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!
It's a funny week. the week before Christmas, especially somewhere like Hay on Wye. If we were in a big city we'd be gritting our teeth for a huge Christmas Eve Saturday, but given how busy we've been over the past fortnight my instinct is that most shoppers are ahead of the game this year. We'll see! In any event, there is a lot to do, and it's a good time to look forward to what this Christmas season has taught us.
We seem to be increasing the market for our delicious Zotter chocolate exponentially - we ordered more than ever this year, and yet we're still close to selling out! We'll have more fantastic flavours in for Easter.
It's also become clear that t-shirts are not just for "t-shirt weather." They make great gifts all year round, and our new range from Glower have proved incredibly popular. Look out for more styles from them next year, along with an attempt at some designs of our own!
Finally - I know we're in the town of books and everything, but book sales this year have been phenomenal. Several customers have commented that they like the fact that our book range reflects the rest of the shop - ethically minded, outward looking towards the rest of the world, and thoughtfully conscious. We'll do our best to expand the range in 2017.
Before we get into that we're looking forward to our trip to Mexico - more of which next week! We're planning to keep our Instagram feed updated while we're out there, so stay tuned for that.
It only remains for me to wish you a very Happy Christmas from all of us at Eighteen Rabbit - thank you for your interest and taking the time to read our blogs week in week out. We hope that we can continue to keep you entertained in the year ahead!
Mid-December is an interesting time of year in the shop. I'd say it divides roughly into a 45:45:10 split. The first group are the well-prepared ones, who have been craftily tucking away potential presents all year long, and now need just a few finishing touches to allow their perfect plans to fall into place. The second group are in full-on buying mode - they have lists, they have scribbled notes on their hands, they have lots of bags and their credit cards have a faint red glow around the chip. They'll get there, as long as they focus.
Then there are the ten percenters. They amble in, cool as cucumbers, scouting out the shop with hands tucked into pockets. They smile and nod, and explain they're "just having a look" waiting for "inspiration" to strike. Off they go again, narry a carrier bag in sight, still as far from buying their first present as they were on the August bank holiday. You have to admire them. Will they make it? Who knows. But last-minute shoppers of Britain - we salute you!
Whichever group you fall into, there are some things you can't change. As Christmas Eve is a Saturday you could potentially post something first class on Friday 23rd and still have it arrive in time - though we're suggesting Wednesday 21st as a good cut off. So you have just under a week to order any of our fancy fair trade treats before the big day. We never try to give anyone the hard sell, but here are three clever ideas if you're stuck for inspiration...
Recycled tyre wallets from Cambodia. Fair warning - we will sell out of these. Very popular, particularly as gifts for tricky-to-buy for men.
Star earrings. Back in stock after a short absence, these beautiful earrings are handmade from brass in Tamil Nadu. A perfect festive look!
Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane. The follow up to the hugely succesful "Old Ways" is a great gift for outdoorsy folk - and a lovely present from the "Town of Books."
In our last blog before Christmas we'll look forward to 2017 - until then, don't let the shopping madness sweep you away - let's do whatever we do with a spirit of peace, love and compassion.
There's no escaping it now - we are well and truly in the Christmas season. With only three (aargh!) blogs left before the big day, I thought I'd use each one to talk about something different. Next week we'll have some last minute shopping advice for those of you who are as unprepared as I am, and the week after we'll look at what 2017 might have in store for us. But it seems right to pause for a moment and take a look back at 2016.
For some people, it has been an excellent year. But many of us will look back on 2016 with a sense of bewilderment, wondering how we managed to hopscotch from Bowie to Brexit to Trump in the blink of an eye. And no matter what side of the political fence you sit on, there's no doubting that the fence - or great border wall, if you will - has never been higher or more difficult to see over. No matter who won or lost, the outcome has certainly been a more divided world.
And while we in the UK argue over semantics and arcane points of law, you don't have to go too far to see that many places that are literally falling apart - Syria being the obvious example.
It can be depressing. But through it all, glimmers of hope emerge. For every portent of doom, there's a silver lining. In that spirit, I'd thoroughly recommend the Positive News website and magazine - looking at the world through a prism of progress, possibility and positivity. There is far more that unites us than divides us. Next week, we'll get back to the shopping - but for now, stay positive!
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!