Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

VW Camper Van Lover..? Not me – Reena Chauhan

March 7, 2013

As the VW Camper Van craze shows no signs of going away, I asked Reena to write a blog about what’s out there. At 46 I’d love a Van to play with for a weekend away, I love the sense of no hurry, the style, the fact that’s it’s a cool version of caravanning and drier than camping…..but was amazed to find that far from loving the whole VW Camper Van scene, which is how I imagined every student to think, Reena was not a fan of the idea…..here’s what she has to say…..

I love VW products as I have my own VW Polo, but I don’t like Camper Vans nor do I understand the hype over Camper Van products.

I always wonder what the craze of Camper Vans and their accessories is all about. I can’t see myself driving to work in one everyday, I see it only as cute transport for a weekend trip, or a mini holiday!

Do people who like the Camper Van just actually like the hype or because they’re genuinely passionate about the product?

Here are some Retro and unusual VW Camper Van products I have found, however, which might sway me!

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

I know there are a lot of VW Camper Van mugs around but this one I have fallen in love with, even though it’s just a mug, I think it’s very unusual and will have to buy one!

VW Poster

VW Poster

This VW Camper Van Poster  – I actually quite like it, which I didn’t think I’d ever say about Camper Van products.

VW Iphone Case

VW Iphone Case

I personally think this is one of the best VW Camper Van products. I LOVE this iPhone case!

Lego

VW Lego

Best of all VW Camper Van Lego set AMAZING..!!

VW Laptop Bag

VW Laptop Bag

Different but retro look for a VW Camper Van Laptop Bag !

VW Clock

VW Clock

This VW Camper Van Clock to me shows it must have been designed by a Camper Van lover.

VW Kitchen Roll Holder

VW Kitchen Roll Holder

When I saw this  VW Camper van kitchen roll holder  I just thought it was VW crazy..!! This is OBSESSIVE!

VW Salt and Pepper

VW Salt and Pepper

VW Salt and Pepper pots for a full retro look to a Van’s interior!

VW Mugs

VW Mugs

This set of VW Mugs would be perfect for a Camper Van or camping in a Camper van Tent.

VW USB

VW USB

My Favourite Camper Van Product.

Personally I love these USB memory sticks, unusual and funky.

You can follow Reena on twitter @newroomsree!

 

Winter Warmers – Laura Crosby

December 13, 2012

With the warm weather officially behind us, there is nothing better than getting cosy in front of the fire with a blanket and a cup of warm, whipped cream topped with hot hot chocolate!

I love nothing more than doing just that, especially as Manchester weather isn’t the best!

Here are my top five favourite mugs from the newroomsonline collection to enjoy my hot chocolate in.

Keith Brymer Jones Chocolate Mug

Keith Brymer Jones’ chocolate mug.

Obviously with chocolate on the mug this is one of my favourites. Does what it says on the tin!

RR Dog mug

Repeat Repeat Dachshund mug.

Sausage dogs are definitely my favourite, but I cannot have a pet, so seeing one on a mug is close enough!

Little-Miss-Chatterbox---Mr

Little Miss Chatterbox Mug

This mug sums up what every girl does when they get together, gossip over hot drinks!

Pintuck

The retro design on this mug by Mary Fellows is girly and so cute, absolutely love this one.

Herdy Sheep Mugs

Have sheep ever been cuter?

Find all these mugs on newroomsonline before all the hot chocolate addicts (or just me) snap them up!

Brownie in a Mug

December 9, 2012

Christmas is a time for family, presents and of course, food! What better time to stuff your face with chocolate and mince pies? One of my favourite treats is brownies, the melt-in-your-mouth, gooeyness is just too divine to refuse. I recently discovered a new way to make brownies, it’s quick, it’s easy and it requires very few ingredients. I would like to introduce you all, to Brownie In A Mug! (It’s also helpful that the recipe only makes 2 mugs worth of brownie, to avoid inevitably eating your whole batch of goodies). Everyone’s eating cupcakes these days, mix it up a bit with a fabulous brownie in a mug.

