Friday, 10 July 2009

Here I go again!

Glutton for punishment that I am, I took on not only one week on Covent Garden Real Food Market, but three! All this in the few weeks when I have a chapter deadline looming. Yes, it seemed like a good idea at the time.Anyway, somehow I am managing - just about - to hold everything together, and so yesterday I lugged my trolley, backpack and huge Farmer's market shoulder bag on the rush hour tube and just about managed to make it to Covent Garden, both on time and intact. I must have been quite a sight dragging my stuff around. A fundamental flaw in my business plan is the fact that I don't drive! Oops!
So by the time I arrived I was already exhausted and I hadn't even set out the stall, let alone stood behind it for eleven hours. This time I remembered to charge my little point-and-shoot camera, and couldn't resist having it tucked in my bag so I could share some pictures with you.

After last weeks mild disaster with the baked stuff not selling I did a lot of thinking and decided that making stuff I thought was a winner in hot weather had actually put me at a disadvantage. It didn't show off my skills at all, as I think lots of people were looking at the stuff and thinking "well I can make cookies and scones" and not bothering.
This week I decided to completely change the approach. I made things I really like making, things I think look great and taste great, and things that if they didn't sell, would frankly be gobbled up once they got home, rather than making the trip into the depths of the freezer. I hope that this stuff would show off my skills a bit more too, and be a bit more impressive. Oh, and it would be cooler, so hopefully people would be hungry.

On top of this approach, I made more of the best sellers from last week (the white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies and the two granola's) and topped up my jam and chutney displays. All in all I might have been exhausted when I arrived, but I was feeling pretty psyched about the day, and aiming to try and sell out.
Of course, things never turn out the way you would hope.

I thought that the comfortable temperatures and spattering of sunshine would bring out droves of people to the market, alas this was not the case, and the day started reeeeeaaaaallllllly slowly. I barely sold anything in the first few hours, and even the supply of wine from my amazing friends on the stall next to me was doing little to lift my spirits. I have to admit that at one point I even got a little teary and pondered why on earth I was doing this whole thing, and what was I thinking trying to start a business when I'm clearly not good enough. These thoughts weren't helped by the lady who tasted one of the jams, pronouced it "alright" and flounced off, or the lady who tasted a different jam and said "oh, it's very sweet and sugary" (it's jam people, fruit preserved in SUGAR?!). So yes, things were not going all that well.However, things did slowly pick up, and although this week my jams and chutneys didn't sell as well (I partly put this down to being sold out of my most popular chutney the previous week), I did almost sell out of all the baked goods, with only a few fruit tarts left over at the end of the day (which were very successfully traded for some very delicious looking food from other people).

This week truly has showed me that Covent Garden is a strange market indeed. My knowledge of markets is based on specialist food markets, and my products bear that in mind. However, Covent Garden isn't usually occupied by foodie stuff, and so the crowd just isn't the same. Well, that's the verdict of myself and several other traders I spoke to.

So yes, perhaps it isn't that my stuff isn't good enough, perhaps it's just not in the right place, perhaps my takings (which haven't been as high as hoped for) are actually pretty good. We shall see. I have one more week, and after some very nice and supportive hugs from N (who came down after work, kept me sane for the last hour helping me sell, packed down with me, and then even dragged the trolley home after a few too many post-work pints) I've decided that I'm going to go all out. I'm going to bake lots and lots of stuff, and make more jams and chutney and hopefully it'll be a bonanza week.

Plus, there is a huge food event going on in Covent Garden next week, someone is making a giant cupcake at lunchtime, so who know, the place might be packed with food loving (jam buying) people!

Fingers crossed I can go out with a bang, and if you fancy a taste of the world's largest cupcake, or some baked stuff from moi, please pop down and say hello.


  1. The stall looks great, such a shame your not doing as well as you had hoped. I'll definitely be down in London next week and i'm definitely going to pop down

  2. I'm sorry this week wasn't as straight forward. Do you know yet if the higher sales of the non-jarred items this week mean you've done about the same over all? I hope so!

    All I can say is that visiting your stall last week, it really struck me as every bit as professional in terms of produce, layout, design and quality as those of the "pro" traders. I can't comment on costs and margins and whether you can make the figures work to create a successful business but certainly, in terms of quality of offering, I think you have it sorted.

    Your stall gave me the confidence to get myself sorted out for my date on the stall...

  3. Those thick bar like things covered with chocolate look amazing. What are they? And cinnamon rolls? Those must have sold, right? Maybe you're selling to the wrong people. If all your goodies were at a stand at one of the Minnesota markets, they'd be gone in a flash! Of course, there is a thing about Americans eating sweet thing very early in the day. Keep your head up and keep trying!

  4. I'm glad you'll be around next week as I will try to stop by -- if I get out of work in time! The pictures look great so I will come support you in person!

  5. Pencil me for an hour of support and buying (those cookies were divine, and i'm still thinking about the apricot and vanilla jam-hope there is some left)between 1 and 2pm.
    Do keep going-you are a great baker and preserver!

  6. I'm so glad you decided, in the end, to just go all out :) I'm sorry it's not what you hoped but SO glad that you're going out with a bang. Because you're cool.

    Good luck with all the busy days!

  7. Wow guys! Thank you all so much for your support. It really has lifted my spirits this week reading all your lovely comments.

    Edd and Cucinista - Looking forward to meeting you both on Thursday.

    Kavey - I made only about 20 quid less, so not quite the wash out I anticipated once I'd counted up! I can't wait to head down when you're on the stall and pick me up some tasty treats.

    Siri - the bars are my "caramel delight" a very dangerous item indeed, which vanish in our house if given half a chance.

    Monica - phew, I'll get a toilet break ;-). Will be great to have seen you twice in as many weeks, I clearly need to do this crazy stuff more often!

    Sarah - I wish you were closer, I'd love to have you rock on over to the stall. One day maybe? :-)

  8. Just tucking into your delicious brownie, I am glad I did not walk on by thinking there were walnuts in there. They are fantastic.

  9. oh that sounds like it was a depressing day... I had one of those in my little village market the other day.. I was left with so much cake that I nearly cried.. and then i ate a lot of it... Not a healthy way to be! :) I'm hoping it was just an off day...