We hope you all had a peaceful, relaxing Christmas! We enjoyed having some down time and focussing on the important things in life. Now that we're back in the shop, our minds turn to the seemingly inevitable prospect of "the sales." But if we're focussed on fair trade, how can we offer sale reductions? Wouldn't that mean that the producers were losing out?
The simple answer is no - we always ensure that our producers are paid fairly. For most of the suppliers we work with, we will pay for the goods at the point of order - so the artisans have the cash before they even send us the products. So why on earth would we offer discounts on lines we've already paid for?! There are three good reasons...
Firstly, we want to encourage people into the shop and to visit our website at what would otherwise be a very quiet time of year. By offering sales discounts we can tempt people to shop with us who might not normally visit us - thereby hopefully gaining us repeat customers during the year. Secondly, we want to free up as much cash as we can at a quiet time of year to allow us to invest in new stock. This means we can keep the shop looking fresh and support a diverse range of different projects. And lastly, there's a simple issue of space - if we want to be able to showcase some of the amazing things we hope to bring back from Mexico, we need to have the shelf space to do it.
So when you see us offering sales or discounts you can be clear in the knowledge that we are never squeezing our suppliers on price - so you can grab a bargain with a clear conscience!
Here's a riddle for you.
When is the best time to plant a tree?
The answer is roughly twenty years ago.
So when is the second-best time to plant a tree?
The answer is today.
Do you feel a zen calm wash over you as you absorb my wisdom? Good! So now let us apply our new found knowledge to the thorny subject of Black Friday. Every year we moan about it. Every year we offer money to charity instead of discounts, or support Buy Nothing Day, or something else. And still nothing changes. Still it continues.
So here's another riddle for you.
Are you happy with the way Christmas is going this year? Do you find it relaxing... stress-free... meaningful... fulfilling? Or is it just a long headache which leaves you with empty pockets and a sore head on Boxing Day?
Now. Imagine. What does Christmas look like in twenty year's time? Just think about how much it has changed in the past twenty years. 1996. No mobile phones to speak of, no internet to speak of, let alone online shopping. No Amazon, no Facebook, no eBay. What do you think will change by 2036 - and will it be better or worse?
I think you can see where I'm going with this. If we want it to change, we have to change it. We have to stop doing what the adverts tell us, and go back to a simpler, more heartfelt experience of what Christmas time should be about.
So this Black Friday I'm not going to buy anything that isn't from a local shop here in Hay. If everyone did the same, of course, Black Friday would fade away. Whether that happens or we carry on the current course is up to all of us. In 2036 perhaps we'll be hearing those troika bells when the clocks go back... but equally, perhaps we'll have resolved to make Christmas a special time again, where we think about what we can give to others, rather than just a blizzard of buying. See you in twenty years!
It's that time of year again, when shoppers get all worked up at the thought of a pre-Christmas bargain. We've seen people being trampled and injured all for the sake of getting a cheap deal. Some might say our consumer attitude has got out of control. Thankfully, we are seeing a bit of a backlash to this with people in the States advocating a 'buy-nothing' day, where people should stop and think about over consumption and greed - and spend the day with their families instead.
We'd like to suggest that people use their desire to shop for the greater good. By buying fair trade you'll have none of the bad feelings associated with 'made in China' bargains, and you'll know that your thoughtful purchase is improving the life of the person who made it.
"Black Friday" is one of those strange American traditions which is gradually seeping into the UK (they'll have us celebrating Independence Day next!). Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday of November. In the US it's a feeding frenzy of 5am openings, crazy deals, mad consumerism and the start of the Christmas rush.
Doesn't sound like there would be a lot in common with the ethics and ideals of fair trade, does it? We try to run our business in a way that encourages our customers to think about the people behind their purchases, and a mad supermarket sweep doesn't quite fit with that approach. Nevertheless, as a retailer we have to see Black Friday as an opportunity to spread our message that fair trade is a better way of doing business.
We are always clear to our customers that we are not a charity - we are not here with a begging bowl looking for donations. We are simply a platform that allows incredibly talented artists, producers and creatives from around the world to sell their products at a price that makes sense for them. The producers we represent aren't necessarily poor souls who need our help - they're entrepreneurs, business people, the future of their nations. They don't want a free pass - they just want a level playing field.
By choosing fair trade products this Christmas you can help make life fairer and more equitable for people around the world. Better than another electric toothbrush, right?!