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Best Fit Foot forward for the environment

Business | Published:

A ST HELIER retailer is taking the lead in the fight for the local environment and community by paying customers to drastically cut carrier-bag waste. Fit Footwear Central is giving a pound to each customer who uses their own bag. It takes the current Islandwide initiative of charging 5p or 10p per carrier bag a stage further. Owner Audrey Laurens-Chalmers said it was worth the loss in revenue: ‘My daughter is 20. I might not be here in 30 years’ time, but I think it’s important for the future. We are giving a pound a pair back, and I thought: can we afford to do it? And then I thought, can we afford not to do it? And so I decided we would and we’ll take a bit of a hit on it.’

Audrey Laurens-Chalmers, Fit Footwear Central Picture:DAVID FERGUSON (24718461)

The new initiative started just over a week ago. In that time Mrs Laurens-Chalmers would usually have given out 50 bags a day amounting to more than 200. Instead, that figure has dropped to just four bags.

While she accepts that it doesn’t work for all products, the businesswoman says that shoe shopping, especially with children, isn’t an impulse purchase but an outing, so people know they are going to need to carry their shoes home.

She is keen to encourage other retailers to follow her lead: ‘I think it’s just a shame other bigger shops don’t do it. I’m an independent business – if I can do it there’s no reason why they can’t.’

It isn’t just the bags that Fit Footwear have targeted: ‘All of our shoe boxes get collected by a local company and they use them to send aircraft parts all over the world, so we know they’re getting reused.’ The shop also has a Salvation Army bin for old shoes to be passed- on.

Fit Footwear Central has been at its location in Seale Street for about 13 years. They sell adult and children’s shoes and have around 1,300 members in their kids’ shoe club.

While Mrs Laurens-Chalmers has seen some impact from online sales, the shop has a loyal following: ‘We do get the odd occasion when people will come in and let me fit their shoes. And then they’ll say what’s it called? What size is it? And I know they’re going to go and buy it online. And that’s a bit infuriating.’

The shop also caters for older people who need comfortable shoes or orthotics: ‘We do an awful lot of shoes for old-age pensioners, because we give them a 10% discount. And also some of them like to just come in and have a bit of a chat. The mornings don’t tend to be as busy, so we encourage them to come in before lunchtime and then I’ve got time to spend with them.

‘Everybody knows the effect that online ordering is having on the high street. I think what you can offer in high street stores is personal service and knowledge,’ added Mrs Laurens-Chalmers. The community feel in the shop, underlined by the new environmental initiatives, is undoubtedly part of their retail success.

Gwyn Garfield-Bennett

By Gwyn Garfield-Bennett
Business Editor

Gwyn is a highly experienced journalist having worked in UK national TV for the BBC and ITN, as well as running her own magazine publishing business, freelancing for national newspapers and UK magazines. She has a CIPR Diploma in Public relations, excellent digital skills and is an experienced digital marketing practitioner. Gwyn is also an author of several books.

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