The Little Dog Story – Chapter 12

 The Still Here Years 2016 to 2020

We can’t quite believe that it’s happened again. Another three years have passed in a creak of the knees and our yearly reviews have once again fallen by the way. Excuses aside, let’s get swiftly up to speed on the news direct from Little Dog Towers.

The Positives

We’ve celebrated twenty years in business, embarked on a lovely collaboration with the RSPCA, and slowly improved our working environment.

Looking back, 2016 was full stream ahead with a busy work place, a good team and lots to do. And then half way through the year we were asked to cast our vote on a subject the vast majority of us admit to being unqualified to comment on. On a selfish level, the fragile retail world already had enough on it’s plate and the uncertainty and squabbling over Brexit added to many retailers woes. From large multiples to small independents, all have felt the effects of political uncertainty on their sales and the High Street casualties have mounted.

The beginning of 2018 saw us celebrate our twentieth birthday with no one is bothered giggles and samosas. We had a change in personnel, Jenny on Reception left due to a location move and straight talking Katie took her place. Young Adam joined us on an internship from Derby University. A business student with the knowledge and youth to understand the intricacies of living your life on Instagram. The energetic Amanda embarked on a career change and successfully passed all her mortgage exams leaving us with the promise of returning for trade show high jinks. The draw of Birmingham’s NEC has a strange effect on people!

We dipped our toes into shop ownership at the end of 2018 with a two month pop up in our local shopping precinct. The old adage To walk a mile in their shoes, helped us gain a valuable insight into our trade customers needs and the challenges they face.

“Chalk it up as another life lesson!”

And then we kick started 2019 with an ego crushing, body blow for our baby brand Rufus Rabbit. A soul destroying Parisian trade show gave us five days to focus and decide on our bunny’s fate. Anyone else noticed that failing is much easier to bare the more times you do it? The years have afforded us many opportunities to immerse ourselves in failure and although we’d be lying if we didn’t confess to a few tears before bedtime, it’s definitely getting easier to put it into perspective. A long story short, Rufus Rabbit faced three events that seemed to come together at once, The Perfect Storm, forcing us to make a painful decision. The aforementioned political uncertainty manifested in a slowdown of sales. Rufus was an expensive brand to create with each product line undergoing rigorous testing to ensure everything was baby safe and child friendly. He also had a longer sell through rate, which was never a problem until the economy began to slow.

The second blow for Rufus was his creator, Anna Danielle, finding herself heading in a different creative direction. With her brood long out of nappies and tantrums, she had moved swiftly into the “Mum-Cabs” bracket of Motherhood and long solitary walks with the dog! Being the sole designer with a large family, never enough time and three brands to care for, it was obvious Rufus was receiving the least attention. And then the third and final blow came with a soft toy competitor copying Rufus’ best selling Rattle in a Box gift line and producing an entire baby range around it. This British company are large and very successful and The Little Dog simply didn’t have the time, money or energy to head to the courts.

It’s really tough letting something go that you’ve put so much time, love and energy into. Yet the last seven years have been great fun. Creating and building the Rufus brand on nothing more than an energetic hunch. The thrill of hearing people say, “Oh look, Rufus Rabbit” or spotting a Rufus comforter in a baby’s pram was amazing. He didn’t conquer the world but he definitely helped some people gain a few hours of sleep, and those who have ever experienced sleep deprivation know, sleep is worth it’s weight in gold! We opted for a soft, Rufus on Sabbatical exit. By stepping away when he still has a following, the door is ajar for him to possibly return from his sabbatical, older, wiser and maybe with a storybook and a gang of friends he’s met on his worldly travels.

Hope can be a galvanising force for good.

Contrary to all you have just read, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom at Little Dog Towers. 2019 did treat us to some rays of  joy and laughter!

A lovely moment was the return of the National Trust as a customer. It’s been over a decade since we last dealt with the Trust and we loved being one of their suppliers. We even got a “well done” for delivering a perfectly packed order. It really is the little things that put a smile on our faces and we love punching above our weight.

We hit the RSPCA’s three year fund raising target in two, giving us an additional year to really do some good and set a few records. And despite the advancing years, we all still love what we do. We are a small, talented, loyal, hard working team.

The British greeting card industry is a lovely one to be a part of and as the inventors, GB still lead the world in this sector. We’ve found the people in this industry are usually funny, creative, kind and rarely take themselves too seriously. Even with the rise of social media prompted birthday wishes, the joy of finding that perfect card to send to someone special or stick to the fridge for inspiration seems stronger than ever. Greeting cards are affordable everyday art for the masses and art and design in any of it’s forms that brings pleasure, provokes thoughts or raises a smile, gets a thumbs up from us.

And so to Spring 2020, if nothing else, saying and writing 2020 has a lovely ring to it.

Our challenge for this year is very much like our other twenty two years. Stay fresh, keep improving our service, look after our team and stay genuine in all that we do. Anna’s creative focus for this year is our native wildlife and without preaching to the converted, try and do our little bit to raise awareness on how we can protect the natural beauty, animals and wonder that is all around us. All our paper products are printed on forestry sustainable board and always have been but there is still much for us to do as a business. Yes we are permanently worried about our planet. Yes our country sadly seems a meaner, ruder, grumpier place BUT there is still hope. We see this daily in the love that shines through whenever you share your pet stories and photos with us and therefore with hope we have a galvanising force for good.

Back to Chapter Eleven

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. I certainly think that the world would be a far, far poorer place without your company in it. I would like to thank each and every one of you for being an almost perfect example of what love and commitment can achieve please keep on keeping on your cards are loved and shared throughout my family ever since I bought my sister the Park, not vets (which still amuses me) tray, which she still uses. I have managed to find appropriate dog cards for everyone I know most of which have ended up so that the smile they produced initially can be repeated and repeated whenever you are faced with a set back remember that there are thousands of us whose world you have brightened.

    • Dear Valerie, that was such a lovely comment to read, now more than ever when the Coronavirus might be the next hurdle we fail to clear. It has been my humble joy to draw and design and it still blows my tiny mind when someone buys one of my cards. Thank you for your kind words and loyal following over all these years, stay safe and sound, gratefully yours, Anna Danielle

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