A serious case of déjà vu in the CBD’s Piccadilly Arcade this week.
Allen the card man – Allen Hickson – closed his shop and disappeared from the arcade a year ago. Like a lot of businesses. He needed a break, was looking for fresh challenges.
“But I missed the shop, missed people; missed the life.”
Retail still flows strongly through those mature veins.
And so, one morning this week, Allen was back in the arcade – just a couple of doors up from his old shop. Things haven’t changed a jot.
At 9.50am – 10 minutes before opening up his new premises, he was putting out stands of cards and calendars. Then the spinners with more cards and more calendars, and CDs and DVDs.
Allen Hickson is back in business. Normal service has resumed at Piccadilly Greeting Cards.
“So glad you came back Allen,” says Shiree De Veth.
She’s driven all the way from Welcome Bay to buy cards. Who says people don’t drive into town to shop?
“I like his cards,” says Shiree, a customer of 18 years.
“A huge range of NICE cards.”
“That’s right,” says the card man. “No horrible cards.”
The shop is a clutter – a wonderful place to fossick and find exactly the right message.
Allen sold “many thousands of cards” during his first tenure in the arcade from 2004 to 2022.
“Cards are wonderful things. They encourage people. Nice thoughts and nice words.”
So he’s back peddling nice thoughts and nice words – and there are plenty of takers.
“I had many, many regulars and they’re coming back,” says Allen.
He likes that. And they’re of a demographic – a lot are mature people. They appreciate the meaning and feeling of a well-crafted card.
Another customer, again before the shop is open officially at 10am, has found what she was looking for.
“It’s a Christmas card with ‘mother’ on it.”
Just the ticket, exactly what she was after. It will be in the post to Buckinghamshire in the UK in a couple of days and should arrive in time.
During his year off, Allen built a glasshouse. That provided another business opportunity. Now he’s selling plants in his shop too.
Allen Hickson rebooting his 30-year career in retail could signal a small shift in the fortunes of the CBD.
“Something positive I hope.”
Allen has certainly signalled his commitment. He’s got a “very nice” 10-year rental deal on his shop. Welcome home Allen!