versus theirs, but the idea of my husband walking through the door with an armful of tulips or irises or freesias fills me with no end of joy….I’d even consider cooking him some peas in return (trust me this is a big ask!). Conversely our marketing team of four women thought the idea of flowers lacking in thought, a throw away gesture, a nod to the day in hand, a cliche.

On the one hand every day should be special, we all argued……on the other…it’s Valentine’s Day!

And so the talk turned to “Well what would you like for Valentine’s Day?”

After much discussion and polls on both our Facebook page and personal pages we gathered the following “intelligence”.

Answers in no particular order from both men and women:

  1. A nice day out somewhere
  2. Dinner
  3. A day on the fells – alone (huh?)
  4. Quality underwear – note quality!!!
  5. A trip to the theatre
  6. Jewellery
  7. A plant
  8. Food
  9. Money (!)
  10. A trip to the seaside (preferably without the kids)
  11. Chocolates
  12. And finally – a personal gift bought with thought

Ever wondered if you were in the right business?????

Last year the Daily Mail (yes I did say that….kudos disappears) reported that British  men would be spending £611 million on their other halves while the women would be spending £269 million on Valentine’s Day gifts.

Austerity measures are doubtless in place – in store merchandising I would have to say appears far less vulgar then usual….but in case you can’t face the day empty handed, can I make the following suggestions?

1. Take your other half a coffee in bed….but from a nice new latte mug!



2. Buy him something to make him smile at work for the day….an outsize lego mouse!



3. Ask her to move in subtly….with a new key ring!



Romance isn’t dead……it’s just resting!

Meet Filipe….you might have seen him somewhere before!

January 14, 2013

Say hello to the next member of our MMU Agency Life team, Filipe Paka de Lemos – a very busy man!

Filipe should be my personal trainer…..his schedule is draining just listening to it.

Aside from his studies, Filipe is also a cage fighter, hoping to compete in the US later this year…..oh and a model! Who knew the two disciplines would ever get along? He’s clearly fearless.

He’s currently our leading light on all things Cubic.

blog Filipe



1.    Name- Filipe Paka De Lemos

2.    Nickname- Baby Boy

3.    Age- 25

4.    Course of study at MMU- Retail Marketing management

5.    What is your dream job?- to have my own business

6.    Where do you see yourself at 30 years old?- In a big mansion

7.    Tunnocks Teackes or Kit Kat?- I am not a fan of sweet things

8.    Favourite TV Show? News

9.    Who is your role model? My dad

10.  What is the last book you read? Buyology

11.  What is your favourite film? American Gangster

12.  What was the last CD you bought? I dont buy CDs

13.  What made you choose Manchester for your degree? The lifestyle

14.  What is your most commonly used word or phrase? No worries

15.  If you could invite 4 famous people to dinner, who would you invite and why? Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther king, Rosa Parks, Oscar Schindler.  They all fought for something that they believed

16.  Where is the one place on earth you’d like to visit? Bora Bora Mexico

17.  What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

18.  How much is a pint of milk? 60p

19.  Who won last year’s X Factor? I dont watch X Factor

20.  Of all the products available at newroomsonline, which is your favourite? I like all the Cubic items, they are crazily innovative!

It amuses me that Filipe hasn’t answered the question relating to the most daring thing he has ever done. He nonchalantly describes cage fighting as a buzz….not at all vain about any damage that could affect his modelling opportunities! Surely cage fighting merits daring??? Scares the hell out of me just hearing about it.

Keep your eye on Filipe…mark my words, he’s a strong contender for Brazil 2016! But on whose side he would compete is still up for debate. If he doesn’t fight for the UK (because I’m crossing everything for him that it becomes an Olympic sport) we’ll be having words!