They’re so fast and easy to make, perfect for if you fancy a quick and tasty snack, or if you’re not the most capable baker!

To make these irresistible treats, you will need:

Ingredients

  • 50g of chocolate (we used milk but you can use dark or white, whichever you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar (caster is best, but granulated is fine  too)
  • 2 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons of Nutella

(this recipe makes two mug’s worth of brownie)

And of course, you will need a mug! We used this gorgeous Catherine Colebrook mug available online at www.newroomsonline.co.uk.

mug

So, you’ve got your ingredients, you’ve got your two microwaveable mugs, and you’ve got your microwave. Let’s bake!

First of all, place a tablespoon of butter into each mug, followed by 25g of the chocolate, broken up into small pieces. These will then be microwaved separately for 40 seconds, to melt the butter and chocolate together. After microwaving, stir until blended together (try not to eat this concoction, sounds gross but it is extremely delicious! If not slightly sickly)

chocolateandbutter                   microwave

Next, stir 2 tablespoons of sugar into each before beating the egg in a bowl, and adding half to each mixture. Now add a tablespoon of flour to both, and stir everything until mixed well and smooth.

sugar    crackegg   stirinegg

flour

Finally, the Nutella. Place one and a half tablespoons in the centre of the mixture (this will melt into the centre of the brownie, absolutely scrumptious) Cook each mug in the microwave (separately) for 1 minute, told you it was quick!

nutella

And there you have it, gorgeously gooey and definitely delectable Brownies. You will not be disappointed, impress your friends and relatives this Christmas with a heavenly Brownie in a Mug. We hope you enjoy!

finishedbrownie              finish

Brownie in a Mug recipe found on www.kirbiecravings.com…..road tested by Amelia Carey (@newroomsame) and Eleanor Ashton (@newroomsel) !

MMU Agency Life – Part 1, Reputation Management

October 16, 2012

There can be an arrogance of youth, a confidence that many, particularly in middle age, find irritating, maybe a deep seated sense of jealously and even a resentment of someone younger, fitter and more energetic. That’s before we even get to the volume of ideas spewing forth from their mouths, before routine and procedure had managed to kill off such fabulous enthusiasm in an older workforce.

It was with trepidation, therefore, that I arrived at MMU last week to meet my team of six retail marketing students with whom I will be working for the next year, as part of the MMU Agency Life project.

It’s an odd position for me. I work alone and have done for many years now, building newroomsonline and, truth be told, being a bit paranoid about sharing information with anyone whom I don’t already know and trust.

So how do I acquire trust quickly?

When I graduated and applied for jobs, all the potential employer knew about me was what I’d written on the form. Not so in this day and age.

Tipped off by another company, by the time I met my gang,  I’d done my homework and was armed with a selection of gifts to hammer home how public our lives have become.

If six people are to work with me, then I need to know who they are, how they tick and to establish some ground rules……an hour of reputation management ensued.

“What do you know about me and my business?”

The answers were good, encouraging, well thought out, enthusiastic and funny…..my love affair with all things Spanish is evident! They had done their research.

My turn, then “What do I know about you?”

I presented the first guy with a bottle of Ribena and said, “I believe you’d forgotten how much you like this. You’re quite chilled. I’m surprised that someone of your age has even heard of Bill Hicks…quite impressive.”

We discussed his tastes in music, his aspirations to be a pro skateboarder and to win battle of the rappers.

The remaining five knew what was coming…and if my imagination didn’t deceive me, shrank a bit in their chairs.

I gave one a packet of Skips, others a packet of Thai Chilli Sensations, a bottle of Evian, a sponge for a new car and the last candidate a copy of a magazine….which had nothing to do with anything I’d found out about her, I just thought she should have a gift too.

Online she was locked down. Her Facebook profile completely closed off, and if she had a twitter account, then I couldn’t find it.

She has everyone else at an advantage as a result.

