Monday, March 30, 2009

It's not my fault...

Apparently, women in the second half of their menstrual cycle are more likely to splurge on things like high heels. It must be true, the BBC have reported it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Poetry Galore!

My name's Lisa Blackler, I'm from Shoes Galore
I'll bring shoes and bags right to your door.
Invite your friends, your work colleagues too,
For an evening of fun, you know what to do!
Try on styles and colours I know that you'll love -
Affordable, beautiful, they'll fit like a glove.
Whatever your taste, I'll have something to please -
From sandals to boots so your tootsies won't freeze.
So don't forget Lisa, for heels high and low,
For the best in footwear, you know where to go!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Charity Shop Knowhow Number 1

Some things you find in charity shops aren't great as they are, but have the potential for greatness. Huge wool jumpers meet this description! Here's how to turn a shapeless ugly thing into the height of cool.

1. First make sure your target item is 100% wool. No acryllic blend here please, it just won't work. You can buy a wool jumper from a charity shop for a few pounds. It doesn't matter if it is a bit out of shape of bobbly. Your jumper may look like this (it may not):

2. Wash your jumper on a hot wash. It's exactly what your mother and the care label tell you not to do, but trust your Shoe Lady on this one! Now your jumper should look like this:

ie. shrunken! It should have "felted" which means the fibres of wool have mashed together so it is denser than before. This is very important, so if you suspect that the knit is still a little loose, hot wash it again. I should say at this point that it isn't possible to predict the final size of your garment, which is the most annoying part of the whole project, because it makes it hard to take orders for them from your envious friends.

3. When the jumper is felted and dry again, take some sharp scissors and cut off the ribbing at the cuffs, neck and waistband. Not sure? Cut along the dotted lines!

4. Next you are going to cut a line down the middle to make it into a cardigan (bolero jacket is probably more accurate, but it sounds so pretentious!). It is important that the line you cut is central and straight. If you cut it wonky, you'll look like a fashion-failure rather than a fashionista. One way to make sure it is straight it to fold your garment in half and mark the line with pins. Anyway, cut along this dotted line now:

5. Now, you can wear it exactly as it is, but a bit of customisation now goes a long way towards that limited edition look. You could handsew sequins on - but that's pretty time consuming, and I'm always eager to get on and wear my creation. A quicker way to pretty it up is to run long stitches of beautiful ribbom around the edges. You can choose a contrast colour or one that tones, depending on the effect you like.

And then Ta Da! You have a one-of-a-kind little jackety thing that everyone will admire and only you will know where it came from! A bit like this one:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

5 top tips to prepare your feet for Spring

Next week the clocks change - you can't ignore it any longer! Here are the Shoe Lady's top 5 tips to get your feet ready for Spring!

1. Moisturise! Don't bother with expensive footcreams, get yourself a big tub of aqueous cream. For just a few pounds you'll get a tub big enough to swim in (well, maybe not that big) and it works like a charm. Because it is so cheap, you don't mind being generous with it. Slather it on morning, noon and night and within a couple of days those cracked and horny looking feet will look so much better.

2. Hair removal. I know. None of us have hairy toes, do we? But in case you know somebody else who does, remind them that now is a good time to deal with it. I have no preference for how it is done, but long curly hairs spoil the look of even the most exquisite sandal.

3. Clip your nails. I have a real horror of toenails that are long like fingernails. Clip them straight across and use an emery board to remove any rough edges. Straight cut nails are less likely to turn into ingrowing nails, you know.

4. Cuticles. Over the winter you may have found that the cuticles on your toesnails have crept up and taken over. With all the moisturisation in tip 1, you should find you can gently ease them back into place. I do not recommend cutting them.

5. Polish. Choose what you will, but I say you can't beat a classic French polish on your toes. It looks neat and clean and will never clash with your colourful shoes!

Now, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tell me which are your favourites!

I found this fantastic video on You Tube (surprisingly I searched for Shoes Galore!). Take a look, and tell me which pair you like best.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Davina's Comic Relief Challenge

I was glued to the first part of Comic Relief on Friday. Partly because of the divine Mr Tennant, but partly in a strange fascination at Davina's shoes. They were incredibly high, so much so that she could barely walk in them. Like a true professional, she managed brilliantly, but they obviously weren't comfortable.

I'm guessing that she has quite small feet. When your feet are tiny, the effect of any high heel is magnified. A 3 inch heel on a size 40 looks very different to a 3 inch heel on a size 35, just because your foot has to be at a steeper angle to get from your toes on the floor to your heel in the air! Davina's were so extreme that as she trotted to the Mastermind chair, she looked like a ballerina en pointe.

So petite-footed ladies should take this into account when shoe shopping. Those skyscraper heels just might not look so good on you. And the slightly lower heel will automactically appear higher on you than on your bigger-footed sisters.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ready and waiting!

