Friday 17 December 2021

Waving goodbye to 2021


Well, that's another (weird) year done with! It feels like 2021 didn't quite end the way we all thought it would (thank you Mr Omicron), but there's no reason why we can't all still look forward to 2022 and hope it shapes up better than the last couple of years. 

I'm closing up for my Christmas break in about 30 minutes, so just wanted to take a moment to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Even though you may not be able to meet up with everyone that you hoped, you can still have a wonderful, resting time (and blow a mental raspberry to 2021). Let's hope next year is better, eh?

Thank you, dear reader, for all your support over the last 12 months - old customers, new customers, still-thinking-about-it customers: each and every one of you. 

Have a great time, stay safe and well, and see you all in January! 

Sarah x

Friday 19 November 2021

In With the New! A roundup of what's new at PhotoFairytales...

It's been all change on the PhotoFairytales site this week - the autumn colours have gone, making way for a festive Christmas feel (well, it is nearly Christmas)! So, I thought I'd take a few minutes to give you a brief glimpse of the new goodies that have recently arrived...

Personalised Handmade Christmas Gifts 2021
- new at PhotoFairytales

This fun personalised Christmas Countdown plaque is made from natural slate, and features flecks of fools gold. It comes complete with chalk too, so you can write down the number of sleeps left until the big day! Children (and excited adults) will love marking off the days, and this lovely sign will become a real family tradition every year. Only £15.99, including P&P. Click here for details

'Winter Wood' is one of three brand new Fantasy Portrait designs that I've introduced this season. A gorgeous wintery setting, I can recreate this artwork for you using your own photo. Perfect for babies and children. From £24.95, including P&P. Click here for details

Since introducing them earlier this year, my personalised Newspaper prints have become one of my most popular lines! So it seemed only right that I bring in one that's designed just for Christmas... this fun print is personalised throughout, from top to bottom. You can add your own photo too. There are lots of other designs available, so if you're looking for a special gift with a difference, take a look! Only £18.50 including P&P. Click here for details

My new wooden room signs look lovely on a bedroom door or wall. Available in a choice of colours and sizes, they're a stylish addition to a youngster's room. Made from real wood and super smooth, the signs are really light and easy to fix to a smooth surface (fix them temporarily with command strips or blue tack if you don't want a permanent fixture!). From £15.95 including P&P. Click here for details

Another new winter-season Fantasy Photo Portrait - 'Starlight' features soft gentle blues and silvery greys, and is a lovely design for younger children and babies. (If you wanted something less 'Christmassy' I can remove the Christmas tree too). From £24.95 including P&P. Click here for details

The wooden personalised Christmas Eve boxes are back this month - and prices have been held the same as last year! There's a range of truly lovely designs available, from flat topped boxes to gorgeous engraved heirloom chests. A delightful family tradition for Christmas eve. From £23.50 including P&P. Click here for details

The last of my new Fantasy Portraits for this season, 'Snowglobe' is undeniably festive! A charming design for Christmas, it's absolutely perfect for younger children and babies (a lovely idea to celebrate baby's first Christmas!). From £24.95 including P&P. Click here for details

My personalised wooden Christmas Family Signs are back again this year - and one of my favourite personalised decorations. Available in black, grey, white or red and a choice of sizes, there are three striking designs to choose from. Easily fixed temporarily onto any smooth surface using blue tack or command strips (or do what I do, and lean it on top of your cooker hood for a festive touch in the kitchen!). Featuring a lovely natural wood grain, you'll find lots of places in your home for this lasting personalised Christmas decoration. From £15.95 including P&P. Click here for details

And last but not least, my personalised wooden Christmas Star decorations are back this year too! Incredibly popular, this stylish natural wood stars are available in lots of different designs and colours. Strung with satin ribbon in a choice of colours, these gorgeous wooden stars will look fabulous hanging from your tree, a hook - or anywhere you fancy! Also available beautifully gift boxed, perfect for gifting. From £9.99 including P&P. Click here for details

Well, that's it for the new (for now)! Don't forget to sign up to my VIP list if you'd like to hear about exclusive offers and discounts - including a free welcome gift worth £10 when you place your first order worth £15 or more. Click here for more information or to sign up.

Sarah x

Monday 8 November 2021

Personalised Santa Letters & Telegrams - 2021

It's now less than 7 weeks before Christmas, how can that even be?! To help you get firmly into the festive mood, I'm delighted to let you know that the 2021 Santa Letters & Telegrams are now on sale!

I'm so pleased that I've been able to keep prices the same as last year too - with all the doom and gloom about prices going up recently it's lovely to be able to keep them the same.

