Rainwear (2006)

Location : Norwich

Born 03/10/40 Hampton, Norfolk.

Went to school at Hampton School and Holt Hall

Parents were Sylvia who was a housewife, dinner lady and Harry, my father was a bricklayer.

I joined Jarrolds in 1998, when I was 40. I lived in Lingwood. I used to work at BHS and Bernard’s as receptionist.

Was made redundant from Bernard’s. I knew Jarrolds were looking for Christmas temps and so went along for an interview.

I knew the Buyer from perfumery and a Personnel Officer who used to work at BHS.

I started working in Rainwear department.

I needed to count the macs. Which was quite horrendous because they all had to tally up. We used to havefour of a certain style and if not, you had to find the ticket of the one that had been sold.

I needed to learn whether things were water proof or shower proof.

The cleaning side came into that and then there was the serving of customers.

Each stock that came into the store was bought by the Buyer and came in en masse, which again the Department you were working on were responsible for. There was the pricing and the costing of the garment. Each item had to be individually put in to the stock book – the stock number, the colour, the style and each one was represented by an egg. When you sold at night you marked your tickets off by this little egg and you knew then how well your stock was selling.

I worked with Pam; she trained me and Mrs Rare, the buyer.

Mrs Rare was a lovely woman to work for. She was a disciplinarian but that was because she was being disciplined herself. Obviously there was a standard at Jarrolds and she expected that the whole while. We had to be smart, articulate and most important we had to be at front looking after our customers. But at the same time she was quite easy going to work with. If she’d had a particularly bad day off, she would come in and we knew how to handle her, bless her. Life would be very fine for us. We were quite well looked after.

I learnt to be out the front and to serve customers. They were the most important.

You had to learn the little pecking order. If you had problems, you needed to know who the Team Leader was, Supervisor, Assistant Manager and then the Store Buyer.

There was a lot to learn and I found it very strange after being in an environment where everything came down onto the shop floor, ready for sale. They certainly weren’t at Jarrolds. They had to be priced so you had to learn the cost side, pricing side, which I did find difficult to start with.

I learned the skills of serving customers, relating to my colleagues and also the buying side- knowing in advance what colours were coming in.

We had training every Tuesday morning. The buyer would tell us what was coming in- what shades and things. Say if a season was going to be black and white, added with some purple, we would then be told. Then of course, catalogues would come in.

Staff training would take place every Tuesday from 9am- 9.30am either on the shop floor or in the dining room. If it was applicable to our work it would be done on the floor but if it was something to do with insurance and pensions and things like that, it would be done in the dining room. The training would be divided into departments so you would attend the training for your relevant area.

Over time I was given more responsibilities. After been accepted as a full time member of staff after being temporary, well really I had to take on board responsibilities for a whole area.

I sometimes used to go with the Buyer to get more stock and knowing what sold in the store. Our good hard core lines- say a good selling jacket- you needed to keep on top of that. What were good sellers- colours, sizes, you really had to take on the whole. And then of course, the benefits and then the down sides of garments- you really had to take that on board because you were the representative of Jarrolds and you had to know what was going on in your area. Your area also had to be kept clean and tidy and well filled up. If you sold 3 or 4 handbags, obviously you went down to the stock room to get more and the same with coats or anything else. It always had to be filled. There never had to be any space, unless the stock wasn’t available. It was a big responsibility really.

We used to have some lovely customers that would come in and they were a great pleasure to serve, particularly ladies who knew what they wanted to wear. It was a privilege for me to see them in their finished outfits, particularly if it was for a special occasion. What was so nice was that we were able to introduce lingerie, hosiery, everything to finish off the completed outfit, and it was lovely.

I remember one incident. We had one elderly lady who come in who didn’t wish to stand on the shop floor to be served. She would put herself into the fitting room and we would take things to her which she wished to purchase. And she always bought and bought very well and she would always come back time after time. We knew whenever she came in that she had no wish to be served on the shop floor and so we would find a fitting room for her and if one wasn’t available, you used to use a spare office. But she was such a lovely lady and she would come to Jarrold because she knew that she would get that extra special treatment really. It was all part of our daily lives. To us it wasn’t anything different. She was just a lady who wanted that kind of service and she received it because she was such a good customer. Great fun. You suddenly found out that she had a really dry sense of humour but she just wished privacy so she would sit herself in a fitting room and we would serve her. This did obviously take a while so you had to make sure that you had a colleague who would help serve in your own area while we were doing it. But we did. We helped one another.

