Ethical and Unique Products
Leela sells clothing, interior accessories and gifts that are firstly very desirable and secondly, in some way “ethical”. 90% of the products we sell won’t be found anywhere else in Exeter and quite often nowhere else in the South West.
All the clothing for example, is made from eco-friendly, soft, breathable fabrics such as knitted hemp, bamboo and linen – easy-to-wear brands like Braintree and Flax which are flattering, hardwearing, and whilst reasonably casual in style, can be dressed up for a night out. Leela is expanding into men’s wear this autumn as well. The clothes sell to 20 year olds and 80 year olds and everyone in between!
Interior products vary from the best quality leather pouffes from Morocco, to a very popular UK made lampshade range. Recycled products include a great range of storage boxes from Holland and eco-friendly gifts include bowls, beakers and picnic sets made from bamboo and cornstarch! The fair trade range includes lots of Nkuku homeware which is quite often recycled as well – for example, lovely wooden photo frames.
The best selling product are our coloured lights/baubles that light up our windows every night – these sell so well because you can choose your own colours to match your room. These are also fair trade.
Ethical And Fair Trade
Annie of Leela feels that it is the ethical niche makes the shop different – it allows her to buy a range of products that you won’t find in the usual gift shops. She buy things for different reasons than shops that are driven by profit – mainly to support small producers in both the UK and globally, as long as fair trade practices are evident.
Annie also tries to have at least one brand new product a week to keep her regular customers interested and excited by the shop – this requires hard work to search out products that no-one else is offering.
Customer service is also important. Annie says:-
“Obviously as it’s just me running the shop, I’m able to build up a good rapport and ongoing relationships with customers. I think it’s really important to stand out from the high street by being personable, friendly and helpful – not rocket science – but some retailers seem to lack these basic criteria and I know I don’t wish to give my hard-earned money to someone who doesn’t seem to appreciate a sale.”
When Annie sold the Fair Trade toys to other shops, her most famous customer was probably Paul Smith, the fashion designer. However famous customers recently have included Deborah Meaden and also Jo Wood.
Annie says that like most shop owners, there are lots of funny stories to tell on a daily basis. She is often asked for all sorts of things that she doesn’t sell. Recently she was shouted at by a “gentleman” who told her she was sexist because she didn’t sell men’s shirts……well, hopefully, he’ll be pleased to hear that Leela will be selling men’s eco-friendly shirts from August (again, another product that you won’t find elsewhere in Exeter!)
The Leela Story
Leela started as a Fair Trade importing business, selling wooden toys made in a small village outside Bangalore in southern India. Annie lived in India in 2004/5 helping set up a corporate centre for Reuters and living there gave her an insight into Fair Trade practices and she saw how very little could make a huge difference to how people lived, particularly in rural communities.
After 13 years of being an HR manager, Annie found redundancy seemed to be a good option and this helped her to start the business.
HR (“human resources”) is a very enjoyable job for someone like me who loves variety and dealing with people “issues” all day long but being self-employed is even more ideal as I make all decisions on budget, marketing, product choices etc etc which suits people who like to
get on with life and not have too many meetings!
Before Reuters Annie worked in marketing in an architect’s practice in London; in the City – as a PA to chairmen of banks (it was the eighties!); and a favourite job was as a cook on hotel narrowboats where we travelled all over England on our wonderful canals.
Annie is from Northern Ireland and she has discovered that there are quite a few of fellow coutryfolk in Exeter. Annie has also lived in Canada and Holland and now, for the past 15 years, mid Devon.
She has only had her Exeter shop for 18 months (it was previously in Okehampton) and Exeter continues to be full of surprises. She finds it a very vibrant, buzzy city with a growing diversity of people to the extent that she is now ready to take the plunge and move back from the countryside into town again.
- Mon10.00am to 6.00pm
- Tues10.00am to 6.00pm
- Wed10.00am to 6.00pm
- Tues10.00am to 6.00pm
- Fri10.00am to 6.00pm
- Sat10.00am to 4.00pm
- By Mattie Richardson
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org