I've got my gorgeous Santa Letter Gift Packs available again - and as with previous years, these are limited edition so I only have a certain number available. They sell out every year, so if you'd like one I really advise you to get your order in right away. They have three fun mystery gifts inside this year, as well as all the other lovely goodies!

In addition to the Gift Packs there's also Santa's personalised Telegrams, which are available in three different versions: Nice List, Baby's First Christmas, and of course, Naughty List! So if you know a child or adult (adults are usually the naughty ones) who needs a bit of help and encouragement from Santa to get back on the Nice List, one of these fun telegrams would be perfect.

After being such a huge success last year, the very special personalised Christmas Day Letters are back too! These are truly special letters that Father Christmas leaves behind when he visits on Christmas Eve - so your little boy or girl will have a really exciting surprise when they wake up on Christmas Day!

As always, these Santa Letters & Telegrams are a wonderful keepsake and absolutely magical. They're created individually (no automated computer-generated nonsense here - these are the REAL THING!), and Santa genuinely writes and signs each and every one. 

He handwrites the envelopes, he signs all the letters and telegrams individually, and he works really hard at making sure the letters are all unique and special. If he wrote to your child last year then his letter this year will be different - and if he's writing to more than one child at the same address he will write a different letter for each child.

I'm absolutely delighted that Santa and I will also be donating 50p for every single Letter and Telegram sold to Adoption UK again this year. 

This wonderful charity does amazing work in support of adopted youngsters and adopting families, and it's fantastic to be supporting them again this year. So make your purchase count this year - when you buy a Letter or Telegram you'll be helping me (and Santa) to support a brilliant UK charity too.

You can find full details of all the Santa Letters & Telegrams over on the website by clicking here. Orders close on December 14th (UK deliveries). Don't delay - especially with the limited edition Santa Letter Gift Packs!!

Ho, ho, ho,

Sarah & Santa xx

Monday 25 October 2021

Top 5 Key Interior Trends for 2022

2021 is definitely the year that should be labelled “The one where the 90's came back” - the Friends Reunion made us all feel nostalgic for the good pre-covid times! Aviator glasses, bootleg jeans, and high-heeled shoes giving way to crocs (lockdown comfort!)

With the year drawing to an end in just a few week's time, I thought it would be fun to look forwards to 2022 and think about what will be happening in terms of interior and lifestyle trends. I subscribe to loads of interior blogs, trend reports and style commentators, so thought I'd put together a breakdown of where I think the directions are going. (If you don't know your Royalcore from your Cottagecore, read on..!)

I've created some special boards on Pinterest for you to illustrate each trend - so if you need some inspiration click here to take a look!

Maximalism & Opulence - The opulent look can go one of two ways: rich vibrant colour palettes, luxurious finishing touches, richness: think 'stately home' mixed with art nouveau decadence (upstairs at Gosford Park!) and a touch of 1970’s glamour - or alternatively there's the new 'Royal Core' style influenced by majesty, historic romanticism, ballrooms and French drawing rooms of the Belle Époque era (basically, think 'Bridgerton', either rich colour tones or muted pastels, Venetian mirrors and candelabras, and lots of gold and silver!) . It’s a style that's been around for a while (although I've been seeing more 1920's influences coming in recently, along with the flamboyant new royalcore style) but, I think because it's all about pushing away the grind of real life and having a bit of fun, escapism and luxury on a daily basis it's still a style trend that will continue to be popular for quite some time. 

Rustic Cottage - Soft colour palettes, gentle and homely, mixed patterns and prints, nostalgic and whimsical: think retro Laura Ashley from the 70's, mixing up floral and subtle stripe prints, handmade accessories, flowers, layers of warm white, creams, pinks, blues and greens. The Cottagecore aesthetic has been huge for the past year, mostly because it harks back to gentler, more familiar times, with the emphasis on tranquillity and a cosy, simple lifestyle - taking time to pour tea from a teapot, read a book, grow your own veg or bake... 

Japandi and the New Minimalism - Japandi is the fusion of Scandi and Japanese style, where east-meets-west: think relaxation, neutral colour palettes and natural materials: calm, nature, wellbeing - think open windows, work-life balance, plants and fresh air, visual quietness and space. The new minimalist style is one that focuses on lines, simplicity and space. It’s about clean lines, functionality, and clearing away the clutter so that you can live a more peaceful life. It isn’t about being clinical though - it can be soft and warm, but it must be simple and uncluttered. Include colours like pearl grey, sky blue, natural wood (light or dark), touches of black, pale chalky pink and white. Let key, favourite pieces of furniture or décor be your guide. If you've been a fan of the Scandi or Hygge style for a while now, it will be an easy leap to start incorporating Japandi into the scheme. Keep walls simple, perhaps picking out just one to be a focus in the room. Which leads me on to...