Occasionally gentlemen would be rather strange. They didn’t like seeing their wives or girlfriends in new outfits because they couldn’t handle the way they looked so I used to take a step back and say “Would you like to help them?” and sometimes I would be very disappointed with the clothes they would choose for their partner, but of course we used to have to let it go or occasionally if I could persuade, I used to get the lady back into what she was wearing in the first place and she would go out looking a million dollars!

We were naughty sometimes because we would dress up. Particularly if we were having to do one particular job of unpacking millinery on a very hot day, it wasn’t always very pleasant because there were furs etc. coming in, false fur, hats and little angoras and we would sometimes be a little bit naughty and dress up in those.

We did used to sometimes mimic customers, which I suppose was rather naughty, but we did have to relax at work to enjoy looking after people. One of the tasks was to clean the coat hangers which we hated, so we did have to talk amongst ourselves and have a good giggle about what we had done the night before or perhaps about what we were going to do. So yes, we did used to play.

If there was illness they would see you were looked after. You were cared for in a family environment. You were part of a big family and that way that caring, sharing attitude came down. In one instance, my first Saturday at Jarrolds I was involved in a car accident and they were very concerned. I did make it into work because I wasn’t seriously injured. But as soon as I got in I was checked over and spoke to – to see if I wanted to be there and they also laughed and said “We know you have never worked Saturdays and this was a great way to get out of working Saturdays!” That is something that has always stood by me because they were there for me. I did have a serious asthma attack whilst I was at Jarrolds. But again, the care and attention was there. And if you were poorly, there was never any illness that you had to get back. You went back when the doctor said you were ready to get back. And they would even put you on reduced hours if you wanted to. So the care was there to look after us, because we needed to look after our customers.

I was given a good retirement which again was very nice. It went ahead in Mrs Green’s office and my family were allowed to come. It was done over a lunch time, so throughout the who of the lunch times which was from 12 till 3. There were a series of people coming through. Beautiful food and drink provided. I think at one time we were rather noisy and customers wanted to know what was going on in the background. You know, the noise level had got a little bit – and then a customer found out and she then popped her head round the corner and then said goodbye to me and that was what it was all about. Even customers were welcome. People would just drop by and say goodbye and that they would miss me.

I had the privilege of meeting a customer at Jarrolds who was coming back into work after looking after her own family. She felt very cabbage like, although obviously she wasn’t. But it was so lovely to put her into suits and dresses which were suitable for the job that she had been accepted for as a secretary to a solicitor so my skills came to the fore with knowing what look she needed for her business life and she became quite easy to look after because she would come in. She became a regular customer at Jarrolds for either her business wear or her leisure and that was lovely. We became quite friendly through work. I didn’t actually socialise with her. She actually found out that I was retiring. She was rather sad. She came in to say goodbye to me and brought me a small gift. There’s customers like that in retirement life that you miss because they were interested in you as a person as an assistant who was able to look after them, which was lovely.

That was the side of Jarrolds which was great because mostly whoever came into the store, they were treated as equals.

We also had some gender changes which were quite difficult to look after. But they came into Jarrolds because they knew that the staff there would give them the type of service that they required which obviously was quite private to them, but again having them look as they should with their gender changes was marvellous. Absolutely brilliant. That was the good side of Jarrolds, that whoever came in , well we were able to see to their needs or even order for them.

We had a boutique at the back of Jarrolds and the gentleman who owned it was a bit naughty by saying that things were exclusive. A particular lady came in dressed ready for her daughter’s wedding, wanting shoes, underwear and of course a hat to complete the outfit. It was a stunning apricot outfit, so we were able to put her into a fitting room. Unfortunately we noticed that there was a small flaw on the side hem which we politely pointed out to her. We put her into a fitting room and 5 minutes later we actually had another lady whose daughter’s wedding it was, wearing absolutely the identical outfit – so of course they were not excusive, so again we put her into the fitting room and we had to juggle the two because we had to use daylight to find out what suited best and basically really they did look like book ends which we did have a giggle about. Which again was the lovely side. They didn’t meet in the store and they wouldn’t meet on the day and they would take the pride of place at their daughters’ weddings.

If we could not help customers we would send them on to other stores because Jarrolds still benefited by the accessory side and we then benefited because other stores would send them to Jarrolds if they didn’t have anything suitable for them. So that again was part of life. We worked with other stores to help the customer get the particular look they were looking for.