This morning we had blue sky and sunshine. The shoots are appearing on all sorts of things in the garden - flowering currant, honeysuckle, amelanchier. I was singing a happy tune and looking forward to skipping through the blossom in my gorgeous new summer shoes.

But outside my window now I see grey skies. You know the colour of nothingness when it is feeling miserable? Yeah, that's the one. It is pretty chilly too, so much so that 2 jumpers and sitting next to a hot radiator isn't preventing my from shivering. Do I think flip flops or peep toes are appropriate footwear today? No way!

But I do think it's a good thing to be ready for when the weather does warm up. (It can't be long now, surely?) There's nothing worse than realising that spring has sprung and you have nothing but winter boots and woolly jumpers to wear!

So get planning, and get ready! If you've lived in jeans or boots all winter, review the leg-hair situation; the same applies to underarms, because when you peel off those layers you need to know what's lurking there! Book a pedicure and get your feet ready for the more revealing foot fashions of spring and summer. No more tights to hide your flakey feet!

Check over last year's sandals and you may find that they are a bit tattier than you remember. Did they get a bit mucky on that end-of-season stroll on the beach? Did you try to hold onto the summer season a little too long and trash them in the mud of autumn? That's why I've already introduced some summer styles to my Shoes Galore range - so you can be ready when the sun does come out. My diary is getting pretty full, so don't hang about!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fun Under Five News

Today I took delivery of the Spring 2009 issue of the printed directory of Fun Under Five. Having changed printers, I am extremely pleased with how it has turned out, and we will be distrubuting it to libraries, toddler groups and other venues across Hertfordshire ove rthe next week. Look out for it!

The new Across Hertfordshire section is growing in popularity as clients that had classes in just one area when we started 3 years ago have grown until they cover a large part of the county. We introduced the section last issue in response to client feedback. As a completely independent publication, we are able to innovate without getting clearance from a parent company, so we can continue to develop Fun Under Five to work hard for our advertisers.

The web listings are being uploaded as I write, and the updated site is already drawing more and more visits. The search engines are ranking us highly for so many searches now, so our hard work is paying off. Our ambition has always been to be the first choice reference point for activities for children under five in Hertfordshire, and thereby support the businesses across the area offering them. I am very proud of what we have achieved from nothing. Our unique format really does work.

If you know someone with young children in the area, let them know about the site if they haven't found it already - you'll be doing them a favour!

Monday, March 9, 2009

More business mistakes

Some experiences this week have made me question the basic abilities of many business managers to get the basics right, so here are some more of my tips.

1. Answer the phone
Why would you not at least have a voicemail message? If you are a small business (as I am), then you can't always get to the phone, but a professional message and a prompt call back can work. Alternatives may be to forward your landline to your mobile, although this means having to remember to do it every time, or using a virtual assistant service to ensure a professional image at all times. I can recommend a couple of companies if you need pointing in the right direction.

2. When you call back, remember this is potentially a sale
Don't ask "Who are you, I had a missed call from you" because it sounds like you are suspicious and not used to customers calling you. Work out your own script, but make sure you sound like you are ready to do business and welcome the call!

3. Websites need information
I know it can be a pain to update things when they change, but you really have to do it. Websites aren't a static advert like a magazine, people want to see more than just a generic description. products, prices, offers - get them on there! I'm looking at lots of printers' sites at the moment to compare costs, and the ones that give no indication of pricing will not be getting a call from me. If you need an easily updatable site, try these people (I know the consultant for this area, and he's very helpful)

4. Information should be accessible
Don't make people register in order to see basic information. Registration is for people who are serious about finding out details or communicating further. If you won't show me what you do without me telling you my Grandmother's eye colour, I'm not interested. The web is so much about broad brush research, why eliminate yourself from a shortlist by making site visitors jump through hoops?

5. Proofread
Please. Especially if you are a media, marketing or publishing company. Otherwise you might as well stay in bed tomorrow.

6. Measure results & think about what they mean
Let's say you decide to reduce the price of your widgets from £1 to 50p. After a week you say "Whooppee! We have sold twice as many widgets as normal!" But you had to process twice as many sales, for the same amount of revenue. Fine if you just wanted to shift excess stock, but if you wanted to increase income - you didn't achieve your goal.

I'm no high-flying guru, but I have worked in enough businesses to see the basic mistakes that get made when people are focussed on other things. That is why it often makes good business sense to outsource the areas in which you are not expert.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What's next?

I spent a great deal of time today trying to select the first tranche of my Spring shoe range. I'm not sure I'll ever find it easy, but thanks must go to the women of Twitter who answered my questions about what they like and don't like*!

So next week I should receive some pretty new foot adornments!

I don't have photos yet, but let's see what I can do with words...

First up, some classic flatties. Styled like ballet pumps, with a subtle gold trim and bow. A denim-type fabric, in gold, red, bronze and green, these will be comfortable but cute.