Feature Walls - they're back! The trend is for boldness, whether it's geometric, botanical prints, texture, colour, whatever - it's about impact! Keep the rest of the room simple however, so that the impact isn't lost or muddled. The beauty of this trend is that it's one of the easiest ways to make a big impact in a room relatively simply. Introducing one striking focal point in your room can have a really big effect on an otherwise simple (dare I say, boring?) room. We recently created a panelled wall in my daughter's room and the impact it has made to the room is incredible.

Solace and Calm - Soft, neutral colour palettes made up of complimentary creams, soft clay pinks, cool grey and beige, smoky soft brown, opaline green, and clear pale blues (eg, Dulux Colour of the Year, ‘Bright Skies’). Mixed with textures like limestone, plaster and stone, suede. If you want to introduce metallics keep them soft and oh-so-pale - nothing brash: think translucent, pearly sheen and lustre rather than shine. Have minimal use of pattern, let texture say it all. Organic shapes and curves, and just a hint of bohemian. Picture sitting on a rocking chair in front of a faded craggy plaster wall, watching the sun set over Arizona... there, you've got it!

Micro trends for 2022: 

  • Matt Black - on the walls, or home accessories, this is a statement that will work fantastically with the maximalism or Japandi trends!
  • Bright Yellow - uplifting and the complete opposite to matt black, it can be used as a simple accent, or to give a serious pop of quirkyness and attitude in a room, or given an elegance when mixed with grey or the matt black trend. Let the sun shine in! Look at Farrow & Ball’s Babouche No.223 for inspiration.
  • Green - in all shades, from fresh barely-there shades, to deep velvety opulent greens. It’s the influence of nature, combined with the kick back from lockdowns and indoor living - and it will work in pretty much any setting or style.
  • Polka Dots - expect to see spots and dots, small and large, everywhere...
  • Bees - of all kinds, from monochromatic vintage style to fun pops of colour or metallics; the bee emblem is definitely hot at the moment and I think it'll still be around in 2022!
  • Faux Greenery & Dried Plants - they've been around for ages and show no sign of leaving, although as we move into winter think about swapping out the leafy green faux plants for bundles of dried flowers, architectural dried grasses, and wall wreaths for a softer country look.  
  • Textures & Metallics - mix textures to introduce a cosy feel to any room, combining wood and stone with softer knitted or velvet textures, and combine with metallic shades (bright and brash, or soft and aged)
  • Sanctuary - a few years ago it was all about knocking down walls and open-plan living, but lockdown life has made many of us hanker for a little solitude and personal space. If we can't have a room of our own, we might want to create a private quiet oasis in a little corner of a room: think a comfy chair, a cosy throw or a beautiful cushion, a thoughtful piece of wall art and a carefully chosen lamp or piece of home decor that we love. Or if you don't have space indoors, create a little corner in the garden - complete with a wood burner or outdoor pizza oven, some candles, plenty of warm blankets - and maybe an outdoor bar! 
  • Work from home - it’s obvious why this has become so important for millions of people over the last 2 years, and lockdowns have created their own take on life, with many of us reviewing the idea of commuting to a workplace and trying to juggle work and home, and instead opting for a flexible work environment if possible. This means there’s a need for a comfortable and functional work area - the space has to blend with your interior, not jar against it. Organisation and storage is key, along with natural light, comfort (vital from a health point of view), and accessories to make our work feel more inspired, joyful and fun.

And finally...

Gifting trends this Christmas:

This Christmas it's all about handcrafted - everything plastic and mass produced is out (which is just as well as it's probably stuck on a container ship anyway). This year it's all about thoughtful giving: think 'quirky, original, handmade' - but 'quality' too: this is about mindful gifting, with longevity and thoughtfulness in mind. Think creative and inspirational.

Christmas 2021 trends:

It's all about family this year - coming together (hopefully) in a way we couldn't last year. Conviviality, closeness, a sense of belonging and sharing. It's not about all-out partying (because we don't actually know yet how this Christmas is going to go), but it's about being together even if we can't be in the same room. Connections, family traditions, rituals. Decorations will either be all out maximalist (because at the end of the day, Christmas fits that particular trend perfectly!), or about calmness and nature (greenery and a simple colour palette). This year think about introducing creative and unique touches: decorating your tree with blossoms and leaves perhaps, for a botanical look rather than all out glitter. Consider starting a new tradition of buying a single special decoration for the tree each year, something that sums up the year and will evoke memories in future Christmases. Involve the children and make your own paper decorations, recycling card and paper, even newspaper. (Click here to see my special Pinterest board: Easy Christmas Makes)

Sarah x

Thursday 21 October 2021

The top UK baby names for 2021 - revealed!

