Fair Trade at The Windmill, Oxford
The Windmill Shop in Headington, also known as Headington Fairtrade, began stocking Thai Children's Trust products earlier in the year. We sent Juliette Beauvais to meet Elizabeth Whitwick and take a look around.
The Windmill Fairtrade on the London Road in Headington, Oxford is open every day but Sunday from 9.30am to 5.30pm and boasts a broad range of fair trade products including food, beverages, crafts, gifts, stationary and household products.
I met with Elizabeth Whitwick who greeted me warmly with a delicious cup of coffee - fair trade , obviously!
Elizabeth has been involved in fair trade for over 20 years. She and her business partner Rachel started a monthly fair trade stall at their church. Their interest in fair trade grew as they attended trade craft reviews and workshops. The popularity of the stall was so that the vicar suggested that they expanded into a shop. The shop opened over 4 years ago and despite economic downturns, enjoys a steady flow of customers, both regulars and first timers, and even a visit from Desmond Tutu!
Although the interest in fair trade products stemmed from it being a worthy cause, Elizabeth says that they now need to be more mainstream. Elizabeth explained that sourcing products involves going to trade fairs at places like the Birmingham NEC and London Olympia. The suppliers are all wholesale. Elizabeth says that there is so much choice at the trade fairs that to be able to get the right products she gets as much information as possible beforehand online in order to make the trip focused and productive. The words she uses in online searches are fairtrade, fair trade and fairly traded. A useful resource Elizabeth uses is The British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers (BAFTS) which is an association offering advice to fair trade shops and suppliers, sharing ideas and best practices. They produce listings for Olympia and other events.
As you enter The Windmill you can’t help but notice the shelves laden with slabs of chocolate (I can personally recommend the white chocolate with lemon and poppy seed!), tempting nutritional products such as cereals and grains and of course an array of wonderful tea and coffee which will have you in a dilemma – which one? Or, which three?! Fortunately the shop’s volunteers are happy to talk you through the options.
Elizabeth says that it is the food and drink produce which brings people in and customers then tend to wander around browsing the colourful crafts. It is easy to see why as the bright displays, colourful crafts and unique jewellery make for compulsive viewing!
Towards the rear of the shop there is a refill service area for the eco-friendly household products. A great way for customers to continue contributing to fair trade whilst minimising the environmental impact on their home.
The Windmill has over 50 suppliers including Thai Children’s Trust. Others include Cool Trade Winds who supply scarves and bags from Nepal and India, Luna Tree and Fair Grounds for jewellery and Jason for cosmetic products. Doormats and baskets tend to sell very well, especially at Christmas. These are mainly supplied by Namaste who have a warehouse in the north of England.
There is a lovely selection of TCT products in the shop such as handmade soaps, balms, cosmetic purses and magnetic butterflies made from recycled magazines. Elizabeth has now placed further orders with TCT for different products to get a feel of what will sell well. The sarongs sold very quickly – one lady bought 6!
Elizabeth states that she likes to keep close contact with the suppliers and producers and this is illustrated in how she came across TCT. Whilst attending a fair trade festival in Banbury Elizabeth came across a stall selling TCT merchandise such as the butterflies. Having obtained contact details Elizabeth was able visit TCT offices to pick up some of the butterflies after a trip to a trade show at Olympia. These multi-coloured, unique butterfly magnets made from folded magazines by artists in Thailand in support of orphaned children are a best seller at The Windmill. Priced at £2.50, customers often pick them up at the till.
There isn’t much you can’t find at The Windmill, from beautifully woven baskets, espresso cups and wine glasses to Braintree’s bamboo socks (at three crops a year as opposed to one for cotton these are a winner and super breathable!) I’ll certainly be back to do my Christmas shopping!
My visit to The Windmill left me feeling inspired. Elizabeth is a wonderful woman, dedicating her life to fair trade. I felt honoured to meet this energetic and selfless lady. I urge you all to get involved in the quest for building greater justice in the world, you will not be disappointed.
Find items made at our projects in the TCT Online Shop >
Written by Thai Children's Trust