Always look the part, even in lockdown…

The lockdown may have given retailers the chance to catch up on tasks they don’t usually have time for but, for Darren Taylor, that meant unwittingly letting his personal appearance slip…

If anyone was to have told me at the beginning of the year that my business would be forced to shut its doors, my loyal staff would temporarily be made redundant, that almost all of my worldwide suppliers would close, that all kitchen installations would have to go on hold and that April and May would be spent alone in my locked-down showroom, I would have told them they were reading too much dystopian fiction and to cheer up.

I genuinely thought that with the uncertainty of Brexit nearly behind us, business would start picking up.

As we all went into lockdown, I tried to remain positive and I made a list of tasks that I never normally had time to do. Most of those tasks are now done, with more besides. I suggested we all use the time wisely, and I am pleased to say that I certainly have.

I am most proud of the fact that I now have a new and very large bespoke display at the entrance to my showroom that would have ordinarily taken two people to install, but I managed to do this over the many sunny days we had during the crisis.

This was challenging work, manhandling huge pieces of very heavy furniture into place on my own. I am so pleased with myself as it is looking great and has since been hand-painted in Farrow & Ball Duck Green by my trusted painter on a day when I wasn’t there to ensure social distancing.

I will never know whether it was because there was nothing else to see in Winchester during this time or the fact that the local zoo was also closed, but it was somewhat disconcerting to occasionally look up and discover that I had become a local attraction. I would regularly see masked passers-by staring into my shop window and waving at me in their surgical gloves whilst I was lifting, whittling and crafting away at my new display.

Some would stand there for a while looking through the windows, giving me thumbs up and general nods of approval. Maybe when the zoo re-opens, they could include a sweaty man wrestling with furniture whilst living off Pot Noodles?

For this task, which I believed I was performing in splendid self-isolation, I was wearing what can be politely described as clothing suitable for when you don’t think you aren’t going to see anyone, which meant that I looked particularly scruffy.

Also, given the hairdressers next door had been closed for months, I also had very long and unmanageable hair – hardly the look of the managing director of a premium kitchen showroom and the jaunty ‘man about town’ that only I think I am (I know I am more Mr Bean than Mr Bond!).

But I am now dreading that one of these gawkers walks in to look at a kitchen, or worse, to report that a tramp has been living in my showroom, so thank goodness we are open by appointment-only, for the time being.

I also looked quite scruffy while on some of the many Zoom calls that I took part in with suppliers and other industry folk during lockdown. Sorry about that everyone.

I don’t know if anyone saw ArtiCad’s Toby Waltham giving advice on LinkedIn about always wearing business dress for video meetings while he was wearing a smart shirt and tie combo, only to end the film by standing up and walking off in his underpants.

It was one of the funnier moments of this dreadful health emergency, but still very good advice. Note to all, always look the part…

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