I suspect some of my team were surprised that I’d found them at all, but it’s not so hard when someone uses the first half of their email address as their twitter name. It’s easy to track down Amazon wish lists, blogs, tumblr pages, subscriptions to online services, a Facebook page. Those who you can’t find directly, you can find indirectly as a result of someone else mentioning them in virtual passing.

And while some candidates lock everything down, others don’t. It was evident that half my team genuinely thought their profiles were hidden, partially hidden or, at least, not so easily accessed. In addition when I asked if they were concerned about their own online reputation I sensed a positive attitude that at the moment it shouldn’t matter. And it shouldn’t…but sadly, it does, it really does.

What is apparent is that young people sometimes use twitter like text messaging, often discussing subjects that many of us would seldom voice in public. They say anything and everything without fear of condemnation, because put simply, they are only chatting with close friends about stuff which is personal to them….banter you might hear in any pub, hall of residence or club across the land.

I don’t want to stifle someone’s good times. I merely wish to point out the privacy options on social media platforms, from which they could benefit a fine future because I have a fine team, who really impressed me from the outset.

It scares me to think, however, that today’s graduates applying for jobs carry a naivety of youth that could potentially damage a career before it’s ever been given that first break.

My team is enthusiastic, articulate, informed, full of ideas and full of life. They live that life to the full, “live the dream” and are seemingly fearless. How I envy them.

It’s refreshing to hear their thoughts and aspirations for my business given they have only known about it for a week or so.

In the first instance the team has been spending some time this weekend preparing me a ghoulish film to celebrate Halloween using the products we sell, in addition to providing me with a personal spec.

I have always tried to project a personable image for newroomsonline, so over the next few weeks I will be introducing you to the guys, their twitterstreams and inviting their input on how I do things. They will write a blog post or two, they’ll all write a newsletter, they will tweet, engage and reach out on Facebook!

Say hello to them if you pass one another!

Backpacks, rucksacks, haversacks – function vs fashion vs terminology!

August 3, 2011

I started tweeting our selection of backpacks this morning and at the same time wondering if I shouldn’t be saying rucksacks. It’s the perpetual daily torture over which words google best…but then equally, do they both necessarily mean the same thing in the buyer’s eye?

In my mind there’s an element of outdoorsy snobbery about certain terms. I recall once saying to my good friend Robin, probably 20 years ago now, that I liked his new anorak. He was mortified….”It’s a SKIING JACKET, and thanks!” came the response. It was all a bit akin to that fabulous Alan Partridge and Peter Kay Comic Relief sketch where someone comes over and asks who owns the brown Toyota blocking the door, to which he responds, “It’s a coffee coloured Lexus!”

I digress.

It’s all about second guessing what people look for, moreover what words they use to describe an item…and sometimes it feels like it’s anyone’s guess…you say potato….I say potahto!

In my mind the backpack was always the less technical term and more of an implication of a fashion accessory as opposed to something you would take fell walking…like these beauties…

Agatha Ruiz de la Prada Pink Spots Backpack

Kukuxumusu knitted jacquard Dragonfly Backpack - Jaione

Joshua Davies Isobars Laptop Backpack

Jordi Labanda Blue Backpack

Chupa Chups Lollypop Backpack

VW Transporter Haynes Manual Backpack

Whereas the rucksack is something I’ve regarded as far more technical, walking accessories that don’t so much come in a choice of fabric design as a full technical specification, usually denoted by litre-age, waterproofing, breathability and weight!

For years I’ve walked in Cumbria but was a very late starter so my rucksack of choice before being tutored into the more technical stuff was a Quiksilver one. It’s a surfer’s one if the truth be told but it’s really light, really hardwearing, suitably showerproof and at the time of purchase, I felt, uber stylish, in its cream and gold colourway!

These days I still carry it on shorter walks but am more inclined to use something a bit more technical on occasion, as my old bones prefer the lightweight, very waterproof and geared up for sitting correctly on your back type of accessory – so I have a very cheap Rhino 22 litre Wynnster…I am certainly no Alan Hinkes!!

