As surviving high-street stores open their doors once again, ex-Arcadia employees are navigating redundancy by doing what they love. What better way to give back to the leading women of retail than to support their passion-prized businesses in a time so turbulent.
Everyone remembers their very first payslip. A token of their hard work, their first two weeks in a brand new job, new friends. My first job was in Topshop. I’d miss my last lesson of school and jump on the train to Cardiff Bay to work a three hour shift. I can still feel the excitement on the walk up to the big glass shopfront with my lanyard in hand. I felt as though I was embarking on a new chapter of life, and quite simply, growing up.
As of February 2021 around 200,000 retail jobs were lost due to COVID-19 as stores like Laura Ashley, Debenhams and Peacocks shut their doors for the last time. Some 13,000 of those made redundant were Arcadia employees that – come Summer or Winter, early morning or two minutes ‘till closing – served us with kindness (no matter how many times you asked for a different sized shoe or stood in the way of a fixture).
Now, sustainable folk would say that the fall of the highstreet is something to be applauded, not boohooed. And although it is great that the landscape of fast-fashion is diminishing, making more room for independent businesses to rise up from the ashes, hard-working people have lost their jobs.
During a time where honouring frontline workers is so prevalent, let’s not forget about those who have also been there for us behind the scenes (or tills). This week we’re paying thanks to 4 wonderful women who have taken to redundancy and lockdown with a positive perspective, building brimming businesses from the passions that kept them afloat during the most trying of times.
From dried floral arrangements to eco-friendly wax melts; hand-made beauty accessories to hand-poured candles and wax melts, it is more important now than ever to support these wonderful businesses who have been built and maintained by the retail heroes of yesterday.
Wilde Posies is a Cardiff staple when it comes to dried flower indulgences. “No longer the dusty potpourri filled bowls I remember as a child in the 90’s – dried flowers now are colourful, vibrant and a wonderfully sustainable alternative to fresh flowers,” Alex began explaining. Wilde Posies was born from the aftermath of the first wave of retail redundancies last Summer but Alex wouldn’t have it any other way, noting that she would never have had the confidence to embark on this journey had her hand not been forced.
From tunny tails, stems and grasses to letterbox and hand tied posies, Alex makes them all and sells online. “No more sad wilting flowers,” Alex notes on her online website that not only offers colourful, everlasting floral arrangements but has offered people the chance to send messages to loved ones during lockdown. “Just reading them is a testament to the times we are in,” Alex expressed before adding, “I’ve sent so many notes – for new babies, new jobs, new homes – some have been sad too, with bereavements and losses, and people just feeling down.”
Wilde Posies has been able to support people during lockdown with messages of love and loss. However Alex is insistent to thank those that have supported her in return. “I have met an incredible network of small business owners, many of whom are headed up by women and it’s inspiring to see creative brands emerging from people making drastic career changes and exploring new paths.”
Cariad Candles was founded by Jackie in lockdown as a hobby aimed to lift the spirits of friends, family and neighbours. Now, those that were once uplifted are those that test her new, upcoming scents (including soon-to-be released citronella garden melts).
Cariad Candles wax melts are made from soy wax, infused with essential oils, adorned with hand dried, recycled flowers and boxed up in 90% recyclable packaging. With six different scents to choose from (including lavender, rose and honeysuckle) the business may be small, but it’s mighty for the mind.
“I was given 3 days notice I was being made redundant just before New Year 2020,” Jackie explained. Admitting that it has been a mental struggle, the wax melt making process as well as wonderful support from family has been a saving grace. “From this experience, I knew I wanted to use essential oils that would help with mental well-being,” Jackie said, expressing she has always admired the way essential oils can calm the mind.
With an Etsy shop and website, Jackie admits that she has definitely given away more than she’s sold. “I usually add extra melts for my customers to try out,” she laughed. Jackie is currently looking at stocking her melts in local shops, but finds solace in knowing that her business will never be as huge as some currently on the market. “I aim to send so much love, health and happiness to people during these times through my wax melts,” she began, “so as long as they help people, I’m happy.”
TT Creations was founded by Taryn in March 2021, right on the brink of lockdown. The booming business that welcomes melts and candles in a variety of stylish shapes and sizes was first ignited when Taryn’s partner bought her a candle making kit for her birthday the previous year. “I started making my own as a little side hobby, but didn’t really think of turning it into a business as I was employed at that time,” Taryn reminisced.
Before being made redundant, Taryn was employed full time in what was soon to become one of the first Outfit stores to close its doors. “Being made redundant during lockdown was stressful,” Taryn admitted. But, the added pressure amounting from a low pay was easy to put to rest with the support of a wonderful partner who had brought out the inner businesswoman in Taryn to begin with.
Having spent all of her time at home due to an ongoing pandemic, Taryn did what any other person with a passionate hobby would do. She popped a poll on Instagram to see whether people would be interested in buying her creations. “It just blossomed from there,” she enthused.
Now, Taryn specialises in a mixture of colours, scents and moulds, selling unique candles and melts in an array of shapes from knots, cacti or skulls to roses, female figures and pinecones. Some of her scents range from calming coconut and vibrant orange to a fascinating dark tea. Her creations are available to purchase via Instagram.
“Obviously I was very upset when I lost my job, however, it meant I could put all my efforts and time into making Bath Candy a success!” Anna founded Bath Candy in June 2020 right in the midst of Lockdown after being furloughed from Arcadia. “I started hand making organic soap bars and gifted them to family and friends who loved them and though they smelt amazing.”
In August Anna launched her Etsy shop filled with organic soap bars to beautiful Epsom salts, and by November she had taken part in a local village virtual market where her products sold effortlessly. Thrilled with the positive feedback, Anna soon expanded her product line to suit customers’ different needs and wants. Now Bath Candy products are eco friendly and don’t use any plastic packaging. “Everything is either recyclable, reusable or biodegradable,” Anna enthused before adding, “I’ve always cared about the environment and nature so this was a very important concept.”
Anna admits that growing a business during lockdown was a rollercoaster ride, noting “It started off very slow on Etsy which did knock me down as I was so proud of my products.” Taking time to reflect on her business was the perfect remedy alongside the wonderful virtual market that saw orders flood in. “Now, I’m constantly working on ways I can possibly improve my products and working on ideas to expand my range,” Anna noted. “Hopefully along the way I’ll meet wonderful new customers and grow my business even more!” she finished. Anna’s products are available on Etsy.