Tag Archives: brechin

  • Belief in Action: Shop Local, Buy Ethical, Check out Charities

    March 11, 2013

    As any of our regular readers and visitors will tell you, we are big fans of charity shops. No matter where we go, whether locally or further afield, we can’t resist the thrill of the charity shop chase. No cloned shopping centres or sprawling ‘malls’ for us! Give us a charity shop any day, although we must confess to actively disliking the ’boutique’ styling pushed by Mary Portas et al as we much prefer rummaging through rails of odd sizes, styles and brands and shelves of assorted curiosities in our our quest for the quirky and unusual.

    salvation army shop brechin

    Salvation Army shop, Brechin, displaying the charity’s  ’Belief  in Action’ strapline

    A couple of discussion threads on our Facebook group during the recent EcoFashion Challenge (why not join us?) confirmed that we are far from alone in rocking the retro and celebrating the second hand in outfits that have often been sourced from charity shops, boot sales, vintage and preloved stores. Our challenge participants’ collective sense of style certainly demonstrated that we can all be fashion conscious while still retaining a fashion conscience.

    Charity shopping is of course an ethical choice – at least it is, mostly. As consumers with a conscience, we are already particular about the businesses we support and refuse to patronise those whose values fall short of our expectations (which is why you’ll never find us in fast fashion multinationals). We are similarly selective about the charities we support and have a little list of favourite local charity shops we frequent because we support both the wider causes and the shops themselves. We also have a list of those we wouldn’t touch with the proverbial barge pole (those who know us well will know which we are referring to and why!)

    Our favourite charity shop ‘chain’ is without doubt the Salvation Army, which has local (to us) branches in Forfar, Brechin, Montrose, Arbroath and Broughty Ferry, as well as a recently opened outlet in affluent St Andrews. We are drawn not only by the quality and value for money of the donated stock, but also by the friendliness of the staff and volunteers.

    In particular, we love the Brechin shop which is managed by Rosemary Small, a lovely, lively local lady who has created a real community hub from her Bridge Street base. The shop has such a customer friendly focus and relaxed atmosphere that we invariably spend hours (and often a fair bit of money) in there chatting with fellow customers, staff and volunteers about the price of fish and numerous other topics of  interest. Rosemary and her team take a genuine interest in people and make each and every customer feel welcomed and remembered on their next visit. We can’t recommend this little shop enough, and we also know how generously it is supported by local donors of clothing, footwear, books and bric-a-brac because its manager is so very highly thought of.

    Just look at how we styled some of the clothing and accessories we have purchased from Rosemary’s shop for a Dollyfrockers photo shoot last year. The whole outfit came in at less than £20, but our model (Hannah Wood channelling Marilyn) looked like a million dollars.

    marilyn photoshoot

     Image credit: St Andrews Citizen ; Hair & Make Up: SC MakeUp Artistry

    While we’re talking local, just up the hill from the Salvation Army, there’s also a great wee vintage inspired boutique, Alexina’s, as well as Sunrise Brechin, a small independent shop which stocks some sumptuous ethical brands. And just across town is Notions of Brechin which is run by last year’s Frockery Challenge winner Janice Stewart, whom we hadn’t met until she took part in our competition but who is now on our ‘clever crafters’ contact list. We can’t overestimate the importance of supporting these local shops and others as they are the lifeblood of our little towns and we can’t afford to lose any more of them.

    But back to the Salvation Army, whose shops, in common with those of most charities, have been transformed in recent times from sometimes tired, disorganised and predominantly volunteer-run outlets into purely profit-driven business ventures where, arguably, the bottom line now counts for more than the cause itself. We would of course be the first to agree that any shop needs to generate sufficient revenue to break even and, hopefully, make a modest profit, but we would also argue that the profit need not be purely financial and that the triple bottom line should be the key driver within the charity and/or social enterprise sectors.

    Providing jobs, genuine volunteering opportunities and an invaluable service to a range of customers, some of whom rely on charity shops as a source of inexpensive clothing and household items for themselves and their children, is surely every bit as important as meeting arbitrary and often unrealistic sales targets – most especially in the present tough financial climate in an area which has had its economic heart ripped out as a result of decades of chronic under-investment.

    Just recently, our local Oxfam shop was closed down because it was failing to meet its financial targets. The first ever charity shop in the area, it had been operating in Forfar for more than 30 years and the staff, volunteers and customers were all naturally saddened by its sudden and unexpected demise. But competition among high street charity shops is fierce, fast and furious, probably because there are now so many of them, all struggling to meet unattainable targets set by men (and women) in suits that probably didn't come from a charity shop.

    The grapevine meanwhile tells us that some other big charities’ trading arms are conducting reorganisations (aka implementing cuts) from their remote head office boardrooms, rewarding loyal shop staff with a Hobson's choice of redundancy or demotion (with only the cursory consultation required by law) while still managing to maintain their own generous pay cheques and massive marketing budgets. Spin doesn't come cheap, but front line staff are expendable.

