22-year-old Lucy Barfoot is very excited. She believes that she is about to change the way people in Shaftesbury shop.
“I hope that this will be the start of a new path for Shaftesbury to be really sustainable,” said Lucy. On Saturday she picked up the keys to her new ‘zero waste’ shop, Coconut and Cotton, which will trade from Swans Yard. The business will officially open at 5pm on Monday, in time for Shaftesbury’s late-night Christmas shopping.
Lucy has not run a physical shop previously. “My mum had a shop so I used to help out with that. It’s something I have always wanted,” said Lucy. But she does understand the retail world. She’s been operating an online store, so she knows how to find stock and how to get purchases to her the customers.
Recently ThisIsAlfred.com has featured a number of successful Shaftesbury businesses where a ‘bricks and mortar’ shop is backed by an online retail operation. The women who own both Enchanted Plants and The Botanical Candle Co are doing this successfully. Lucy believes that internet sales will remain an important part of her business model.
“I definitely think that the online side is a backbone so you get regular income. Having the opportunity to have a shop is also another marketing tool. People can come and visit. It’s a visual advertisement. Having online is necessary to keep the business alive.”
This past week there have been concerns about the health of Shaftesbury’s High Street. Edinburgh Woollen Mill posted ‘closing down sale’ posters in their window, although a subsequent sign ‘under negotiation with our landlord’ means this could be interpreted as a lease negotiation tactic.
Lucy certainly doesn’t believe there is a problem with Shaftesbury’s retail sector and level of trade. “Shaftesbury gets a lot of tourism and it has great shops already. People only look at the empty ones,” she said.
Lucy intends stocking plastic-free beauty, bathroom and cleaning products. “Shampoo bars, safety razors, wooden toilet brushes, kitchen stuff including all of your cleaning equipment, that is plastic-free and made from natural products. I’ve also got a few gifts coming up to Christmas. I’ll stock loose teas and hot chocolate, too. I want to expand to supply most things that people would need to live a waste-free life.”
That means if you wanted a toothbrush, you could find a bamboo brush in Lucy’s shop, so you wouldn’t need to purchase a plastic one. “I have a basic bamboo one at the moment but I want to bring in more ergonomic designs. I have two types of toothpaste – one in a jar and another in a tablet that you chew, which is quite cool.”
Shoppers will eventually be encouraged to bring their own receptacles into the store for filling. “I’m hoping to get some bigger refill containers of washing-up liquid, detergents, conditioner and maybe even shampoo, because some people like the traditional shampoo. You bring along the container and as long as I know how big it is, I can sell by the litre.”
Lucy hopes to become a centre for eco-bricking in the future. That facility would allow people to drop off their separated plastics, which could be formed into ‘bricks’ for reuse.
Lucy is aware that some locals may dismiss a sustainable product shop as a fad or even too alternative. She hopes to change their opinion. “A lot of people could think that. I think that the variety of stock that I will have will change that view. I’m selling essentials as well as gifts. People can come in to get the things they need, as well as to buy presents for friends or a luxury item for themselves. The main thing for me is being affordable and having the options to get the essentials as well.”
Lucy became inspired to start the Shaftesbury business after visiting New Zealand on her gap year tour. “They are really great at sustainability. They really care about their country. They have amazing landscapes so their state of mind really stuck with me,” said Lucy, adding, “I also went to Bali and they just don’t understand why plastic is bad. Everything is wrapped in plastic. The sea is just a wave of plastic. There are areas where you just would not want to swim. The sea is a massive force. You can’t just get it to stop and take the plastic out. Every day the whole beach is covered. It’s pretty shocking how we can’t do that much about it other than change.”
In Cornwall, Surfers Against Sewage has been effective in spreading the message about plastic reduction. Does Lucy think there is such an appetite for plastic-free in Shaftesbury, which is inland? “I think if people don’t realise it is so bad, they should watch some documentaries such as ‘Drowning In Plastic’ or ‘A Plastic Ocean’ because they are shocking. We don’t think that the plastic we drop on the ground could end up in the sea but as soon as something goes into a drain or in the river then it could end up in the ocean. That’s how the waterways work. They will get there.”
Lucy’s corner unit shop unit at Swan’s Yard isn’t massive so has she got plans to expand in the future? Are we going to see the start of the chain? “Maybe. I’d love to grow and hire more people to help me out. I think the online side will probably grow more than the physical stores to begin with,” said Lucy. “I’ve got quite a good idea of what I want to stock and I’m not going to go too broad. I’ll stick to my values, so I don’t know, maybe a new branch one day.”
You can find Lucy’s business online at CoconutAndCotton.co.uk.