The choice is vast from Berghaus, which I always think look the best being taller and slimmer, to Lowe Alpine and The North Face…and that’s just the tip of a very large ice berg.

And then we come to the haversack!

My mother has never called a rucksack a rucksack or backpack…but a haversack. So it was weird when looking into this to find that haversack certainly nowadays seems to be what I would call a courier bag, messenger bag or satchel!

I’ve never heard a single other person say the word than my mother so that alone would deter me from ever describing anything on newroomsonline as such…..but given the fact that I am plagued almost hourly by SEO cold callers who tell me we come up for zero…what do I know?

 

Value for Money vs Return on Investment (ROI) – RHS Tatton Show

July 27, 2011

As we continue to fight the recession, the emphasis on value for money has never been more important. Is Return on Investment (ROI) the same thing? I’ve never known, but I do find myself not being quite so quick to purchase certain things that I’d hitherto been happy to fund unless I know for certain I’m more than likely to be satisfied with the outcome.

My father took us to the RHS Show at Tatton on Friday. £23 in advance wasn’t outrageous to me. I think it was £28 on the door which, by contrast, did seem outrageous but there’s no accounting for the irrationale within my headspace. It’s a lovely day out and all the more fab for seeing the second garden that my great friend, Sharon Hockenhull, had designed and built. A Silver Award in the bag, the garden seemed to attract a lot more attention and favourable comments than many of the others we saw. In my opinion that was solely down to people being able to see their own gardens being constructed in a similar fashion – something which is night on impossible to visualize with other entries. I’m sure that’s exactly why Antonio Carluccio employed her talents following that last show.

Garden Designer Extraordinaire

Embrace - St Ann's Hospice Garden

Embrace by Sharon Hockenhull

Silver Award Winning Design by Sharon Hockenhull

My gasping,  jaw dropping horror, however, came when we decided to have lunch. Of course had we really thought things through we would have taken a picnic and some folding chairs…the sort that you pick up for a tenner and can carry over your shoulder in a little bag. Classically those thoughts hadn’t entered our minds so we were left with purchasing from onsite facilities.

With long queues as far as we could see we opted for some butties from the Champagne and Pimms provision. I appreciate it was a Champagne stand but it did sell butties! We bought four sandwiches (3 club and 1 NY deli), 3 small Pimms and lemonade and 2 bottles of still water. The bill was £38.00.

Frankly I was, and remain, appalled. I know it’s supply and demand…we wanted some food, and we didn’t want to queue too long, but for £38 we got butties in a standard packet, not on a plate with a few olives or some crisps, and there was no guaranteed seat either. We queued with some of Cheshire’s rudest only to feel sadly short changed. The butties were adequate. Fit for purpose is about as complimentary as I can muster.

From an event management perspective I can’t help but think the organisers have let their most faithful demographic down somewhat. I stand to be corrected but it’s a largely grey haired affair, so with that in mind, you’d think it important for there to be somewhere for the retired folk to sit.  Both my parents have impaired mobility, and, a sit down between tents is most welcome…..but try finding anywhere. You can purchase an aluminium folding chair for £25-ish from the charity stall but beyond that the actual provision is woefully inadequate. Yes, there are benches, yes there is token seating in the food space but by no means enough, and of course, it’s the younger, fitter families who beat the pensioners to the decent seats every time. And then what to do when it rains? And boy did it rain.

What we choose to spend our money on is all personal choice….whether or not it’s personal spend or commercial spend. What makes financial sense to some is ruinous nonsense to others. I guess I’m saying that while there will be stats to support any business model, Value for Money is subjective while Return on Investment is science which can be proven!

Last year I enquired about a stand at Tatton for newroomsonline. I didn’t want the faff of having to buy something I’d have to erect on the set-up so opted to see if there was any chance of getting a stall within the Country Living marquee. The cost was around £3,000.00.

