Our very first stamp show….

Our very first stamp show….

Good morning!

I’m running a bit late this morning, sorry! And in the run-up to Christmas, things are starting to mount up… are we jumping up and down on the spot yet?!
But this next little anecdote will make you feel better. As you know, on a Tuesday, we roll back the hours and go back to when this little Clarity business of ours was getting off the ground. Today, we are going to go back to 1996, and take a look into our can of P’s at PREPARATION…

So at that time, the kids and I had come back from the States and were trying to make a go of it in the UK. 

I was pretty much starting from scratch with Clarity, having already built it all up in America, only to have to fold it into a suitcase and come back to Britain. But there you go! Part of Life’s rich tapestry!
I think I told you, I had a stand up at the Sava Centre in Hempstead Valley, outside Marks & Spencers, where I use to stall out every Sunday? Look! I found some photos!

You can see, in those days, I was very focussed on the product. Whereas nowadays we display beautiful samples of what you can do with our stamps, in those days, I simply stamped out the images, so that folks could see what they looked like.
(Notice the rhyme chart to the right….)
We didn’t have clever racks to display the stamps either. 
It really was a table-top affair!

The stamps still look the same though, eh.

I learned so much doing that every Sunday! There was a book-binder, a nice old chap, who used to sell his things next to me. He would talk and explain to customers all day long.…I’ve made all these things for you myself. This is all handmade. Do have a closer look. ” and on and on and on. He even talked when there was nobody there, which was quite often! One day, I said to him, “There’s nobody here! Who are you talking to?” And he told me something invaluable, which I would like to share with you.
“Ah but you see, Barbara, it’s never the person you are talking to that counts. It’s the one listening.” I understand that now.
Behind me there was a Silk flower stall. Mandy and Roger made those. We became good friends. I learned a lot from them about display. They were always so busy! But the way they displayed their wares was delightful! Before the public came in and we were setting up, Roger would go at it like a beaver with trellis-work and shelving. Then Mandy would tell him to get a move on! Then he would tell her he couldn’t go any faster and to back off! She would roll her eyes, and so it would go on. We used to have such a laugh. But the prep they put into the display and the prep they put into the product paid dividends. Every single Sunday. 
One of my regular customers, who also became a good friend, Ken, suggested that we might do the big stamp show in London. This was news to me! A stamp show? In London? Well, in those days, before the internet, information wasn’t that available. So Ken gave me the details, I applied, and we booked a stand for the September. It was at the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington.
We spent many weeks preparing. I remember it so well! The set-up was on Saturday afternoon, so we packed our new Camper-van to the gunnels, and set off for London. It was a big deal for us! I think there were about 6 of us! The plan was to build the stand, get it all ready with shelving and display units, and then load it with stamps.
So we built our shop. It was a bit dark in the hall, so we were thinking we should have thought of lighting. “Not to worry! We can bring the bedside lamps”. We were commuting, obviously. As long as I live, I will never forget what happened next.
“Where’s the box with the stamps?”
“Still in the camper?”
“Camper’s empty.”
Yep. We had left the stamps at home, on the breakfast bar.
At this juncture, in case you hadn’t figured it out, there are 2 things worth pointing out: firstly, our entire stock fitted into a single box, and secondly, the box was small enough to sit quite comfortably on the breakfast bar. 
If you ever visit us at an exhibition nowadays, you will know that our stock levels have increased somewhat! But from little acorns and all that…
I remember the next day though, the first Stamp show day. I remember the crowds and the excitement at our lovely transparent stamps. We were the only company making see-through stamps, so we were revolutionary! The customers were 3 deep! We sold out so quickly! (Well, you would if you only had a box of stock!).
After all those humbling months at the Sava-centre, being ignored by throngs of people headed for Marks & Sparks, here was our target audience, all together in one room!!!! 
The learning curve that day was phenomenal.
1. Location
2. Stock Levels
3. Lighting
4. Oh, and remember to pack the product! 
It certainly was a day to remember! Preparation? Well, it’s all down to that tick-list…
Must get off to work now. Have an important meeting with an important person. More of this anon…
with love,  

57 thoughts on “Our very first stamp show….

  1. That is such a great story. And when you know how it goes now at the NEC for example…..long way gone. Love the sentence of your "neighbour", it is so true.
    Thanks for sharing another lovely part of your life.
    Laurence xx

  2. Hi Barb,
    I really enjoy delving into the life of Barbara Gray! Look forward to Tuesday as it really gives an insight of how you have got to where you are today- hope that makes sense! I have had a real chuckle today at the thought of you arriving to sell stamps but without any stamps to sell! I could've done that lol. Thanks for the insight!

  3. Hi Barbara, do 'I Spy' a dinosaur stamp in your last picture? I really need one of these, is there any chance you might produce this one again?
    I love reading your blog everyday but Tuesday blog is very special, thank you for sharing. Sally xx

  4. Hello Barb
    Remembering the people you meet on the way up is important!
    These are the ones who make your tapestry rich!
    Love reading the blog Barb, and seeing your determination, and how it paid off!

