02 Dec Long Time, No Hear
It’s been ten weeks since we last wrote this blog. In late September the pox was suddenly back, the Prime Minister was on the telly announcing all fun had been suspended, and we all wondered what the future held. Little did we know that what the future held for us personally was an avalanche of orders, at first delightful, then thrilling, becoming exhilarating, intense, wild and then finally overwhelming. Thank you to all our customers for your really very much appreciated support. We’ve been working flat out to maintain something close to our usual despatch time of 24 hours, but as each week goes by we become a little further behindhand. All hands to the pumps, or rather the brown paper and sellotape: there has been no time to write a blog post. But as orders continue to flood in we wanted to let you know what arrangements we’re making to ensure that we’ll be able to get every order packed and out the door in good time for Christmas.
At the moment it’s about four or five days between an order coming in and the finished parcel being taken away by the postman. We have got a vast great pile of cardboard boxes, so we don’t think we’re going to run out of those, though it is clear that all over the country these are becoming in short supply. Some couriers have begun to ration collections, but thankfully at present blessed Royal Mail shows no sign of doing the same. Nevertheless, it’s on our radar as a possibility that couriers and postal services may at some point simply be unable to accept more parcels.
Taking all this into account, we cannot guarantee pre-Christmas delivery on orders placed after Monday 14th December, though we do promise to try our very best to achieve it. And we plan at the moment to close our website to new orders from one minute past midnight on Thursday 17th December. That way we ought to be able to pack and despatch absolutely every order we have received up until that moment in time for it to be delivered before Christmas. So customers will need to order by Wednesday 16th December at the very latest. And it would help us enormously if you could group your requirements into a single delivery where possible.
We will spend the following week madly packing and posting. The last Royal Mail posting day is December 21st. We will be aiming to send the last few orders out on the 22nd and 23rd by overnight courier. And then from Christmas Eve onwards we are awarding ourselves, and in particular John, Dawn and Karolina, who manage all the stock and do all the packing in ordinary times and have had to put up with our inexpert help in these extraordinary ones, a two week holiday – the first since those long ago days in March when we thought we might be going to go out of business. We’ll be putting up the shutters on the website shop right through Christmas and New Year, and we will be back and ready to take orders again on Thursday 7th January.
We are humbly aware of the randomness of the forces that happen to have kept us afloat this year where others have struggled or gone under: the very strong element of luck. Our online business, which was tiny before lockdown, has grown, making up for the collapse in demand from the shops we usually supply who were forced to close. So we have been able to make our books balance and keep everybody working, with no recourse to the furlough scheme.
Most bricks and mortar stores — the kind we like best — have been less fortunate. From this morning, the second lockdown ends and non-essential shops in England are allowed to reopen. Do please shop locally in real shops where you feel you can safely do so: in particular, those shops you most value. We have lost some wonderful and necessary shops in Cambridge in the past ten months.
Happily, these don’t include Heffers, the beloved bookshop on Trinity Street, which seized the day and used this last lockdown to refit and will reopen today looking absolutely magnificent. The old modernist facade has been restored to what it originally was, with the plate glass window once again letting in the incredibly beautiful view of Trinity College as well as lots of natural light, and there is a new wooden floor throughout. It feels light, spacious and airy. A new feature is that the space devoted to Cambridge Imprint has grown. The lower mezzanine at the centre of the shop has become a shop-within-a-shop, and you can find almost every paper we make there now, as well as all our notebooks, labels, cards and many other things.
It’s a happy moment for us, seeing all our things together in a space in real life and presenting them to the world. We’re grateful to Heffers for their support and considerable leap of faith, and we do hope that Cambridge residents will come by and take a look. It makes up a little for the fact that this year we will not be running our annual studio sale of experiments, seconds and ends-of-lines which is usually the last exuberant event in a busy autumn calendar for us. That will have to wait until next year, when rummaging through bargains, eating mince pies in public and chatting to friendly strangers are no longer transgressive and potentially dangerous activities.
A word about this image and the others at the top of this post, which show parcels wrapped in paper that we hand-printed using our new printing blocks. Making these blocks has been the project we have most enjoyed this year, and it seems to have struck a chord with you too, so that as fast as we have them made they sell out. Our last delivery before Christmas arrived on Monday and I am sorry to tell you that virtually all the lovely horse stamps that you see used here have already shot out the door. However, a lot of the others are still in stock, along with a good supply of ink colours and the packets of smooth cream paper to print on, if you are thinking of making your own wrapping paper this year, as we did. And if there is a block-printing enthusiast in your family, we now have a printing block set that makes a very nice present. Get them while they’re hot.