Next, I have chosen open toed, high wedges in soft metallic tones of silver or gold. Wedges are great for giving you height with stability!

The third addition to the range is a classic flat sequinned flip flop, in black, silver or bronze. This style is a great standby and you can carry it off just as well with jeans as with a floaty skirt.

The final additions this time round are some skyscraper heels in dazzling red, green or pink. With a pointy toe and cutaway side, these are for the days when you feel powerful and strong (or when you want to feel that way - I defy anyone not to feel amazing in these!)

There will be more styles and more sizes coming in the next 3-4 weeks, so keep checking the blog to find out the latest news. Keep giving me your opinions on what you are looking for in the "perfect" shoe.

* I learnt that slingbacks can be hard for many women to keep on their feet, that ballet pumps are popular with most - though not all- women, and that yellow is almost universally loathed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Shall we do lunch?

Today I had a meeting at the Sopwell House Hotel to discuss their ladies' lunches.

If you've never been to the hotel, then you have really have missed something special. Located down a quiet St Albans lane, the hotel is a stunning blend of the traditional and the modern. Once the home of Lord Mountbatten, the interiors of the original parts of the building feature dark wood and stone fireplaces. The addition of glass atria add surprising touches of light and modernity without feeling architecturally out of place.

The hotel is designed with a series of intimate spaces, rather than the open-plan lobby style favoured by many establishments these days. You and your companions can easily find a private area to chat or to hold a meeting, or else you can enjoy the bright, airy coffee lounge if you want to people watch.

The hotel hosts monthly ladies' lunches, each with a guest speaker or demonstration. These range from chocolatiers to floral designers - and soon Shoe Consultants! The price is an amazing £18.50, which includes a 3 course lunch and a glass of wine, which is pretty spectacular value, considering the quality fare you will enjoy here.

Look out for me in July, as I am working with the hotel to put together a fun lunchtime featuring a shoe fashion show, a chance to find out more about using colour to accessorise and some surprises along the way. I am excited and honoured to be part of the programme of events at one of the area's top hotels.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Simple Customer Service Lessons

1. Listen to the customer. Most will tell you what they want from you, leaving you the simple task of just doing it. 9 times out of 10 this will lead to a reasonable level of customer satisfaction all on it's own. Many companies fail at this first hurdle.

2. If you can't do what you have said you will do - communicate with the customer. Most people are reasonable and know that things go wrong. But don't wait for the customer to discover the problem for themselves, or to have to chase you up to see where the promised item is. Are you scared to tell your customer bad news? You could be making things worse.

3. It is always better to underpromise and overdeliver. It is a cliche, but delighting your customer relies on going some way further than the expected. Customers are increasingly demanding, but creative thought can still lead you to exceed their expectations. Doing the bare minimum is no way to beat your competitors.

4. Never criticise your customer. It does not matter if they gave you a duff brief, if they changed their minds or if they wouldn't know quality if it bit them on the nose. Flatter them and they'll love you. If you feel the need to blame them for a mistake or a misunderstanding, ask yourself how you could have avoided the situation. Perhaps you didn't ask them enough questions when they told you what they needed. If you make them feel attacked, they certainly won't feel valued.

These four lessons are so simple, I'm sure that you feel they weren't worth stating again. But do you know what? I frequently have dealings with businesses that forget any number of them. Ask yourself whether you and your staff always remember them. The answer could keep your customers coming back.

Monday, March 2, 2009

So what is a shoe party anyway?

Since Shoes Galore is a fairly new concept to most people, I thought I should tell you something about how it works.

Everyone knows about party plan - you invite your friends, a consultant turns up with some samples and a catalogue and you place orders for future delivery. Well, a Shoe Do is much more fun than that!

You still invite your friends, but when I arrive I have my whole stock of shoes - something like 100 pairs of shoes, plus bags and belts! That's right, a whole load of styles, colours and sizes for you all to actually try on there and then. And if you find something you love (and most people do!) you can buy them and take them home that night. No waiting!

Of course, if I don't have the size you need in the colour you like, you can order from me, and if head office have it in stock you will recieve your gorgeous new shoes in about a week.

It's so much more civilised than going round the shops. The shoes are all there in front of you, you don't have to ask an assistant to go out to the stock room, and if you plan it right you can see what they look like with a range of your own outfits. With a range of styles from flats to heels, casual to evening, there's plenty to keep you amused!

A Shoe Do can be held in almost any venue, from a tiny living room to a corporate restaurant. You can use them as a fundraiser too - sell tickets and I'll give a percentage of all sales to the cause.

The emphasis is always on fun. I don't do selling - you either love a pair or shoes or you don't, and as I have a 28 day no-quibble money-back guarantee, I'd be a fool to talk you into something you didn't really want.

The spring range will begin to be introduced in about 2 weeks. This year I'll be introducing new ranges gradually, so there will always be something new to see. If you live in Hertfordshire or the surrounds I hope to see you soon.