Thursday, 28 March 2013

"I'm in love and always will be"

Reading about HMV and Blockbuster facing closure recently it reminded me of my own fears when I faced redundancy years ago. I worked for HMV's main competitor Virgin Megastores (my town didn't have a HMV) and it was the job I always wanted. Every time I went in there I used to imagine what it would be to work in there. Music was and still is a massive part of my life and to be able to go to work and really love what I did.

I ended up working for WHSmith for my first job, I was on the stationery department. I spent most of my wages on stationery! Our music department was so small and I'd see people come in with the yellow and red bag and want to be the one to give them that bag. Every time I looked there were no vacancies and then years passed. Just when I was ready to turn my back on retail I went into the store and saw the vacancies sign... applied, got an interview and started by the following week. I WAS IN!

It was the most amazing first few weeks, despite the burns from the shrink wrap machine (seriously ouch) and the fact that our stock room was two flights of stairs away - it kept me fit! Soon enough I was working weekends and doing unpaid overtime - yep! Madness but I loved working there. The discount was good and my vinyl collection just kept growing. Starting off as just a normal customer service assistant was easy but soon enough I was given more responsibility. Later I realised this was a test to see if I was ready to move up into management. Soon enough I was running the music department, the store wasn't big but to me it was huge. The hardest bit was that the other staff would now be "MY" staff, I struggled through.

Getting the store ready each morning was something I was proud of. Getting everything in place and then watching it decimated by the teens every Saturday afternoon. Going round pushing back the CD's and putting things back in alphabetical order - OCD much?

So many songs remind me of my time at that store (some good, some very bad)

Black Eyed Peas - Where is the Love?. I swear we had that on repeat for weeks and weeks. Usher - Yeah. Wasn't that No 1 for forever?)

Eamon - F*** It. We continually sold out - I was not proud!

Dido - White Flag. Her album 'Life for Rent' was insane on release day, people were queuing outside and around the store.

The Killers - Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine. I can still remember the first time the album reached the store and hearing the opening track for the first time. Pure shivers.

Scissor Sisters - Music is the Victim. One mad long night setting up for a new offer this song made all the staff just start dancing. Counter tops. Everywhere. Brilliant.

Things were great and then they weren't. It all got s***. Really, really s***. We were all called into a meeting, even the weekend workers were called in. Our store was going to close in four weeks. FOUR WEEKS! I wanted to cry. I didn't. Somehow we made it outside in the fresh air. I didn't need this job, I had no responsibilities but myself. Some had children, mortgages and yes there would be a redundancy pay but I saw the fear on their faces. As a manager I had to motivate the team, I felt like s***, felt like someone had kicked me continuously and the pain would never go. The managers got together and read our instructions from Head Office. We had lots to do and this time overtime would be paid.

All chart and high grade stock was sent back and re-distributed to other stores. Everything else was to be discounted. Closing down posters arrived and we went out had a cigarette (I know, I know!) and we laid it on the line for the staff. It was gonna be s*** but we could make it what it was. The next four weeks I learnt a lot about myself, somehow we were having fun and whilst it was really sad to be seeing racking be dismantled as we sold stock, we'd made something here. Soon the backs of the closing down posters were covered with the public's messages to us. Some of us got individual mentions but mostly it was about being able to come into a store and feel complete there. We made that happen. It wasn't the building, it was the people. We were the soul.

News reached us that more stores were closing. The smaller ones like ours were being sacrificed. Our store manager got a great new job closer to home and we couldn't have been more happy for him. For the rest of us, as the four weeks came to a close we had no clue what we were going to do next. I hadn't looked for anything else and I probably didn't care (oops!). I just knew I was going to definitely get out of retail.

This was the sign. No more retail.

Then I got offered a job. For another Megastore in the next town, could I do it all over again, in a much bigger store? Could I?

Nope definitely not. Nothing could replace this gang. Nothing.

By chance I then heard this song three times after I made this decision;


I know that the song is about not giving up on a relationship but that was how strongly I had felt about this job.

"I'm in love and always will be"

Our store closed on the Saturday. I worked there for over two years.

I started at my new store on the Monday.

Part Two next week...


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