Now that might not sound much to some but when you consider the cost of the average unit that I sell…….that’s a lot of stock to transport to fill the stall. Added to this, none of the items I sell have an actual price tag on them because we’re online only, so we would have to ensure everything was priced up. When you then consider that it would take probably 2 days to get the stock from the warehouse and price up….take 5 days out for the show and then potentially have to bring stock back again, remove the price tags and redistribute around the warehouse, you realise that taking a stand is no mean feat……so is it worth the spend?

In a nutshell – No!

I’ve done many local shows. OK so they’re not Tatton but there has been a good variety of venue and I am reluctant to take the gamble any more. The outlay is so price prohibitive that I really do fear the result and it takes so much out of you. The assumption is that you will sell but so many factors influence whether or not you do any business.

Are you hidden by pillars, trees, someone else’s sign?

Is someone else there selling exactly what you sell?

Is there a cashpoint? Does it work?

Is it raining?

Should you have signage made? Carry away literature? Bespoke bags?

Will you need to employ staff? Transport them? Provide accommodation?

What insurance will you need?

And all I want to do is walk away with a profit……….so you can see why after years of all these factors informing my decision why that decision is No!

I know a few of my followers are in the process of setting up businesses so I would ask you to consider all these factors before some smooth talking charmer talks you into taking a stand at any show – no matter its track record! These are unpredictable times – my advice is tread cautiously and grow organically!

Trade fairs – the not so fair trade afterall

January 26, 2011

I was at Top Drawer in London last week meeting up with a couple of my favourite suppliers. I have my visit to that particular fair down to a fine art these days and can arrive at Euston at 12.30, get to Earls Court, do the rounds and be on the 16.30 train back home.

I’ve disliked Top Drawer intensely for about 20 years but they seem to finally have got it right and either realised a few things themselves or had so many complaints that they can now organise a drinkies session at a distillery! It was a joy to attend, and I mean it.

For years it seemed everything was laid out on a first come first served basis – card suppliers next to smelly candle producers, next to babygrow knitters, scattered among jewellery makers. So if you sell one or other of those products but not all you literally had to walk every single isle picking your way between things of no consequence or interest. Your day was an unnecessary right-off.

Added to this, of course, is my own phobia of jewellery! So I’d be walking past some people looking like a rabbit in headlights about to pass out when someone offered me the chance to alight their stand and feel the quality! I think not, my sweaty palms would have slid off anything.

These days it’s so much more of a breeze, I can walk past all the irrelelvant stuff to find what does interest me.

As a matter of course I dropped on to one of the stands whose products I absolutely adore and would fill the website with tomorrow barring one obstacle – they refuse to supply online only stores. If you have a physical shop they will happily supply you, their argument being that shops have a greater financial outlay? It’s a bizarre argument. To be brutal, what do they care what the overheads of a particular shop are? To be fair in business is a lovely and perfect sentiment, and one to which I try to adhere but this one is wrought with anomalies in my opinion.

This piece relates in part to a similar blog that I wrote back in March.

The brand in question, who I will not name and shame because I desperately want their gear, are high value, high quality, superb design and manufacture, yet as far as I am concerned not being entirely honest with their explanation. I would imagine it to be far more a case of protecting their brand and not having the confidence to supply a website without fear of it turning up on some online car boot sale.

Their line was that the overheads are so vast with a physical shop that their allegiance has to be those customers first and foremost. They went so far as to say that they have one online only prospect who is now opening a physical shop on the back of wanting their product – don’t do it – well, don’t do it for the sake of one line!

A few years ago another would-be supplier refused to give me a wholesale price for their stock as they had not yet worked out the prices for online only suppliers? WTF? When I questioned why dual pricing I received the reply because the footfall online is greater yet the overheads of a physical shop so much more that it is unfair to offer the same wholesale price. Interestingly they have now completely sacked that idea off and are biting my hand off to take their wares – I don’t think so.

I remain appalled by the apparent ignorance and naivety displayed on the part of some suppliers. Part of the myth surrounding online retail as I see it is that unless you are a large chain, you’re an unknown commodity. So get to know us, engage with us, try to understand where we’re coming from rather than thinking we’re all on-the-make Delboys! Look at our sites, see how we sell, what we do, who we stock and who our customers are.

