Let's start with The Cat Gallery as a business. After that we'll look at Alfie & Charlie:
Jan - March - Lockdown!
Our year couldn't have got off to a worse start with a National Lockdown being imposed on 2nd January. Shop sales in Q1 totalled £118 so thank you to everyone who shopped online during this period!
Lockdown did give us time to plan how we could improve our customer experience in 2021. It was in these long, dark cold months that ideas like "Postage for a Pound" were born. It's been a great way of making small gifts and greetings cards from our shop available at a fair postage cost and it is something we will look to continue on an occasional basis in 2022.
Covid disrupted our York Cat Trail leaflet print schedule, but the good news is that we'll be updating this popular, free self-guided walk in early 2022 and expanding it to include at least one new cat.
April - June
With many trade shows in Q1 cancelled, I was worried it would be a struggle to pull together a decent collection of products for our Spring catalogue. Alison rose to the challenge magnificently, finding all sorts of fab new gifts for humans and cats.
In Q2 we also worked on a partnership arrangement with International Cat Care. This has resulted in us stocking some of their own products, plus lines they have tested and endorsed as being particularly "Cat Friendly".
July - September
We plan our Christmas catalogue in July - not an easy task when there's a toxic combination of Brexit fallout, Covid restrictions and a global container shipping crisis going on, including the Ever Given stuck sideways in the Suez canal!
Fortunately, all has turned out well. Most things turned up (eventually) although we're very sorry about the delayed calendars and one of the diaries. We ended up with too much stock in some areas and the positive from that can be seen in our New Year Sale right now!
In Q3 we also gave you a 3D tour of our shop . This generated a lot of positive feedback.
We tried to recruit a Manager for our York shop in Q3, but this didn't work out as we hoped. The upside is that we managed to recruit some excellent students to help out, whilst also getting to spend more time in the shop ourselves. If you know someone based close to York who has the skills, experience and desire to run our busy shop, please ask them to drop in their CV!
October - December
Stock issues aside, the last quarter has been really positive. The shop has been busy, York has looked great, especially latterly, festooned with Christmas lights and our warehouse have kept pace with demand, getting parcels out promptly wherever possible. If that wasn't enough, we had multiple visits from customers with real live cats. This is a trend which we'd be happy to see continue (but please check with your cat before bringing it in!). Pictured below is Chloe, a Feline Assistance Cat who helps his autistic owner.
We took on a new project in November, marketing part of a huge and impressive collection of cat ornaments amassed over many years, to help raise funds for Thames Valley Animal Welfare. We have a few more cats to list (sorry, I ran out of time before Christmas) and hope to have all ornaments re-homed by the end of January. All pieces will be listed in our Vintage Collectables section. Some of the currently listed items are on offer, including the Griselda Hill Pottery Cat pictured below. Why not take a look?
Alfie and Charlie
If they could tell me about their year, I think Charlie would say that he has enjoyed three big positives in 2021. The first would be his sleeping arrangements which involve either a sofa that Charlie thinks is only big enough for him, his blue stripy bed or me! He always seems to get the bed he wants.
His second big positive would be a reduction in the number of "non-resident" cats in our garden. We don't know why this is, but it is possible that a couple of younger visitors have become a little less adventurous as they have matured. The cat pictured below has definitely decided that sticking to his own "patch" has its advantages.
Whatever the reason, Charlie is now a happier boy.
Charlie's third positive, regarding food, is also Alfie's main memory of 2021.
Alfie has been rumbled towards the back end of 2021. We were thinking that his portly frame was down to eating at other houses but it has become clear that he has been scoffing his brother's food. We had to invest in two Surefeed microchip feeders (at £70 a go) but it has been soooo worth it. Alfie's plaintive mews for food tell us that he is having a hard time on the new food regime but the scales tell us the good news that he is gradually going back to a more "normal" size.
We'll remember 2021 as the year in which Alfie and Charlie had their portraits painted. A fantastic fundraising initiative by York RSPCA called "Badly Drawn Pets", allowed us to donate to receive lovely interpretations of our cats. We were delighted to be able to publicise their fundraiser to a wider audience. Here is how Alfie was interpreted:
So, that's it for my scribblings on 2021. It was definitely a challenging year, but with lots of positives to take into 2022. Who knows what it holds, but we'd love to have you along with us for the ride!
Best Wishes from
Alison, Peter, Alfie & Charlie