Hopefully like me, you can’t help but have been horrified by the tragedy that’s still unfolding in Bangladesh these past days. It calls into question how we in the west do business. It puts western practices into perspective and puts everyone’s ‘fair trade’ policies under scrutiny. And that’s a good thing. I read a recent article in Retail Week magazine that discusses this very topic and I felt it was appropriate to reassure our customers of the way we do things at WBC. Thankfully it’s very different from a lot of what goes on in the world today.
I’ve been noticing a fair amount of coverage recently about large retail companies attempting to extend (or altogether change) the credit terms with their suppliers. They essentially demand or impose, in some cases with no notification, significant discounts – sometimes up to 5% on invoices, just for paying them on time.
There are endless articles about it, so I don’t wish to add to them, but as it adversely affects many small businesses we work with, ourselves included, I just wanted to make two points which seem to be missed by most commentators.
As a ham lover, I was delighted to receive a whole leg of Spanish Serrano Monroyo Ham for my birthday back in November. The ham was supplied by Spanish food retailer Brindisa and came in a huge box together with a wooden cradle to hold it steady whilst being carved. Most importantly it came with a fantastic knife, which of course put my selection of knives to shame!
Acquiring a jute bags for life business has certainly opened our eyes to the printed “bags for life” market in the UK, especially the knock on effect it has on the Indian communities where jute bags are made. The entire process from growing jute, processing the raw fabric, manufacturing and finally shipping jute bags, is hugely important to the West Bengal region of India, as well as neighbouring Bangladesh.
Whilst the use of jute fabric has declined from its peak in the late 1950’s, the jute bag business has been given a massive boost in recent years. That’s a positive development for the region. Everyone wants a piece of the action, especially as consumers and governments alike begin to wise up to the destructiveness of plastic. But what happens when you drive down prices at the expense of those who depend on it for subsistence? Here are some of the reasons why WBC will never supply ‘bags for life’ at unsustainable prices.
India has a passion for abbreviation. Air conditioning is “AC”, a kilogram is a “KG” and Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan is known as “SRK”. So it comes as no surprise that everyone in the jute industry likes to be known by their initials. The distinguished gentleman below is PKB. He is the Managing Director of the dyeing factory that supplies a large percentage of dyed materials, including jute fabric, to the Kolkata based ‘bag for life’ manufacturers. What PKB does not know about dyeing jute fabric could be written on a pin head with a paint brush (his words not mine). He spends his life trying to get as close as possible to customers pantone requests and gets quite exasperated with some customer expectations. I have promised him that I will try and explain the process that goes into creating a bag for life, as well as the complications. I do it partly to blow his trumpet as to how good he is, but also to help manage your expectations when looking to order your own custom made bag for life.
The desire for printed jute shopping bags or reusable bags for life continues in popularity with many retailers, if given the choice, preferring to offer an ethical alternative to plastic. We are often asked why lead times on jute bags can be so long, and how a shipping container from India can take longer to get here to Britain than one from China? They’re good questions. I recently returned from India where I met with our partners and I learned about some of the pitfalls of container shipping. The actual shipping of our eco friendly bags is just one part of the whole process. But it’s frequently the most frustrating one, and to a large extent, one that’s completely out of our control. To explain why, you need to understand a bit more about the region that Jute is grown in and where jute bags come from. This is our passage from India.
Business finance is the hot topic of the day. There are endless stories about the need to help small businesses not just recover, but sustain and expand. Back in March the Chancellor rolled out plans for a £20bn government scheme to try and boost bank lending to small and medium-sized enterprises. Turns out what the government deems small may not be all that small at all. In fact you have to be turning over £50 million just to get a look in. And then only today the FSA ruling showed “serious failings” and more dodgy dealings within high-street banking; a mis-selling of ‘specialist insurance to small business’. ‘The Yorkshire Pantry’ recently asked on twitter: how do you find an ‘ethical’ bank? How do you find a bank that understands your needs? Here are some of our experiences and tips that have helped us.