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Fairtrade store has done £1.5m turnover in 10 years since it opened
THE only way, it seems, is ethics – at least for the people at the Fairtrade at St Michaels shop.
From humble beginnings, the Oxford store, which helps farming families and producers in developing countries, is celebrating its 10th anniversary – having sold more than £1.5m of goods.
Tucked away in the basement of the Cornmarket Street church, the shop was set up in October 2003 following the success of small Fairtrade stalls in the back of a number of city churches.
Now it has grown to the point where it sells everything from baked beans to toys, but specialises in fashion, food, homeware and gifts – all sourced from small producers in the developing world.
Run as a not-for-profit co-operative and staffed mostly by volunteers, the shop’s products are from more than 60 countries.
Manager Gilli Robbins says she feels that by trying to follow the global Fairtrade organisation’s principle of offering a better deal to small producers, the shop has made a real difference.
The 63-year-old, who lives in Harefields, North Oxford, says the shop has overcome obstacles over the years, including break-ins and a constant battle to let people know they exist.
She said: “We still get people coming in who say ‘I never realised you were here’ after 10 years.
“Because we are so tucked away we have to keep looking for ways to get people through the door.”
Former midwife Mrs Robbins spent 20 years living abroad and saw the communities Fairtrade tries to help.
She said: “A little amount of money doesn’t mean much here, but in the developing world just £1 can make an immense difference.
“I try to pick the projects we get involved with carefully.”
The shop’s profits return to the business to pay for wages, maintenance and infrastructure.
Surplus profit is donated regularly to projects already supported by the shop and Mrs Robbins said the shop has bought products from a range of communities needing help.
This includes people in Malawi, who used the money to pay for clean drinking water and extra rice; villagers in Kashmir in India who wanted electric lighting; and women living under the rule of the Taliban in the Afghan-Pakistani border region Waziristan, who used it to start their own business to be more independent.
She said: “Everybody uses the extra money for the good of the community, not just for themselves.
“We never expected to grow for 10 years when we started. £1.5m is such a lot of help for people who need to be able to get money to survive.”
Assistant manager Julie Osborne, who has been working in the shop for eight years, said: “We all have our own things that we enjoy doing, whether it’s working with schools or ethical organisations in Oxford.
“It doesn’t feel like a job really because it’s so much fun.”
For moreinformation, visit the store or call 01865 722505.
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