The biggest changes were seeing Jarrolds move forward, coming into the 21st century of new fitments, new till areas, the way we were trained, new manufacturers coming in, all sorts of things. Particularly when Michelle Jarrold came in. She was very far reaching. She came in as a young woman and really blew the mustiness away as I think Jarrolds was a little bit antiquated. Having said that, it was always a good store. But she had the foresight and that’s why it is the store it is today.

We started having more upmarket clothing. We did lose some of the older manufacturers but having said that, the good stock that started coming in was coming in from America, Germany and they were wonderful to work with and we suddenly started coming down, so we started looking at more of the 30s to 45 year olds. We still had our core customers but that was the type of look that started coming through. Before, our core customers were the older lady and of course we needed to change and so we started looking at the younger look which really has worked out. And again it was a pleasure to work with those.

I most enjoyed mixing with my colleagues, doing a good job. I was proud to work at Jarrolds, very much so. I had good training, but also to work with the customers. That was my main aim- to serve and give a good service because it so lovely to see the complete finished article or finished garments and customers walking out of the door so pleased with their purchases which to me was what I was there for- to serve and look after them.

I didn’t always like customers that were rude and abusive. That could be quite difficult to deal with. Particularly if a garment had been self damaged. They felt that automatically they deserved a refund. We could ask for them to have it repaired and they would get even angrier so it was better for us to give them their money back and get them out of the store and hope that they didn’t come back anymore, but obviously they did. But that could be a real down side- customers being rude and abusive. They thought that you were there to take their abuse. But again, we had good back up on that because if we had a particularly upsetting incident, the store knew and they would protect you and look after you and if a customer came in again, you didn’t have to serve them, somebody else would so there was protection there for the staff. They cared for you.

I was expected to work from 8.50- 5.40 and I was paid £400 at the start and £750 when I finished?

I socialised with the other staff. We had evenings out, theatre, dinners out and bowling and other things- darts. Yes we did socialise, we had a great time.

Some things like our special dinner at the end of the year was organised by Jarrolds. But a lot of the time it was staff who got together and said “Should we have an evening out?” It also included our buyer and then when Mrs Green took over as buyer then she would come out with us occasionally. So it was department or other departments mixing together so yes, we did used to have a good social life.

Jarrolds has made a big contribution to the city.

The store stands out because of the service. Also the service and knowledge of the staff. And also because they were a one off. You walk in to Jarrolds and you were able to purchase items that are not available anywhere else in the city. I think that’s why it stands out. Because it does care, care for customers and their staff.

I worked at Jarrolds for 14 years. It was a great part of my life although it didn’t really seem that long. It’s not till you sit back and take stock that you realise how long you were there. But it didn’t seem like that long.

Obviously working at Jarrolds full time, it was a big part of my life. But I did come home to a husband and son. And they were very stable. Life was very good at home. So if I’d had a bad day at work, I could come home and be a bit of a misery and I was ignored which is how it should be and there was a meal provided because Charles was a good cook so yes, I had support at home to enable me to do my job.

Jarrolds had a positive effect on my life because I was allowed to be me. They didn’t try to change this silly wacky woman. I was allowed to be me and that came across in my customer service because I was allowed to be me. I undertook everything to the best of my ability at work, but again I was allowed to be me and that was more important sometimes. I had good training which still allowed me. I found I was able to carry out tasks I actually didn’t think I was able to when I first started there but I achieved very good customer service and other achievements by working there. I had a good life.

I made friends. There is a number of staff that I stay in touch with. There’s Trish, there’s Pat Davies who is retired, Mary who is retired, Lee I see them and Pam and Nina which is wonderful because Nina was my new supervisor. She was great. She’s now married and has a family and it has been so lovely to see her through. Coming from this funky young woman to a wife and mother and she’s hoping to go back. She’s now quite big; down in menswear she’s literally turned it on his head. That’s the type of woman she is, so we had great encouragement from her. She was quite gothic when I first met her, which was great and she was lovely to work with. So was Trish. She was another of my supervisors. They were lovely and we still socialise when I am able to.

Knowing Mr. Richard and Michelle and working sometimes with them was a great honour and privilege. But they enabled me to do my work because they wanted their staff to be knowledgeable and they wanted to be approachable by them. So yes, that’s what was different about Jarrolds. We were able to approach the top and your answers would be sorted out for you. Coming from quite a harsh working line that I could actually go to the top of the store and be treated as a colleague rather than an assistant was very nice.

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