Every year the Office for National Statistics releases lists of the most popular baby names in England and Wales for the past year. The latest information was released this week - and it would seem a certain royal baby has had a big influence on new parents!

The list toppers: To kick things off, Oliver and Olivia have remained the most popular names for baby girls and boys. Oliver first made the top spot back in 2009, fell to 2nd place in 2011 and 2012, then rose back to the number 1 spot in 2013 and has remained there ever since. Whilst Olivia first reached number one in 2008, fell back to 2nd place between 2011-15, then rose back to the number 1 spot in 2016 where it remains still.

Risers and fallers: Grace and Freya have been knocked out of the top 10 spot, taken over by Ivy and Rosie. Similarly, Archie has taken over from Charlie in the top 10 for boys, appearing in the top 10 for the first time (most likely due to the arrive of Harry & Meghan's baby born in 2019). Ivy has risen in popularity a huge 221 places in the last 10 years, becoming the 6th most popular name for baby girls. Similarly, Arthur and Noah have increased in popularity over the last 20 years, both rising over 200 places. This is the first time in 15 years that Charlie hasn't been in the top 10. The largest movers however were Milo, Otis and Maeve - all 3 names have been rapidly gaining popularity amongst new parents although they still haven't reached the top 10.

The influence of age: It seems that older mums are choosing traditional and longer names for both boys or girls, whilst younger mums are doing the complete opposite and opting for shortened versions of traditional names, such as Tommy rather than Thomas. For mums over 35, the top 10 names are Amelia, Ava, Charlotte, Isla, Emily, Ava, Florence, Sophie, Sophia and Mia for girls, and Oliver, George, Jack, Muhammad, Noah, Thomas, Alexander, Arthur, Leo and William for boys. Whereas mothers under 25 are choosing shorter and abbreviated names - Noah, Archie, Leo, Arthur, Theo, Tommy, Freddie, Oliver, Oscar and Finley for boys, and Amelia, Ava, Olivia, Ivy, Isla, Isabella, Mia, Willow, Harper and Elsie for girls.

The top 10 boys' names are:

Oliver (no change from 2019)

George (no change from 2019)

Arthur (up 1 place from 2019)

Noah (down 1 place from 2019)

Muhammad (up 2 places from 2019)

Leo (no change from 2019)

Oscar (up 3 places from 2019)

Harry (down 3 places from 2019)

Archie (up 10 places from 2019)

Jack (down 2 places from 2019)

The top 10 girls' names are:

Olivia (no change from 2019)

Amelia (no change from 2019)

Isla (no change from 2019)

Ava (no change from 2019)

Mia (no change from 2019)

Ivy (up 6 places from 2019)

Lily (up 2 places from 2019)

Isabella (down 2 places from 2019)

Rosie (up 5 places from 2019)

Sophia (down 3 places from 2019)

And the names at the bottom of the top 100? Aisha for the girls, and Myles for the boys.

But of course, all of this doesn't mean a thing - whichever name you choose for your baby (assuming you don't choose something like 'Ikea' or 'Trixie-Biscuit') will be perfect. Although, as the parent of a teenager, I can pretty much guarantee that whatever you do choose they'll moan about it at some point!!

Sarah x

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Erm, I've won an award (again, again)!

Anyone who knows me even slightly will know that I feel all a bit embarrassed when it comes to blowing my own trumpet. It's just not me: I'm far more likely to actively run myself down than beef myself up!

So this is all a bit unsettling for me to write - but I've, well, you know, won another award (or, if I was saying this in person to you it would come out as "yeahIwonnotherawardanywaycupoftea?")

So, this latest one (flicks hair in arrogant fashion), is all about me this time (actually if I'm honest, pulls hair down over face): I've been named as the 'Best Online Handmade Gift Shop Owner (UK)' in the 2021 Influential Businesswoman Awards. 

The awards are organised by Acquisition International Magazine, a trade magazine with global coverage. They say, "Acquisition International prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. The awards are given solely on merit and are awarded to commend those most deserving for their ingenuity and hard work, distinguishing them from their competitors and proving them worthy of recognition."

