My first job, at the tender age of 15, was working as a sales assistant in the Burtons Menswear store on the Parade, Leamington Spa. There I learnt to sell. If a customer came into the store to buy a suit my job was to ensure that they went out with two suits, a shirt, a tie, a raincoat and hopefully two pairs of trousers. It was up-selling. It wasn’t commission led either – it was “fear led”. In my opinion, my boss, Mr Roberts, was a git and he would rip me to bits if a customer came in for a suit and they only walked out with a suit. God help you if they came into the store for a suit and left without buying anything.
I had been in the job for about a year when a call came through from Head Office ordering me to go and help out at the Banbury store. I was to drop everything and walk to the Leamington train station and get the first available train to the new store located in the Banbury precinct. I picked up my coat and did as ordered.
The train took about 20 minutes to arrive at the Banbury station and I walked up the hill to the shopping precinct. I had never been to Banbury before and was impressed with the town and the friendly people. I entered the fancy new shopping area and looked to see where the Burton’s store was located. I saw the shop sign and walked into the store.
I introduced myself to a member of staff, “Hello, my name is Bill. Leamington has sent me to help out for the day.”
“Great!” said the sales assistant. “Hang your coat up and make yourself a brew”.
I looked around the store. Nice ties. Nice suits. It was well laid out with plenty of stock. I hung up my coat, made a cup of tea, and got on with my job.
A customer entered. I sold him a suit and a shirt and a tie and he thought it was a good idea to buy 2 pairs of trousers too. He left with a smile on his face and my new colleague was impressed with my sales patter. I was just pleased to be away from my boss, Mr Roberts for the day.
I had another look around the store. The layout was very different to the Leamington shop. The shirts were different too, and the colour scheme was different, and …. the suits were different … and…….
It was then I realised something was seriously wrong.
I walked out of the store and looked up. A large sign above the door said “J Hepworth and Son Ltd, Gentleman’s Tailors.”
I looked at the shop next door and the sign read. “Burtons Menswear”.
I was in the wrong shop! The shops were next to each other and I had entered through the wrong door.
I got my coat, walked out of Hepworths (without saying goodbye) and walked into the Burton shop next door. I recognised the familiar Burtons suits, the familiar ties and the store layout was the same as the Leamington shop.
“Hello, my name’s Bill and I’m from the Leamington store. They have sent me to help out. Sorry, I’m late” I said, “My train got held up”
“No problem,” the shop assistant said. “Take your coat off and make yourself a cup of tea.”
I never did tell anyone about working for an hour at J Hepworth Menswear. And I still feel a little guilty about not saying goodbye to the sales assistant. I still wonder what he told people after I left. Did he think I was a ghost?
I have gigged in Banbury many time since then, and I am back again on Wednesday 27th September 2017 supporting the Gerry Colvin Band. www.gerrycolvin.co.uk
You never know – I might bump into the Hepworth’s sales assistant!
I had better make sure I go to the right venue!!!