One of the down sides to running a shop selling cool fair trade items is that inevitably we meet a few customers who would prefer to buy something made in our local area. We are lucky in Hay on Wye to have a thriving artistic and craft community who produce some stunning pieces - and we have great shops in Hay selling them, such as Brook Street Pottery, the Haymakers, and our neighbour at Hay Castle, The Thoughtful Gardener. Explaining why we don't stock any local items ourselves is always a good opportunity to reinforce some of the benefits of making trade fair.
That's not to say that we don't care about local businesses, or local shops! We love the retail community in Hay and we try to be a part of supporting our thriving High Street through the Chamber of Commerce. Now we're involved in a new scheme called Totally Locally, which we're hoping to launch in Hay in the next couple of months.
Totally Locally is a clever marketing campaign to get people to think about where they are spending their hard earned cash. It's not anti-supermarket or anti-internet - there's a place for those guys too. But by showing the benefits of diverting just a small amount of money being spent into local shops, we can see a real difference in the economic health of the town.
We're hoping to launch Totally Locally Hay around the Winter Weekend festival. We believe that fair trade and local shopping make great companions on the road to a more prosperous High Street.
It is with a heavy heart that I have to break the bad news to you - we've just had our first delivery of winter woollens. Yes, it is that time of year again. We're really pleased to be stocking the new season's designs from Here Today Here Tomorrow, who proved so popular with the residents of Hay (and online) last year. We love the new slouchy hats, mini mittens and of course their amazing woolly headbands. Look out for them online in the next few days - they're available in store now.
But before we get on to winter, and the dreaded "C" word, let's try to bask in the last few rays of our fair trade summer. We still have the great new range from Rapanui to drool over (and everyone always needs tee shirts, right?) as well as ongoing reductions on some of our most popular ceramic lines - our eye catching Line Vases are now just £22 online.
Other new arrivals include our amazing, colourful bamboo chopping boards, designed by Bambu Home in Portland Oregon and made under fair trade conditions in China. A versatile, sustainable addition to any kitchen. We'll have more of the range coming soon.
Let's not get too down-hearted at the darker nights drawing in, we still have lots of fun to look forward to - Halloween and some cool new lines to tie in with the Mexican "Day of the Dead" celebrations to name just one. Stay warm out there!
We have a big map of the world in our shop in Hay on Wye and one of our favourite jobs is filling in new suppliers from around the world as another interesting delivery of unusual items arrives. So far this year we have added some amazing new lines to the shop, including:
Cana Flecha jewellery and clutches from Colombia;
Pachacuti Panama hats from Ecuador;
Intricate ceramic skulls from Mexico;
Delightful floating candles from Thailand;
Exclusive soft toys from Argentina.
We are constantly on the look out for new suppliers who have interesting and inspiring stories. If you have a suggestion for a line you'd like to see us stocking, please get in touch - we'd love to hear from you!
When you’re closely involved with something every day it can be hard to step back and see it from a new perspective. We have lots of customers who know all about fair trade and are passionate ethical consumers (and encouragingly, lots of children are well versed on the importance of fair trade). However, we do get one or two who are unfamiliar with the term. It can be very rewarding to explain why it’s important to pay people a fair wage for their work; ensure they are working in a safe environment; avoid child labour; and enable producers to invest in the future of their business – and see that you have potentially changed the way someone will think about their shopping habits.
We have a flyer on our counter from Fairtrade Wales. ‘Wales, the world’s first Fair Trade Nation!’ it claims, and the small print explains how businesses, local authorities, schools, faith groups and individuals all use, buy and support fair trade. A seemingly well-informed customer noticed the flyer and explained what it meant to his partner: “isn’t it great, Wales is committed to fair trade? That means all workers in Wales are paid a fair wage and work in safe conditions.” This is actually a common mistake, often people who seem to understand fair trade, ask if any of our products are made locally in Wales. Of course, Wales is part of the EU and has a whole set of regulations that ensure minimum wages, health and safety at work etc so fair trade is a given. Our working lives are so different from those in developing countries who are often exploited by the demands of the West.
Fair trade is also often wrapped up in conversations about sustainability, incorporating social justice and environmental issues. Of course it’s an important part of the mix, but it does need to be understood as a stand along concept that can’t be diluted or diffused with environmental considerations.
Perhaps fair trade needs to get back to basics with its messaging. It’s a simple idea – pay a fair wage, keep people safe, invest in the future.