The organisers went on to say, "The Influential Businesswoman Awards sole objective is to encourage and support women as they further participate in entrepreneurial endeavours as it is our belief that their participation is vital in ensuring a balanced and forward-thinking economy."

I mean, I've had worse Tuesdays! (No seriously, I know I'm playing this down, but I am SERIOUSLY so happy about this - and I've been receiving some absolutely lovely messages and DM's via social media this morning too). A glass of bubbly over dinner tonight it is then: whoop whoop!!

Sarah x

Tuesday 5 October 2021

PhotoFairytales has won an award (again)!

 I mean, I think this image says it all really:

Yep, I've only gone and won 'Best International Bespoke Handmade Gifts Retailer 2021' - a bit of a mouthful, but absolutely brilliant none the less!

SME News are a UK trade magazine supporting small and medium sized enterprises. They run various annual awards every year, including their flagship programme UK Enterprise Awards. The Enterprise Awards programme is there to recognise the work done by small and medium businesses, particularly during the difficulties COVID-19 presented over the past year. This year’s winners include UK businesses that range from micro companies with a focus on creating wonderful products, to medium sized businesses with an aim to provide a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Discussing the success of these deserving winners, Awards Coordinator Emma Pridmore praised the programme’s winners: “Congratulations to all the businesses recognised in this year’s awards. It’s always exciting to reach out to people with the good news, and I wish you all the best for the future.”

To say I'm over the moon with this fantastic news is putting it mildly - but I just wanted to say that I honestly wouldn't be here doing this thing that I love, if it weren't for you. I sent a very quick message to all the members of my VIP club about the news yesterday, and it was just so lovely to get loads of emails back congratulating me - I mean, truly lovely - I've not stopped smiling!

So thank you, dear reader - you're what it's all about!

Sarah x

Thursday 12 August 2021

Inflated Exam Results? I think not!

It’s been a big week for our teenagers this week: first A level results on Tuesday, then GCSE results today. No doubt there’s been cheers and tears in lots of households! Thankfully there were cheers here at PhotoFairytales HQ when my daughter received her results on Tuesday - she’s all set now to start her degree in the autumn and everything is good. 

BUT… to let you into a little bit of behind-the-scenes life here, I’m afraid amongst all the cheers there’s been a lot of ranting (and if I’m being perfectly honest, swearing too) - all aimed at the news reports.

As soon as I turned on the breakfast news on Tuesday morning I was instantly hit with news about ‘inflated’ grades, and it was exactly the same again this morning - before our kids had even received their results! Just so that we’re clear here, these are NOT inflated grades. Just because results have been better over the last couple of years doesn’t mean that these students have had it easy or been handed nice, fluffy grades decided on a whim by their teacher to make everyone feel better. I think anyone who thinks for a minute that these teenagers have had it easy, or been handed something on a plate they don’t deserve, is probably not living through this level of the education system first hand.

Let’s look at the challenges they’ve faced: lockdowns (probably tougher on teenagers than just about any age group), some of them have been ill themselves, struggling with anxiety, depression or stress, concerns about schools closing and/or opening, having to wear masks all day long, many have had to deal with family members becoming ill or dying, in many cases poor internet connections, arguments with parents working from home and other siblings over who gets to use the laptop (assuming they have one), trying to find somewhere comfortable and quiet to work (I bet not many had access to a nice ergonomic office chair and desk), patchy support from schools and colleges (because, sorry to say this, but not all teachers and establishments have been ‘absolutely fantastic’ - some were distinctly flaky!). 

Yes, there’s been some schools that have really managed to step up, being there at the end of the phone or internet to give feedback, support and proper teaching in a regulated and timely fashion. Others haven’t. Some teachers went out of their way to make sure their pupils were OK. Others didn’t. So no, not all teachers and schools have been fantastic. Not that I don’t understand (at least in the first lockdown, not so much after that when they’ve had time to adjust), not many of us can adapt to this kind of event without having a wobble! It was expected, however, that the kids knuckled down and worked just as hard as ever: keeping their work to the same standard (if not improving), handing their work in on time and properly completed, etc. That’s a lot to ask from anybody, but for many teens that’s been incredibly tough. And yet they still put in some incredible work for their teachers, the school heads, and the examining board (because it’s not their teachers that have been handing out straight A’s to their favourite pupils - this has been checked and rechecked before the grades were awarded!) - work that got them some brilliant grades. 

We should be celebrating the fact that grades have been great this year, not denigrating it as if its all been a bit too easy and grades have been handed out like sweets.

The newspaper headlines our students really deserve!