  5. Great blog today again , I love getting to know about clarity and you and the children can't wait for the next one x Bless you Barbara your a wonderful lady and a dammed good role model. I salute you x

  6. I remember you being outside HV's M&S.Lovely to see how far you've come and nice to see other crafters starting on their journey by having a stall at Hempstead Valley. Keep all the new ideas coming. You are inspirational. Thank you.xx

  7. As ever a wonderful insight – and now having seen your photos I can say that yes – I was one of those who walked by and did not buy…but I did not live local to there so it was a trip for shopping..money scarce.. I dread to think if I had started then how much I would have spent by now! LOL! The stamp show…sounds a scream..but what great lessons you learned…I have said before and I will say it again…lists – cant do without them!!! My desk at work has loads of them on post it notes! xxx Lovely photo of your kids – what lovelies they are. I too have a meeting to go to in 5 minutes time – nothing exciting alas – just boring payroll stuff! Have fun xx

  8. Hey Barb, well another informative and useful insight into the start of the Clarity phenomenon that we know and love today. I think we all know well, about going somewhere to do something specific, and having forgotten what was needed to have with you to accomplish said task. However the way you tell the tale is always a laugh. Keep it up and keep the shows up. I remember clearly the first time I saw you and bought Clarity stamps, it was at Stamperama in Stevenage, and it was the motorbike and the Gift verse, and I still use them today, and that was years ago. Have a great day. Bx

  9. Sue just like to tell you that I love hearing how your life has gone and its so interesting. Sounds like the kind of thing I would do,memory is getting worse as the years go by.


  10. wonderful story Barbara – I just can't imagine it ever having been anything but Clarity as the top stamp brand – but I guess all has to start somewhere! So glad you carried through your dream! Hugs rachel x

  11. I so enjoy this serialisation of your journey through Clarity. You fully deserve your success and have never forgotten what that man told you. You talk to all of us who are listening. xx Maggie
    PS Got one photo sorted, just need to be able to do it at will and for myself.

  12. I love reading your blog on a Tuesday. Great way to start the day. You are so full of inspiration. So generous with your time. Like all the others I am so glad you had a dream and followed it.


    Emma xx

  13. From little acorns eh!!
    Love hearing about how you got where you are now. You must be very organised if you can find the photos from so long ago! Keep it up.
    Aileen x

  14. I think Tuesdays blog is my favourite its really interesting to hear your clarity history. Life is a learning curve and you have certainly lived. Hope your Christmas preparations are going well. Joan x

  15. Thanks for Sharing your story, it is very interesting. You have certainly come a long way. I bet you never imagined back then that you would have a hugely successful company now and all of us devoted fans . Many congratulations and Merry Christmas.

  16. I love the Tuesday blog and the great insight in to the world of Clarity. It is great to hear that you still remember those people from the early days of Clarity who gave you some sound business advice which you still live by each day and that you learn by your mistakes. Can't wait to see what is in the next instalment and hope your meeting goes well!

  17. Thanks for sharing Barbara….I love to hear all your tales from the early days….wow how things have changed…..from one box of stamps….hope you have a good day and a productive meeting…Jo. xx

  18. You are so right about the communication thing, you tend to forget how easy everything is on that score now and how lucky we are! I love how neat your stall is in these pictures, its the first thing I noticed when I first saw one of your stands for myself. It makes a big difference even so far as to say you feel you can trust a person/company with an organised stand! xx

  19. I love reading your Tuesday blog and finding out how you started, thank you for sharing. Your stand was, and still is, very neat and tidy, which I think is important. From what I can see from the photos you had some great images. Hope your meeting went well. xx

  20. It is lovely to hear how you got started on your Clarity journey I really enjoy reading about it all. Love the photos of Grace and Mark but wait till they see you have put them on your blog. It will be" Oh Mum did you have to". Hope your meeting went well xx

  21. I also love your Tuesday blog and think we learn a valuable lesson from you!!! May you carry on to go onwards and upwards- Roll on Christmas day ive made my list for my husband 🙂


  22. Wonderful Barb. I love reading how Clarity started. I cannot imagine you only having one box of stock! Somethings never change though do they – your stand is always a minimum of 3 deep!!!

  23. I love reading about how you started out, the way things were back then for you and the photo's are great too. You truly are an inspiration in so many different ways and to top that one of the most genuine people it has ever been my pleasure to meet ….Great Blog by the way xx

  24. Tuesday, my favourite day. It seems to me that things don't really change much, instead of the forgetting the stock now you sell out. Every time we have been at the NEC Dave has had to drive home over night because the stock has sold out, sometimes after the first day. The story is a lovely read and the pics of the children are lovely.

  25. A lovely read again Barb and it brings to mind a song from The Sound of Music….you know the one….
    Let's start at the very beginning
    A very good place to start
    When you read you begin with A-B-C
    When you sing you begin with do-re-mi
    and so on!
    I love how you are sharing how you started off and how all the Ps are so important! I am looking forward to the next installment! xx

  26. Oh Barb, you make my day –
    I have 2 comments. 1. I liked what you said about the chap at your stall about listening, we have two ears and one mouth – now we know why!
    Secondly, do you have a mask mantra? All I can remember is "if you want the image in front, stamp it first" I get myself in a right horlicks with moons, how do YOU remember which order they go in?
    I look forward to reading your thoughts every day, thank you so much for the constant inspiration. Merry Christmas to you and your lovely fella!

  27. Hi Barbara, well I must say Tuesdays are my best days for reading your blogs, it's so interesting to learn all of the trails that you went though to get people to notice your stamps.
    I have learnt so much for if and when I would like to sell my cards and for that I would like to thank you for teaching us so much and not for getting letting us into your lives. Xx

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