Snug in Iceland by Victoria Walker

1

RACHEL RICHARDS SAT in her boss’s office, waiting. She looked out of the window at the crisp winter sky to avoid having to look at the mess on the desk in front of her.

“Rachel, sorry to keep you,” Luisa said, as she hurried in, shutting the door behind her.

Luisa Goddard was Head of Development at Snug and never had her door closed. It wasn’t a good sign. Rachel thought she was probably about to be fired, although she had no idea why. Maybe the company was in trouble, maybe she’d made some horrible mistake she didn’t know about, maybe…

“I want to talk to you about the roll-out programme for Northern Europe,” Luisa began.

Their team had been working on the store layouts, fitting requirements and designs for the new stores, down to the choice of lightbulbs for months.

“The launches of the Stockholm and Oslo stores were so successful that we’re going to sign the lease on the Reykjavik store next week.”

“Oh, that’s great news.”

Relief flooded over Rachel. Another store opening meant more work and she hoped she’d proved herself enough over the past few years to be an integral part of the plans.

“It is good news. And I hope this will be too…we need someone to oversee the shop-fit, merchandising and launch in Iceland and we’d like you to do it. What do you think?”

Luisa was beaming at Rachel as she waited expectantly for an answer.

“I thought you were going to do that?” Rachel said, realising as she spoke that she could be coming across as ungrateful. “I mean, it sounds great. Thanks for thinking of me. I’m just surprised.”

Luisa smiled and thankfully didn’t look like she was about to retract the offer.

“Obviously, that side of things has been down to me until now and while we were concentrating on the UK roll-out it was no problem but having the Oslo and Stockholm projects in quick succession has brought things to a head. Realistically, I can’t be out of the country for weeks at a time on such a regular basis so we’ve decided to appoint a Head of European Retail Development and that would be your new job title if you accept.”

Rachel thought it sounded pretty amazing. Finally, an opportunity for some business travel with the added benefit of it beginning with a place she had never been to before. And more than that, it meant her hard work had been recognised and rewarded and that felt amazing.

“It means a few weeks at each location, not just Reykjavik but for all the stores we have in the pipeline,” she carried on, “but it will be expensed, you’ll get an uplift on your salary and you can claim overtime for additional hours, just like when we have a launch in the UK.”

“It sounds fantastic,” Rachel said, grinning at Luisa. “I’ll talk it over with Adam tonight and let you know on Monday if that’s okay?”

“Yes, by all means, take the weekend to talk it over but you would need to leave a week on Sunday. I know it’s short notice…”

“No, that’s not a problem.” Adam might be but the sooner the better as far as she was concerned.

“Please Rachel, consider it carefully, it’s a great opportunity for you. You’re organised,” she gestured to the piles of paperwork in front of her, “and there’s no-one else in the team that knows the Snug brand image like you do. We need to know that the launches of our first overseas stores are in the best hands, particularly now that we know the model works in Scandinavia. Oh, and keep it to yourself for now, just until you let me know either way.”

Rachel got up, opened the door and walked back to her desk in a daze. She had been working hard on the plans for the new stores and thought she might get to help with the merchandising if she was lucky but she’d never dreamed she might be the one to actually run the projects right from the start.

Rachel loved working at Snug. The business had started eight years before as a pop-up shop in Carnaby Street, mainly as a way for the founder, Julia, to advertise a season of artisan craft markets she was putting together. She’d had a vision of what a modern craft market should be like; trying to fling off the 1980s hangover of knitted acrylic tea-cosies, clunky brown pottery and bad paintings that gave most local craft fairs a bad name. She thought a craft fair should be a properly curated group of talented people whose wares complemented each other and exuded an overall feeling of quality and uniqueness that meant the artists could charge a proper price for their work. Her vision was so successful that now there were thirty-two Snug stores across the UK, in all the big cities, while still managing to be an artisan-led company with lots of small designers making beautiful things like cushions, throws, crockery and glassware.

The team that Rachel worked in was responsible for designing the store interiors in line with the brand image. It gave her a huge buzz to see all their hard work come together when a new store opened. In fact, it was easily her favourite part of the job and more than made up for the endless calls she had to make to suppliers and tradesmen for quotes to get the building work organised for each new shop before any of the fun stuff could happen. The promotion should mean that she would get all of her favourite parts of the job with the added bonus of being on-site for the whole project.

“Rach, what did Luisa want?” her colleague, Jess, asked in a loud whisper. “I’ve never seen the door closed before.”

“Oh, we were just going over some of the budget figures for the new roll-out. Luisa thinks they’re super-confidential.” Rachel pulled a face hoping to convey that she thought Luisa was mad in an effort to put Jess off the scent.

“Yeah, no-one ever cares about the budget,” Jess said, settling back to whatever she was doing on her computer.

“Yeah,” Rachel said, rolling her eyes at Jess while she wasn't looking because the budget was everything.

Desperate to tell someone and knowing that she couldn't call Adam while he was at work unless it was a proper emergency, Rachel headed for the ladies’ loo with her phone so that she could call her best friend Anna in private.

“Hi Rach, what’s up in the land of Snug?” Anna was permanently on alert where her phone was concerned and had answered almost before the first ring had finished.

“I’ve just been offered a promotion!”

And the kind of reaction that Rachel was hoping to get came down the phone, at considerable volume.

“Oh my God! That’s amazing! Wooooooooooo!!!!”

Rachel rolled her eyes, smiling, as she imagined Anna’s colleagues thinking she’d gone mad, whooping like that in the office, although they were probably used to that kind of thing from her. Before Rachel moved in with Adam, she had shared a flat with Anna and it was crazy most of the time. Anna was always involved in some kind of drama, usually boyfriend related, that made her life endlessly entertaining.

“Thanks, I was desperate to tell someone, I’ve only just found out. The first store is in Reykjavik!”

“I’ve always wanted to go there, that’s amazing. Oh my God, you’ll see the Northern Lights!”

When they’d started work on the Scandinavian stores, Rachel had made a Pinterest board for each of the cities they were launching in. It helped with planning the décor if you got into the vibe of the place, and she loved her Reykjavik one the most because of the Northern Lights.

“Hopefully. I’m so excited, Anna, I can’t believe it. I’ve spent six years endlessly ringing plumbers and electricians and it’s finally paid off.”

“You deserve it, Rach. What are you going to do to celebrate? Have you told Adam?”

“Not yet. I’ll tell him tonight. Luisa’s given me until Monday to decide so I think I’ll cook dinner for us. Butter him up a bit.”

“Well, just remember it’s your decision. I’m really chuffed for you. We’ll have to have a night out to celebrate properly.”

“Definitely. I’d better go.”

Rachel was even more excited now that Anna’s enthusiasm had added to her own, so she had a quiet little dance around the ladies’ then composed herself and went back to her desk. She googled ‘Reykjavik Northern Lights’ and found a plethora of companies offering Northern Lights excursions. Looking at the images gave her goosebumps. She couldn’t believe she was going to get the chance to actually go there.

The only slight problem was going to be telling Adam.