The media have also been saying ‘students have been assessed by teachers on the work that they completed’ - which is true, but many would think that means students have had their daily work ticked by Sir or Ms, that’s become their end of year result, and that they’ve only had to learn half the curriculum anyway (so this years cohort is only half educated, so even less deserving of their grades)! This is not the case. 

I can only speak for our own situation and those I’ve witnessed from friends and family, but it hasn’t just been daily work that’s been assessed - this years’ students may not have sat exams in the traditional sense (ie, in a big hall with desks spread apart), but they HAVE been given near constant assessments over the last months, completing exam papers on a weekly basis under exam conditions (so not sitting at home, with their text books open in front of them and given all the time in the world). That’s like sitting exams not just for a couple of weeks, but for months. That’s tough! While these assessments were happening, teachers were still often trying to cram in the entire curriculum - my daughter studied all her modules, just as she would have done in a normal year. Unfortunately, a lot of that was incredibly rushed. That added a huge amount of pressure: not only was she learning new things but she was constantly having to revise and be assessed for the slightly less-new things. It was relentless.

If your child has received good grades, don’t let them for one single minute think that those grades have been ‘inflated’. 

The work they’ve done has been tougher than any other year (in a normal exam year, students are given timeframes, revision lessons, study timetables, mock runs - and more, all to get them prepared… this year hasn’t had that). The grade they’ve received should reflect that gargantuan effort that they’ve put in. They should be proud - inflated, in fact! (Although don’t get me wrong, I think the grade gap between private and state schools is shocking, and that should definitely be addressed!!)

Have you been going through results days in your home this week? Tell me what you've made of it all, I'd love to hear from you!

Sarah :)

Friday 23 July 2021

BRAND NEW: Personalised Newspapers

I'm so excited by my new range that's just landed this week - these brand new Personalised Newspaper Prints look fantastic in real life, and they are a really unique gift idea too.

Personalised Newspapers, from PhotoFairytales

This new range of designs is really special - personalised from top to bottom: not only in the main article and headlines, but the 'publication' date, the banner and the footer ads. You can even swap the photo for your own picture too!

Not only that, but if you want to slightly tweak the existing storylines - or even completely re-write it with your own wording - that can be done for you too.

The Newspapers are printed on high quality 100% recycled textured paper - in a lovely off-white shade. Because they're A3 size they'll easily fit into any standard A3 size frame too (or a larger frame with a mount that has an A3 sized opening). 

They're really smartly presented with a backing board and sealed in a clear presentation sleeve, so even if you're giving the print as a gift unframed it will still look fabulous!

I've got a range of designs available (and I'm sure there'll be more coming over the next few months too), so if you're looking for a special and original gift for friends or loved ones head over to the site now and take a look! Click here to see the full range of Personalised Newspapers

Sarah :)

Thursday 13 May 2021

Scam delivery emails and texts - what to do...

I'm willing to bet you've had at least one or two texts or emails over the last few weeks from delivery companies telling you that there's money to pay before they can make your delivery. Or perhaps asking you to contact them so that they can rearrange a delivery. Yep, me too - lots of them. I like to think I'm pretty savvy when it comes to this kind of thing, but I confess there's been once or twice when I've received a text and found my finger hovering over the link ready to click before I realised what I was doing. 

Here's an example of a text I received two days ago:

The trouble is, fraudsters know that we're all ordering more online these days - and that means that most of the time, when you receive one of these messages, there's every chance you are actually expecting a delivery. It all makes sense... and that's how they get us!

So, I wanted to give you a head's up about these scams to try and help you avoid getting tricked.

