It is difficult to feel like life is ‘fair’ for anyone at the moment, uber-riche aside, the squeeze from all directions on our personal and commercial finances and emotional states is causing fractures in the social-norms of old.
As we approach our 7 year anniversary here at Broad Bean, I have started looking back at what we have achieved here during our ‘residency’. It is hard to believe quite how many major events have been thrown at ‘us’ during this period. Brexit, Flooding, Covid-19, now a war in Eastern Europe all having far reaching impacts on the global economy.
Hanging up my personal hat, I am looking at this with a commercial bowler on…
In a town like Ludlow, with a rich history of most things great and good; it is so heartening to know that I own a business in ‘A FairTrade Town’. Fair trading of goods and services form one strand of my business core values. It is integral to the finding of new producers and suppliers, it is so much easier to sell a product from a producer/supplier who shares our values. This in turn makes it easier to sell said products as the raw enthusiasm and stories are passed on to the customer/consumer. This may seem like a simple practise; but it is worrying how many other businesses I visit do not seem to either care about what they are stocking - I chose stocking over selling, as many times it appears that the product is not shifting as a result of the lack of passion - or know who made it or sourced it.
As we navigate through the difficulties of near recessions and economies shrinking, finding new suppliers with new products feels as tricky as getting through each month. The passionate producers are feeling the financial squeeze to a greater extent than even that of small businesses like ourselves. The solutions feel minimal, paying a ‘fair price’ for a product has changed beyond recognition. Not only do we have to consider the costs of the raw materials, (utility) energy input, time taken to produce, packaging, labelling, storage, delivery/distribution and of course trying to actually add a profit line on to this! When this is done on a geographically local level then many of these associated costs can be reduced or eliminated. When we look at longer distances, or even international trade (which obviously now includes import duties - thanks Brexit!), then the major costs are often the distribution and delivery of the goods.
As mentioned earlier, finding a way to move forward on this is difficult. Supporting small producers further afield has become a very costly process; finding a way to get their product to UK markets while trying to turn a profit at any stage of the process feels like it is getting cost prohibitive. I fear that communities that have possibly become reliant on dealing with the UK for commercial transactions are being left behind as a result of nearly all of the factors listed above. Some stock lines which had prominent places - a wonderful Lebanese Olive Oil for example - on our shelves have simply disappeared, not just not available disappeared, but the product itself became unsustainable for production and export. This is one of at least a dozen such products in the past year, these are not the first nor, more significantly, won’t be the last to suffer the same fate over the coming months and years.
I do not feel equipped at this stage to provide solutions, this is something that we are all in, together, trying to find a best way forward. Supporting local producers is a simple solution where like-for-like products are available. Where they are not, we are simply at the mercy of global distribution and the depths of our respective pockets.
Ian Evans, Shop Owner of Broad Bean, Ludlow