Life’s not fair but… my knickers are!

Life's not fair but... my knickers are!

Life’s not fair but… my knickers are!

My thanks to Mike Norbury for the tip off on this rather wonderful company,; and congratulations & kudos to Alison Charlesworth of The Well, Scunthorpe, on becoming their first known explicitly Christian stockist — unless there’s anyone else out there eager to declare themselves?

At LST Books & Resources our fastest selling product range is fairtrade confectionery and food — so come along now, all you booksellers and retailers with an entrepreneurial spirit: no need to get your knickers in a twist over this one, surely? We all need underwear: has the time come to diversify and get ethical with them too? Beyond books to coffee to knickers: is this the future shape of the Christian book trade?

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12 thoughts on “Life’s not fair but… my knickers are!

    • Eddie, thanks for drawing attention to an important aspect of ‘Fair Trade’.
      I was not aware of the ‘cannot employ full time workers’ element and am concerned by this – although I could see spreading the work between a number of part time employee’s as potentially of more benefit to the community but I get the impression this is not necessarily how this is interpreted or what is happening.

      For me I want to push more the idea of ‘Fair Trade’ ethics and idea’s (the ones we actually think of as fair trade even though it seems that we may have a slightly misconcieved idea of what that is in real terms!)- ie building up community, employing fairly to generate sound communities, applying fair terms regardless of size etc in relation to not only the third world but to how we work everywhere – here as well as in potential third world countries.

      I think this is an important thing we need to look at and address – What is fair trade and am I really applying it just by buying something that has a ‘fair trade’ label?

      I want to make clear this is not to knock the ‘Fair Trade’ initiative, as along with most here I do buy fair trade and I also try to resource my shop with ethically resourced goods & gifts wherever I can.
      However it is to apply it on a fully global scale and with an ethic of social justice and community building at heart.

  1. Hmm – on the issue of diversification I’m not at all opposed and think widening ranges and stocks can be a good thing, though I do admit to wanting us to be bookshops with other things, rather than other things with books but that’s because I want to be a bookseller and I like ‘bookshops’ (even if my life does sometimes resemble Black Books!).

    So given this can I just say that I find selling General non-christian new & secondhand fiction and books, along with a moderate range of art/craft supplies works pretty well in getting the sales up to a more sustainable level :0)

    Is there are reason when we talk of diversifying because ‘christian bookshops’ are struggling as stand alones that we are so resistant to looking at the thing that is most likely to bring to non-christians into our shops and yet sits so well with what we are as booksellers, namely other books?
    I have also found that my Christian customers are also great buyers of my non-christian fiction too, so it helps build both elements of my outreach and mission, that to the churched and the unchurched :0)

    Just a thought.

    • I’m with you on that one, Melanie. Recently had a guy say to me, “Are you person who wants to open a Bible shop in Biggleswade?” Er, no mate, no way. I can think of nothing less attractive or more alienating than a “Bible shop”.

      If — and it’s a very big if — my dreams of Biggleswade Books come to anything, it will be a general bookshop with a broad Christian ethos. But I’m not yet convinced there’s enough trade in the town so, for now, still but a dream…

  2. Interesting thoughts, guys.

    Apart from the introduction of the Fair Trade Knickers range the other thing that the folks at Scunthorpe have done is to open their own “charity” clothes shop as there isn’t one on their side of the town. It is bringing people in to sample the other delights of the shop and cafe.

    Things are changing fast in our trade and we are all having to adapt. 15 months ago apart from Prayer Cards and Posters we at Kevin Mayhew did not manufacture or source any gift product. Now our ever increasing range includes jewellery, notelets in handmade boxes, gift incense, handmade soaps, scented candles, room sprays, “magic mugs” and signature celebration plates.

    Certain of those gift products are ethically sourced from and support the community in Chang Mai, Thailand, however they are not officially Fair Trade so that we ensure that money goes direct to the people involved in them.

    It is interesting to note the number of shops, particularly the further north one goes, that have a cafe or snack facilities either run by bthem or alongside them in the same facility. By mentioning a few please don’t pounce on me for those I miss but among them are: Crewe, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Skipton, Hexham, Seaton Delaval, FM Edinburgh, WO Glasgow, Greenock, Motherwell, Newton Stewart, Cumnock, Mustard Seed and Manna House (both in Perth), Cupar, St Andrews, Stonehaven and CLC Aberdeen. Eventually the Living Oasis stores in Liverpool, Manchester, Chester, Leeds, Harrogate, Edinburgh??, Aberdeen and Inverness will be added to these.

    I remember clearly some years ago going into Manna House in Northampton and finding that Joe Storey had filled the window nearest to the town centre with general market wrapping paper on offer. A little later he did the same with office stationery. Both initiatives increased the footfall in the shop and people were finding greetings cards, childrens books, etc that they would readily buy but that brought opportunity to discover more specific Christian products and, I am sure, would have been a starting block to many on their walk into the Christian faith.

    The knickers link with its range of chemises, pyjamas, panties, thongs, etc.(many thanks to Alison in Scunthorpe for this) has been a light diversion but it has a very serious side. We all need to, even in a small way, look at diversifying.

    Because, to misquote the old Lionel Bart classic, “Thongs ain’t what they used to be!”

  3. Before I get into real trouble from my local shops here in North Wales – Manna Wrexham, Beacon Books Llandudno, Roots Criccieth and Olivet Porthmadog all have cafes.

  4. Back to the fair trade question: I often ask myself how fair “fairtrade” really is. A better deal, a just and equitable deal, for workers in impoverished countries, I’m 100% behind that.

    But at the same time, if it’s going to be long-term viable, it has to be fair for us as traders too — and that’s where it begins to fall apart. On most of my fairtrade stock I only have a 20% margin: it’s barely viable, even with a rapid turnover; and somewhere down the line, of course, HMG take their cut of 17.5% VAT on most things too. I suppose I could just whack the prices up, like WHS do at railway stations … but I think the turnover would slow down drastically because, of course, I’m not at a railway station with crowds of people milling around, and there’s Waitrose up the road where my customers can compare prices…

    The only way, then, that I can afford to carry fairtrade stock in my shop is by piggybacking it on the non-fairtrade product range … which less people are buying … and I think you can see where this is going…

    There’s also the extremely unfair policy that nothing produced here in the UK is eligible for the Fairtrade mark, no matter how fairly it’s traded. So companies like Jordans with an emphasis on sustainability and environmentally friendly farming are effectively stigmatised because they’re not “Fairtrade” even though their business practices are ethically & environmentally sound. Then there’s the question of local v/s long-distance production…

    Fairtrade: like the proverbial curate’s egg, it’s good in parts.

  5. We definitley will not be selling undies – I would be scared someone might want me to model them. 🙂 Not a pretty sight!
    But why not?
    In one of our shops, we sell, Wool,
    Bibles,Buttons, Christian Books, Zips, Cross Stitch kits, Gifts, Patterns, Printer Inks, Cables, & repair EPSON Printers, in & out of warranty.
    How diverse is that? But we get a lot of folks, who do not profess faith, & get to chat the Gospel to them, & offer prayer.

  6. Pingback: Fairtrade is for life, not just a fortnight! « The Christian Bookshops Blog

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