  1. These messages can look very official - they will mention Royal Mail, Hermes, DPD, DHL, etc etc. Very often the link that they're asking you follow even looks sort of right - they'll have things like 'royalmail' as part of the address in the link (see my example above!). Emails will look as though the sender is one of these companies. They will do everything they can to make it look right and proper. My advice, whenever you receive one of these texts or messages, is to pause for a moment before you click. When we're in a rush, worried about the delivery of a parcel, or distracted, it's very easy to just quickly click on these links. So stop and take a moment to think! Hovering your mouse over a link or button in an email without clicking on it will show where it's taking you, and often reveals an address that won't look right.
  2. Things to look out for in scam emails or texts: 1) Poor language, gramatical errors, spelling mistakes; 2) the greeting might look strange, eg 'Dear customer', 'Dear Sir/Madam', etc; 3) a strange looking email address; 4) you will be urged to follow a link or click on a button and the link might also look slightly 'off' when you view it.
  3. Very often, these texts and emails will be asking for a relatively small amount of money. There's good reason for this: it's because fraudsters know that tiny amounts won't make people pause and question quite so much. People are busy and can be so easily fooled into thinking "it's only £1.09". But that's not the case. When you pay that £1.09 that could reveal your personal information to the fraudsters: you may find more money disappears from your bank account, or your information is cloned. 
  4. Royal Mail will only send service update emails or texts to customers, they will NEVER ask for any payments. If an item has been underpaid or there's a service charge they will let you know by posting a 'Fee to Pay' grey card through your door - they won't contact you any other way. (The only time this is different is if there's a customs fee due for international deliveries, although they would also leave a grey card too.) Royal Mail will never ask for your credit card or bank details, or for personal information - and they don't ask you to phone them to arrange delivery of an item being held for collection. If Royal Mail have an item they couldn't deliver, they will post a red 'Something for you/Sorry we missed you' card through your door. You can find more help and information, including scam examples, on the Royal Mail site here:
  5. Don't call any number as it's likely it will be a premium rate phone call or you will be asked for personal information or your bank details.
  6. Courier companies such as Hermes etc, have a similar arrangement to Royal Mail. They will never ask for payment for non-delivery or underpayment of an item.
  7. If you receive a text or email, and you think it might be real and referring to a delivery you're expecting, contact the seller of the item you're expecting BEFORE clicking on any links and ask for their advice.
When you receive scams like these delete them, and if you can, block them. However, if you'd like to go one step further and report them to the authorities you can do that:

  1. Forward texts to phone number 7726 (it spells SPAM on your keyboard). This will forward the message to your mobile phone provider and is free of charge. All providers collate this information and can block the number to prevent it being sent to you again, or to others. For more information, visit the Which site here: or the Ofcom site here:
  2. Forward emails to email address which will forward the email to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS). For more information visit the Gov website here:
  3. If you think you have already been scammed, visit the Action Fraud website here: and contact your bank or credit card company straight away to tell them you may have been a victim of fraud.

If you'd like more information, visit and

Stay safe!


Wednesday 28 April 2021

Celebrate the Superheroes!

It's Superhero Day today! 🦸‍♀️🦸‍♂️ Admittedly probably not something you have written on your calendar, but a very sweet and oh-so-positive day for celebrating heroes of all sorts - and over the last year there's been quite a few of those: from key workers keeping the world turning, to kids and parents dealing with lockdowns and home-schooling, to friends and neighbours helping each other out and supporting one another - and everything in between!

Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes - not all of them wear a cape: some are in disguise and look just like you or me! Easily mistaken for a totally normal mum or dad, friend, colleague, teacher... Not all heroes have lycra suits and wear their pants on the outside!

Superhero Day is all about reminding everyone that heroes can come in any guise - superpowers can be something as simple as valour, bravery, heart, kindness and compassion.

If you know someone who's been an absolute hero, my personalised Superhero print will make a perfect gift for them. Custom made to order, as well as their name it also includes their own personal superpowers and what makes them truly awesome! (A brilliant present for Dad's on Father's Day too.) You can also select skin tones and hair colour for the print, to make it completely bespoke for your personal hero.

Superhero Day first launched back in 1995 when Marvel Comics asked children around the world what their superpowers would be if they could choose. Since then it has become an annual event, highlighting the fact that superheroes are often just normal everyday folk, some are facing difficulties with brave determination, some are helping others by protecting people or looking after us. It can be as simple as just putting an arm around someone when they need it.

Today is the perfect day to keep your eyes open for superheroes in disguise (I bet you know one!), and giving them some recognition. Who do you know who just might be a hero? Who would you like to honour, or say thank you to?

Sarah :)

Friday 9 April 2021

The changing face of retail in a time of Covid...

Non essential bricks and mortar shops are reopening on Monday after months of being closed - but if feels as though they’ll be opening their doors to a much changed retail landscape. So many high street names have gone permanently. It’s so sad to see household names like Debenhams go, but in a way, for many of these retailers it isn’t a huge surprise. Some of these businesses have been slow to realise that it isn’t just about making cold hard cash, it’s about putting the customer first and in the front when they make decisions about how their business evolves and behaves. Shopping nowadays is about adapting to change, realising what people want - it’s about conscience , responsibility, being fresh and innovative.

Covid has forced retail to change or die. Old established retailers going bust makes us all sad because we have a connection built through years of tradition. I still think the most shocking closure in recent years was seeing Woolworths go, and I still miss it!

