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Three chapters in a retailer's story

One sacking, lots of cars and a touch of glamour are all in a few days' work for Michael Ashison

When a friend asked me what I had been up to recently, I thought it might make interesting reading to take a snapshot of three days in my week. So that's exactly what I've done.

Monday started with a disciplinary. I enjoy running my own business, but no matter how often I'm faced with some aspects, they never get any easier. I'm talking about dismissals. Although we follow legal procedures, telling someone face to face that they have lost their livelihood, no matter how justified the sacking, is always difficult.

I bring this up because we recently had to dismiss a key member of staff. Although I can't go into specifics, the person in question was among the best at closing sales, so getting rid of them was sad. I often wonder how "captains of industry" can shut down huge companies with thousands of job losses and still sleep at night. I suppose getting rid of unwanted staff is part and parcel of being in charge. Nevertheless, I don't think I will ever be comfortable with it.

On Tuesday came the news that Transport for London is looking at proposals to bring the congestion charge to Greenwich, which is where two of our shops are based, along with our head office. Consultations are still at an early stage, but the implications are huge. My understanding is that in areas where the congestion charge has been brought in, businesses have suffered.

It's interesting that although the charge is supposed to reduce traffic, while driving through London I always encounter the usual problems - traffic jams and gridlocked cars everywhere. What I do notice is the amount of empty shops and buildings where businesses can no longer survive.

The congestion charge does not help to reduce traffic, but as a means of raising revenue it's excellent. Of course I am concerned about carbon emissions and the greenhouse effect, and if the charge was proved to be effective I might be persuaded to go along with it. I also think that one of the by-products of living in this great city of ours is that everyone wants to be at its core. That's what drives London, so please don't destroy it.

Wednesday was a frenetic day of buying for autumn 07. We visited three different brands, all with their own take on what would do well for the season. One thing that was obvious was that in terms of clothing, glamour and sparkle were very much back in favour and should be reflected in footwear styles.

Every season I hope that retail will go back to being about fashion rather than how cheap an item is, which seems to be the only thing that fashion magazines talk about. Please, let's try to big up the product, which is what this industry is all about. It occurred to me that the obsession with cheap, throwaway fashion means that in 30 years' time there won't be any vintage product. So where will we look for our inspiration?

So there it is. Three days in the life of an independent fashion retailer.

- Michael Ashison co-owns footwear business Bullfrogs in London.

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