When I popped my head onto the stand and said I’d made the enquiry a few years ago and asked if the situation was still the same, I was told yes. And then I heard my voice say “But it’s the 21st Century, how can you still be refusing to deal with online only customers?” And all the same reasons were re-cited……higher overheads for shop owners, they have more at stake, they might also have a website which is OK so the only answer is to open a shop if you want our product.

I responded but I have overheads – not least a warehouse! To wit, many of our shops have warehouses as well as a shop. Then there’s the footfall argument. I think they mean potential footfall. But to get anything like the footfall they imagine takes hours and hours of hard work. So I guess it’s an hourly rate argument. They don’t get that your overhead is your desktime charges. Desktop research, endless reiteration and repetition through the social networking channels, digital marketing as opposed to a printed catalogue or flyer.

Many suppliers selling a design-led item are very precious of their brand, their invention, their commodity and I get that and I respect it. You’re pitching your stuff at a certain level and when you can see a shop you have a much better idea of what you’re policing. You are in control. It seems harder online to maintain that control, but it really isn’t. You only need log on to a website once to know if you want to see your work up there.

What shocks me as well is that while a physical shop might be the bees knees on the High Street, their website is merely a political presence which does them and their produce few, if any, favours.

Take Stringers in Lytham. It’s a local store, a dying breed as a department store not a chain. The produce is fabulous, shopping there is a real joy, I’m a true devotee. But their website serves as an online presence and nothing more. It’s clean, it’s pretty, it’s got pictures which change but beyond that it’s boring and offers you nothing of any real value. One month on and their Christmas shopping times are still front page news. But the shop – I couldn’t be a bigger fan. I buy most of my shoes there, I love their separate homestore. As a supplier you’d look at their site and wonder where you came into the frame.

Take another independently owned Fylde department store – JR Taylors. It sells some of the most cherished brands available, the biggest names in ladies handbags, aspirational lines that sell for a hefty price – it is the definition of luxury round these parts……yet no website of their own that I can find at all just a shocking mention on a local site filled with out of focus photos which does it no service whatsoever.

In some respects you would be forgiven for thinking well who is she to talk? I know, my website is on an old platform, but we go live with the new one within the next month, but it takes time (and money) to trawl through 560 products, remove the links, change the photo sizes, make sure everything is still there…..in the meantime, suppliers – have a rethink maybe. We’re not all schysters trying to cheapen your brand to the lowest level, we’re also trying to build a brand name for ourselves as reputable e-tailers providing some welcome competition to the chain stores.

Best of British Contemporary Leather Designs

March 18, 2010

Last week I finally got Barbara Wiggins‘ stunning leather goods into the site. It’s a range I’ve wanted to have for a long time but have waited to get a more comprehensive selection than just a few items.

I’ve never been one to buy just one item by a designer, my argument being a tokenistic gesture does neither you nor them and their product any favours.

I don’t know Barbara, having only met her a couple of times but in the little time I have spent with her, she’s just lovely. There’s no designer attitude, no sense that she’s too big to be spoken to! That maybe because she’s a grounded Irish woman with nothing to prove! There’s no ego, no self imposed importance which is quite common in younger designers I meet along the way, in fact one of my most commonly overused words – she’s adorable!

Her designs are simple, classic and utterly irresistible. There isn’t a single piece I wouldn’t have myself.

Her selection of products is much much bigger than what I’ve chosen for the site but I wanted to bring in the retro side with her vintage range of pre-battered looking leather….


Vintage A6 notebooks

Barbara Wiggins Leather Document Wallet

and her glamorous side with the crackled metallic leather.

Crackle Metallic Leather Pencil Cases

Uber glamourous A-lister notebooks

The items are exquisite and come  in some great colours. Again I’ve not taken every colour but please do shout if you’re specifically after one colour and I’ll see if I can’t get hold of something for you. They started selling before I’d really had a chance to launch them so fingers crossed as this is a stunning range.

Tell your friends!