The TN card is the Tunbridge Wells loyalty scheme that rewards shoppers for supporting local. This month its founder Jess Gibson chats to Donna Marshall, owner of Stampede!, an independent on Camden Road offering children’s footwear and fashion
Donna, what do you love about Tunbridge Wells?
I moved here from East London 25 years ago. I was drawn to this beautiful town as it felt very rural in comparison to where I lived. The people were kind and the town offered a variety of restaurants, entertainment, history and architecture. I was pulled to the eclectic mix of independent shops and restaurants, and residents had a real sense of pride in their town too – moving here felt like being part of a special club. I was, and still am, very proud to be part of this amazing community.
Why did you join the TN card?
The TN card is all about community, and connecting people with our small businesses. I rely heavily on repeat business. Children’s shoes must be fitted, so online sales are low and I need people from Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding areas to visit me at the shop. The TN card thanks my customers for their business and loyalty. It is a win, win for me. With everyone’s cost of living increasing, we’re now giving customers their TN card reward in conjunction with our own Stampede loyalty scheme – TN members receive 10% discount on top of Stampede loyalty vouchers.
What’s in store at Stampede! going into the autumn?
During the second lockdown I had to diversify and decided to train in balloon artistry. So alongside children’s shoes and clothing, we now offer helium balloons, displays and garlands, hire props such a neon lights and giant lit numbers and much more. We now sell football boots, adding Adidas to our list of quality brands to create a genuine ‘one stop shop’ for children’s footwear. I am also sourcing a new budget-friendly clothing brand to sit aside our existing brands, Hatley and Kite. I don’t think the town offers the variety of children’s clothing it used to, and I want to put that right!
You’ve won a host of industry awards over the years, what sets you apart?
I believe our success comes from always being honest. We regularly check our customers’ shoes and will always provide a truthful answer as to whether the shoes have sufficient room or not. You may think turning away a customer is not good business but, the difference is, we want our customers for life not just for one sale.
How have the past three years affected you as a business?
To be honest, it’s been the worst three years of my career. The pandemic was hard but there was some government assistance. This year, footfall is reduced, overheads have spiraled, supplier deliveries are sporadic, and the shop was flooded which damaged stock and closed the shop for a week. This is why the TN card is so important to us; it increases our sales whilst passing on savings to TN members for their much-needed loyalty.
I’m in awe of how you run a shop while dealing with health issues and your daughter. What keeps you going?
Many are aware that I have Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. I was diagnosed in 2014, a year after my daughter was born.
I lost my mother (who suffered terribly from Parkinson’s) and laid her to rest in 2017, on the same day that the Stampede business became mine. My mother was my everything. Then shortly after, my partner left after 22 years together. It was an incredibly difficult and painful time in my life, yet I believe it made me stronger. It’s also helped me to appreciate what I have, and to empathise more with others.
Why should we support local?
Quite simply, to preserve Tunbridge Wells and all its character. It’s our independents that provide variety and personality, not row upon row of big chains. Although Stampede also has an online presence, having a shop where you can see and touch products in person is important.
I am grateful to all my loyal customers who’ve visited me throughout their children’s lives. I have seen their children grow up, from taking first steps to taking their A levels. I know them by name and children have hugged me and parents have laughed and cried with me. I feel blessed to be part of the TN card and one of the wonderful independent businesses that makes Tunbridge Wells great. I love my job and I love this town!
Location: 6B Camden Rd, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2PT
Visit for: Children’s fashion, school and sports footwear, clothing and balloons.
Member reward: 10% off full price purchases in store.