Viewpoint: Diary of a spectacle designer
Tom Davies muses on the joys of reopening for business
Author: Tom Davies
Like the weeds blooming at the side of the roads and public places around the country, an infestation of WhatsApp messaging groups has been slowly growing on our phones. I’ve been musing about going out with the strimmer to tidy up my street and, in a similar vein, I thought I’d strim a few of the local lockdown groups that I’ve somehow found myself in.
As I was browsing through the groups, looking for likely exits, one message popped out: ‘I choose to be positive.’ This was from a member of my retail team. I’d never really thought about choosing to be positive before (it’s my default setting) and I found it quite a powerful statement to consider. Can you choose to be positive?
Well, in last month’s column I proclaimed that I was going to open my retail stores. I chose to do it. I probably was not supposed to and there were many in my company who thought we shouldn’t. I argued ‘what constitutes an emergency appointment?’ and ‘can having no glasses be an emergency?’ So I opened one store and the first thing that happened was an influx of emergencies. I had emailed our entire customer base with news of the reopening and they came from all over London with broken glasses.
These were not the kind of repairs or returns you see in normal business. Usually someone is complaining about a small scratch, which honestly just appeared and not because the frames have been dropped on a stone patio. No, these were major trauma frame breakages.
‘Can’t you just dob a bit of acetone on?’ asked one customer, who had clearly been watching YouTube, referring to his acetate frame clean snapped at the bridge.
‘My daughter sat on them, but maybe they can be glued?’ asked another when presenting a horn frame which looked like two dimensional children’s book character Flat Stanley.
Some frames I was able to fix. The arm with a spring hinge that needed a replacement screw. A very tricky operation, which needs a staple to hold open the spring. But most of the repair jobs went back to the factory with me.
I sold new frames as well. One person purchased seven pairs, either so relieved to be shopping or just being really frustrated that he had no specs for the past three months. I wasn’t sure which but I loved reopening my first store.
Cleaning frames was fun at first but the novelty soon wore off. By the end of the day I was glad to be only doing one day in the store and darkly wondered if I should really clean them all again. I did. It took 30 minutes to do a full store wipe over after each customer, including frame cleaning, and that was quite frantic. By the end of the day I was pooped.
I had two very successful pieces of social media that day. I hate those white A4 signs in shop windows the world over that a store manager had put up on the last day before lockdown, typically beginning with ‘Due to the government’ or ‘Due to Covid-19’. I took great pleasure ripping mine down and posted a video of the cathartic moment on LinkedIn that has been watched over 25,000 times as I write this. I must have struck a nerve. I also made a film about how to clean glasses using non-alcohol foam. I’m still getting ribbed by professionals who have different opinions and ended up having to get a copy of the certificate proving the foam killed viruses including Corona-H1N1. The foam doesn’t damage frames (I performed destruction tests for a week) and it contains moisturiser. Nice for your hands and nice for horn and acetate frames. Did I mention nice for your hands?
Finding comfort in a less corrosive cleaning foam is one of the benefits of having a personality that defaults to positivity. But sometimes even I struggle. The past week has seen the permanent closure of my factory in China (I was going to do it anyway but not like this) and second spikes of Covid-19 popping up around the world. All this is happening against the backdrop of the horrendous murder of George Floyd on May 25 and its ongoing consequences.
There is going to be a way out of this mess. There may or may not be worse to come. But at this point I choose to be positive because anything else does not bear thinking about.