My week as a Bowerbird

My week as a Bowerbird

I’ve spent the past week on the shop floor of a busy department store in the centre of Edinburgh, selling my products to the public via a pop-up shop as part of the Great British Exchange. This was an entirely new experience for me, and with hindsight (as will become apparent as you read on!), something for which I was entirely unprepared……

Devising a plan for the stall

At the beginning of the week I adopted a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude to sales, displaying my wares in (what I thought) was a visually appealing fashion in the belief that passers by would naturally stop, woo-ed by their brilliance, and purchase at leisure. However, as the week wore on I realised that this strategy just wasn’t paying off; people hurried on past, busy to be elsewhere, avoiding eye contact and occasionally asking if I knew where the toilets were.

I needed a new plan. As an ecologist I of course turned to the natural world for inspiration, and what better muse than the masters of courtship, the mighty Bowerbirds;…

“renowned for their unique courtship behaviour, males build a structure and decorate it with sticks and brightly coloured objects in an attempt to attract a mate. The males spend hours arranging this collection. In addition to the bower construction and ornamentation, male birds perform elaborate courtship displays to attract the female.”

And so I adopted what I will now refer to as the Bowerbird Sales Technique.

Adopting and applying a new technique

My initially simple display became more and more complex as the days wore on, with added decorations, flowers and products, taking hours to perfect. When I was happy the bower was complete, so began the courtship display.

Upon seeing a potential customer approach, I began to limber up until finally my prey was within earshot. May the ritual could begin; ‘might I be able to interest you in my handmade products, grown locally in a wildflower meadow…..’ the full display would last around 30 seconds involving gracious descriptions of the meadow, the remarkable attributes of the products and the virtuosity of the ethos, reaching a great crescendo that ‘profits are used to create more wildflower meadows in the local area’ before finally I stepped back, overwhelmed by feelings of obsequiousness and exhaustion (I stopped short of including a bow, but I was most tempted to throw one in); my final flourish being to invite my potential mate to inspect the bower.

Usually, the customer immediately fled, with little more than a chirp ‘I’m looking for ladies wear’. However occasionally, in they stepped… entranced by my display. And now the inspection began, products would be handled, testers sampled, questions asked. On these occasions my courtship display would re-ignite and great descriptions of the plants, the ingredients, the love would ensue.

My feelings during the week

Finally exhausted, my warbles peter out; I can do no more, and I stand by, patiently looking on. This is the crunch point. Have I done enough? My eyes desperately search the customers face, looking for those magical words ‘Lovely, I think I’ll take…”.

“I’ll think about it… I actually came in for a pair of tights, do you know which floor they’re on?”

Crushed, deflated and rejected, I would spend a minute or two licking my wounds before turning once again to the bower. Was it the positioning of those flower petals, that fleck of dust that fell while I was looking elsewhere? I must try harder… I must be more vigilant.

And so it began again, the bower picked over for anomalies, the ritual rehearsed, and potential mates desperately searched for amongst the crowds.

I think I’m hilarious don’t I?!!!! To be honest, the week actually went really well, I met some smashing people and learnt an awful awful lot about selling (mainly that I will never ever attempt to sell in a busy department store ever again!). If you did stop by, I really cant thank you enough. So I’ll leave you with this, watch it and think of me… now back in the comfort of my workshop, cup of tea in hand, woolly jumper back on, I just can’t watch it without laughing!!!

Welcome to the bower

The bower in detail - note the careful placement of the rose petals

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