Welcome to another edition of The Crystal Lodge Newsletter. We hope you all had a lovely summer.

We’ve certainly been busy since our last Newsletter! The first big milestone was The Crystal Lodge’s 6th birthday on 1st September. By then we were already concentrating on getting loads of new stock ready for Christmas. We have to start our Christmas shopping extra early in order to be ahead of the rush. With that more or less organised, the next stage was to organise the packaging material and other essential supplies. Recently there have been deliveries of different sized cardboard boxes, several rolls of bubble wrap and brown paper, plus giant bags of loose-fill. Also boxes of A4 paper, franking labels, printer cartridges, and of course rolls of packaging tape in clear and also printed varieties such as “Fragile” and “Handle with Care”. Then there are the all-important Royal Mail supplies including postal sacks, plus various forms, books and labels that we need. We don’t think we’ve forgotten anything and we’re ready for those orders to roll in, which will mean will can reclaim some space - again!

In preparation, we have increased the number of products for sale in our Ebay store to over 850 ready for our once a year “present buyers”, and we’ve started a 6 month trial selling via Amazon as well, so are busy adding products to the storefront whenever we get the chance. We currently have around 250 product lines available on Amazon, and hope to increase this to around 400 over the next few weeks, then sit back and see what happens!

Our biggest challenge, however, came in early October when our huge website was moved to a new web hosts and server. More about that later!

We’ll post our close down dates and Christmas/New Year opening hours on our website nearer the time, but it is likely that our last day in the office will be 23rd December, and we’ll re-open in the New Year. Orders will still be processed during this period, and we will have mail collections between Christmas and New Year, but as in previous years, the phone lines will be closed during that period.

Since the last Newsletter, we’ve added one more new country – Slovenia - to our list of destinations that we’ve despatched parcels to.

Swarovski news
There is no news so far on which products will be retiring at the end of the year, but hopefully announcements will be made soon by Swarovski. Then, we can start updating our insurance and reference guides for publication in early 2015.

The identity of next year’s annual edition isn’t a huge surprise as it was the result of an on-line SCS member vote. The winning design was announced on the Swarovski website and is a peacock. I’ve seen the design and it looks fabulous! A totally different member only peacock will also be available. We’re also looking forward to seeing the results of the “Design a Mo” competition. The 3 winning entries will be put into full production and released one per year, starting next year, although I wonder whether additional designs may be put into production, dependent on the response to the competition.

For those of you who collect the Swarovsk/Steiff Bear Christmas editions, the 2014 bear is called Rudy and wears the Reindeer pixel ornament around his neck. A limited edition of 1,500 pieces, made from Alpaca wool in a delicate shade of pink, Rudy has the Xillion cut Swarovski stone “button in ear”.

Website move
Quite a challenge! Our micro sites were absolutely fine to move as they are small. Their purpose is to “capture” visitors who type our web address slightly wrong and redirect them to the correct site. However, our main website is absolutely huge, and constantly growing. The reference, introduction, retirement and insurance guides are part of it, but the main issue is the shop itself. Our storefront now has over 2,500 products in it, and 18,000 photos (yes, 18 thousand). It took 3 whole days/nights to download and then upload it all! However, thanks to Jen’s hard work and patience it worked successfully and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief that this particular job is over.

The reason we decided to move was because we were experiencing intermittent problems with e-mails to and from us disappearing without a trace, which isn’t acceptable. Also, there were problems with the interface for WorldPay customers, where there was a communications issue which sometimes meant that we didn’t receive notification of the order from the website, and the client didn’t receive notification that we had received their order either because the 2 weren’t talking to each other! So, we had to check the website regularly for orders which had been paid for, but were “stuck” in the system.

Because orders were “stuck” this meant that the stock control system on the website didn’t think that an order had been placed, so didn’t reduce the number in stock. Conversely, with PayPal orders, even more strangely the item ordered would be deducted twice, in some cases leaving our stock figures in minus numbers! So, it was a complete mess, and we weren’t getting any help or support, so we decided that, despite the huge amount of work (and worry!) this would cause that we would move to new web hosts. Thankfully, all seems to have been resolved by doing this, and hopefully, our on-line clients will now enjoy a better – and more informed - shopping experience. It was a case of doing this straight away (early October) or leaving it until after Christmas, so we decided just to “go for it” and hope for the best, ie that it would be working properly ahead of the busiest time of year.

Apart from saying we don’t want to move the website again, our New Year’s Resolution is to try and use Facebook more! Our “likes” are gradually creeping up, and we’ve reached 270 – all of which are genuine people – no friends/family and/or likes which you can purchase, but even so, it would be nice to see those numbers increase. We’ll try to use it more frequently to see if this helps.

And finally …
With things already getting busier, and with the mad Christmas rush on the horizon, this will probably be our last Newsletter of the year. So, with that in mind, all that remains for us to do this time round is to (albeit very early!) wish you the compliments of the season and very best wishes for a happy 2015, plus add a huge thank you for your custom and support during 2014.
Until next time ... happy collecting!
Alison & The Crystal Lodge team

Secure Payments Through Worldpay and Paypal