    We find something a bit distasteful about the increasingly slick marketing techniques and cut-throat sales strategies employed within the charity shops sector, now that profit seems to have replaced compassion as the prime motivator. And don’t get us started on those charities which use fundraising  ‘chuggers’ and ‘volunteer’ forced labour (i.e. welfare to work) in their shops, all the while churning out expensive and emotive charity political broadcasts and paying their executives obscene salaries (we stopped supporting the most offensive of these fake outfits a long time ago). While we will continue to patronise those shops whose causes we broadly support, we will in the future be much more inclined to frequent those individual shops with whose staff and volunteers we feel most affinity and whose very livelihoods may depend on just how much target driven turnover they can squeeze out of a flagging local economy.

    We have banged on about this subject before ad nauseam, we know, but we really can’t overstate the importance of our own version of ‘Belief in Action’, which translates loosely as ‘Buy Local, Shop Ethical’. An additional piece of advice might be to 'Check Out Charities'  in order to ascertain how your donations in cash and in kind are being spent. You may well be surprised.

  • First class service and a mention in dispatches

    December 12, 2012

    We couldn't run our business successfully without using the services of the Post Office and Royal Mail who deliver the majority of our orders. They are by far the best value carrier for the items we sell (although we confess to using couriers for wholesale and bigger orders as the numbers just wouldn't add up otherwise).

    What's more, we have had no parcels go missing over the past year (we always use a signed for service) and the very few that have been delayed have all turned up at the correct destination or have eventually been returned to us as undeliverable. That's surely not too bad a record!

    Since we are such a small operation, we take our parcels to the post office ourselves on a daily basis for dispatch to customers in all corners of the UK and a variety of overseas destinations. We also use the post office for business banking as it is so convenient.

    Our local Forfar post office in West High Street  is where we conduct most of our business and has the advantage of being only five minutes walk from Frockery HQ with a large car park close by for when things get heavy (including the rain!) That means we have got to know the staff pretty well and we feel they deserve a bit of appreciation at the end of another busy year as they service the seasonally long queues and keep on smiling in the face of adversity, which unfortunately includes some unseasonal grumpiness from a minority of customers.

    So a big thank you from the Frockers for another year of first class service to the delightful Diane, the fabulous Frances, the lovely Elizabeth and jaunty young John! You know all of our business (but in a nice way).

    first class post office mugs

    While we are obviously loyal to Forfar, sometimes we venture into other post offices of necessity when we are out and about on Frockery business, and a few of these notably go the extra mile for their customers.

    When in Dundee, we make a point of using either Blackness Road or Arklay Street post offices as both have friendly, helpful and efficient staff and we can park easily. We have also noticed on more than one occasion how patient they are with elderly and disabled customers.

    The main Arbroath post office, which is installed in Haq's newsagents, is another favourite as we are often in the town, it is easily accessible and the staff are invariably polite and helpful. Montrose and Brechin are the other two Angus towns whose post offices we use on an occasional basis and, although there are sometimes sizeable queues towards the end of the day, we have no complaints about the service from either.

    Finally, we feel that Laurencekirk post office deserves a special mention in dispatches (literally!) since the most recent consignment we sent from there (last week, during a blizzard) was delivered to a happy customer in London at 9am the very next day! It's a recently refurbished shop and post office combo and the staff and locals always have time for a chat, belying the town's undeserved 'mile of misery' reputation! Our outgoing parcels fared bettter than us, as it happens, as we thought we might be there for the duration when the frockmobile got stuck in the snow and had to be dug out by three beauticians from Pamper Zone (who didn't break a nail between them) and an obliging man with a truck load of grit.

    Wanna break out of the city to search for adventure? * Visit Laurencekirk! Looking for an efficient service with a smile and good humour? Visit any of the above. And it's well worth remembering that if we don't use them (for stamps, passport services, banking, road tax and the myriad of services they provide locally), we could lose more of our local post offices which provide a vital lifeline service for small communities.

    * We are proud to have frocked Barrie Masters, legendary lead singer of Eddie and the Hot Rods! (Shameless self promotion, we know, but every little helps)

  • Brechin Advertiser features Frockery challenge winner

    March 21, 2012

    The Brechin Advertiser has run a short article about this year's eco-fashion challenge winner, Janice Stewart. Extra points for anyone spotting the Freudian slip in the text!

    ecochallenge1

    We were pleased to be able to personally deliver Janice's prize as she lives just 12 miles away from Frockery Towers. We are also delighted to report that the coat looks even better in/on the flesh than in the photographs!

    brechin advertiser frockery ecofashion challenge

    Link to Brechin Advertiser online article with amended text