My local Woolies in Dereham before it closed

I think many of us still feel a bit nervous about going back to shopping on the high street - we’ve spent a year training ourselves to stay safe, be precautious and careful, and I think a lot of us will be feeling naturally reticent about wandering around shops like we used to. Plus, of course, we’re still going to be wearing face masks and social distancing, and that makes the thought of browsing casually around shops still feel pretty impossible and gloomy for the time being.

As a small business owner, it’s hard to feel confident when you see huge, established retailers struggling to survive. It takes nerves of steel not to run for the hills sometimes! But it’s important to remind yourself that being successful isn’t just about the big numbers: lots of shops, big profit margins, a huge staff. Now, more than ever, it’s about putting the customer first, thinking about what they need and like, helping them, and being responsible when it comes to the planet. 

I’ve seen a complete shift over the 12 years since I started PhotoFairytales - we’re all so much more mindful about what we bring into our lives. Buying conscientiously rather than impulsively, being deliberate in our choices. What we buy is a commitment. It’s about buying things we love from retailers we care about, rather than just ‘stuff’ (for want of a better word!). With so many people losing their jobs and having to watch what they spend over the last year, this is more important than it ever was.

I believe that customers now don’t buy ‘from’, they buy ‘into’. We’ve all done it: buying from Shop A because it makes us feel good (better service, nicer shop, better buying experience, more ‘quality’ feeling…). Sometimes it isn’t all about cost, even in times of austerity. It’s more complex than that now. Customers are far more aware of how a business conducts itself, how in touch with it’s customers it is, with changing styles and trends, with the care and attention it puts into earning your custom.

In theory, it should be much easier for a bricks and mortar shop to be able to look after it’s customers: after all, it sees them face to face. But all too often that’s not the case. My very first job was working on the shop floor of Laura Ashley. We were told that when a customer pays using their credit card we should surreptitiously read the name on the card, and then say “thank you Mrs X” as we passed it back to them. Call me a rebel (and I did get told off more than once), but I NEVER did that - apart from the fact that it felt weird and a bit stalker-ish, it wasn’t remotely natural! It felt fake. And despite it trying to make it feel more personal for the customer I thought then (and still do) that it made it more impersonal. Was I right? What would you feel if a member of sales staff did that with your card?!

Laura Ashley in Norwich... as was

Face to face retailers don’t have the monopoly when it comes to looking after customers. That’s because it’s not all about the transaction, it’s about service, care, aftercare, advice, expert knowledge, giving people time, being approachable and helpful, letting people know you’re there if they need you (and making sure you get back to them in a timely fashion when they do!). Excellent service can be replicated online - and it’s your right to expect it! 

I suppose essentially what I’m saying is that every pound spent is a vote - and we should all vote wisely! Imagine for a minute if every retailer only had 4 years, like a government. After 4 years they only get to stay open if customers vote for them. And in a way, that’s basically what we’ve all been doing: voting, with our hard earned cash! So, here’s my bit of ‘electioneering’!:

  • My manifesto is: Better gifts, better experience - to make shopping enjoyable and friendly. Customers are my community, people with a shared philosophy. The distance between me (Sarah) and you (lovely customer) should be tiny (especially when compared to the big high street retailers).
  • My philosophy is: Happy customers, happy business. It’s that simple. 
  • My mission is: To help people find a gift that they will love giving, to make other people as passionate about gift giving as I am. To consistently work hard at adapting, evolving, to follow styles and trends whilst maintaining the sense of quality, detail and longevity.

My business has to be sustainable for me too; I have to be able to sustain my family, keep the orders rolling in. Tiny independent businesses like mine (run from our family home, no staff, no warehouse, no ‘departments’, just me) don’t have the money, staff or advertising budgets that large companies do. But what we do have is agility. We can adapt with speed to offer people what they want: quickly, efficiently, with flair and personality. Businesses like mine remember customers, they have a friendly personal way of doing business - so many people that I count as friends were once customers. It’s about building relationships, not reading a name of a credit card as you hand it back.

There’s always going to be a place for high street shops, of course there is. All I ask, on my behalf and all of those other micro online businesses out there, is that you keep us in mind over the next 12 months. We kept going through all 3 lockdowns, with a cheery (mostly) disposition, adapting to the weird fluctuations of the retail world during coronavirus (zero orders one week, sales up 200% the following week, post office counters not always open when we thought they’d be, people suddenly needing to buy face masks rather than meals out!). We’ve adapted, cared, invented and evolved - and whilst it’s been stressful and meant a lot of long hours or hard work, it’s also been a hell of a lot of fun: long may it continue!

Stay safe, stay well,

Sarah x

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