Shop til you drop

Today, like so many other people, I went grocery shopping. From my perspective this was a fairly horrid experience, mainly because it was shopping. I don’t like shopping. I do however like to eat, I do it every day, and so shopping is a necessary thing. Equally I like having new things, which I have to go shopping for, and I even enjoy giving other people presents, which again I will have to go shopping for. So I am trapped in an unending cycle of having to shop in order to get the things that I want.

Shopping is big business, the fact that Tesco have just announced a £1.39 Billion profit for the FIRST HALF of 2013 reflects this, they maybe the biggest supermarket, but they are certainly not the only one, and it is a huge amount of money that we are spending each and every week. You can add to this ‘special’ shopping events, such as Christmas. In the UK it is reported that £70 Billion was spent in the 6 weeks before Christmas. With these sort of figures going about it is little wonder that so many companies are trying to get hold of some of your hard earned cash.

Many companies are selling a similar product to many others, and have to find some way of making them appeal to us more than their rivals. Everyone is looking for someway to set themselves apart from the competition. There are various ways that people may try and do this, food can be organic to set it apart, or as healthy, possibly as ‘detox’. Both food and other goods can be sold as ‘premium’ products. We all know that these premium products cost us more money, because they are worth it (allegedly), they surpass the expectations and rise above the normal. The major super markets all have a range of things that cost you more money and is in nicer packaging, to try and get us to treat ourselves with something. The best example of a premium product that I can think of is anything by Apple. Stylishly designed (and expensive) once you have made the step in to the world of Apple there is no turning back. You have paid a lot for the product, you must insist that it is brilliant. It may well be brilliant, but to make sure you have to keep telling everyone it is. There is another end of the spectrum of course, the end of the market that makes things that are as cheap as possible. The basics range of food in the supermarket. The packaging that is just white with ‘Beans’ or whatever printed in a workman like font. Most of the stuff you can buy in Aldi or Lidl. The whole business model of a pound shop.  The products aimed at people who are looking for good value first, and quality later.

Almost irrespective of where our main focus is though, we all like to feel like we have got a bargain. Which means that by and large we want to pay as little as possible for our goods. But, what does that do, and is there another way to think about shopping?

English: Bananas displayed in a Singapore supe...

English: Bananas displayed in a Singapore supermarket. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can remember a few things from my days at school. One of them is all about bananas. I can remember being taught about where the money we paid for a banana ended up, bits going to the supermarket, some on transport, some to the importer, and then a tiny, tiny amount to the farmer who grew it. A pitifully small and measly amount of money considering the effort they had to go to in order to grow  them. The whole idea was sold to us as being vastly unfair. Move forward to now and I can buy bananas with a clear conscience, as I choose to buy fair trade bananas. This means that I have an assurance that the farmers are being given a fair price. How much better is it to think of the positive effects we can have by the choices we make when shopping? Bananas are not the only product where people have been exploited in order to produce a product at the right price, notable examples include trainers, chocolate and clothes. The fair trade mark can now be found on hundreds of different products, as a way to show that you can help others as you shop.

However that is not the only way to help. Not every product will get a fair trade mark, but that doesn’t mean that it is not good. A couple of examples; Innocent and Toms Shoes. Innocent had already appealed to me by being tasty, and fruit based, moving them in to healthy as well. I like the way that they go about what they do, the quirky feel that the labeling has and the fact that is made of pretty much what it should be, not chemical additives. The bit that really sold them to me was the fact that they give 10% of there profits away to charity. This charity work then focuses on the countries where the raw materials are grown, helping disadvantaged communities. As well as this they also give excess stock to homeless people. Overall, I think they are jolly good eggs (or should the be egg plants?). Toms Shoes impressed me so much that they have been mentioned in a blog before ! (you can read it here) A very simple idea of giving away a pair of shoes for every pair that they sell. Brilliant, go and buy a pair!

The one thing I can predict after this though is that there will be someone who is thinking ‘That is all very well, but these things are out of my price range, it costs too much’ . So I have a way that you can help someone else, by shopping, and it will not cost you a thing. Go on to Give as you live, sign up and start shopping. You go shopping at which ever online retailer you like, amazon springs to mind, and you buy stuff at the normal price you would pay. Then a percentage of that money is given to a charity of your choice (Chennai Challenge perhaps?). You can give money away, without actually giving any money away! It works, as we have already received a cheque for Chennai Challenge, purely because people have gone shopping.

So as one thing you can do, give as you live, and just imagine how even 1% of our £70 Billion Christmas shopping spend could help good causes.

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