Yes, it’s a bit of an old theme, I’m afraid. I’m on the subject of trading standards officers again. In the last issue I wrote a story passed on by a retailer praising a TSD who had inspected the store’s fireworks and who had been both co-operative and willing to learn. Spiffing. it should always be like that - tho of you on the same side, making sure no harm comes to your ‘public’.
But this story prompted a howl of outrage from rom Mangala Jhanjee, who runs Paradise Stores at Brentwood in Essex with her husband. It is a second career for both of them and Mangela is no slouch. She has a degree in electrical engineering and a masters in business studies. her husband was a CEO in the city until they both decided to take this store on ‘for a bit of fun’ five years ago.
The store’s got a history, too - at 120 years old it is the oldest shop in the area still used for the same purpose.
Ah yes, the purpose. This store sells, amoung other things, fireworks. It is the real ‘wow’ factor of the business and from November until January it really scores on big bangs. “We do almost a tonne of fireworks,” Mangela tells me. “We’ve got about 60 cartons; some of the fireworks sell individually for £75. One customer spent more than £200 a couple of days ago (Bonfire Night).” Several years ago the couple took advice from the TSOs and the police, and as a result, use a 20ft strongbox container as storage (which I think is bigger than my living room). This Fort Knox is kept out the back so customers are led one by one through the store and the office and the storeroom to the strongbox, which has been set up so that it actually contains a display inside it. Mangala says customers find the whole experience quite exciting.
“Only my husband and I have the keys and we sell only Standard and Black Cat,” she adds. “There is not a single firework kept in the store, just a couple of notices.” This set-up was all tickety-boo until this year when “a little girl along with an old gent” visited from the local trading standards office. Mangala says: “She was making notes like mad and she wanted me to do five things.” The TSO wanted CCTV coverage of the container and warning notes on the container (which police had advised against for obvious reasons). She also wanted a gate between an alleyway and the container, plus an alarm. And she didn’t like the display inside it either. The stock was supposed to be kept in their cartons. “So every time I want to show a customer what we have I have to open 60 boxes,” points out Mangala. There was no chance to reason with the officer. “I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I would like to know how I am supposed to do any of this,” Mangala reports.
The TSOs parking time ran out and so did she, leavinng the older fellow behind apologising. We are waiting to see what happend next. I’ve suggested that Mangala makes notes refuting the need for any of these measures, with the reasons why. I’ve also suggested that, if this TSO is new, she may by now have seen quite a few more firework operations and realised that this couple have behaved entirely responsibly.