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Archive for Community Announcements
As a successful internet based yoga equipment outlet the Directors at Simply Yoga have made the decision to close after ten years serving the yoga community.
Bucking the trend of news of closures put down as symptomatic of the national and global economic downturn, Simply Yoga announces it’s closure of its retail operations as a result of… what can only be described as a resounding success!
Simply Yoga consistently exceeded the expectations of co-founders and husband and wife team Mat and Sati Witts. Last years accounts were typical of what was a tiny, home-based business that was to sell hundreds of thousands of pounds online in equipment alone.
Perhaps more importantly it was the first supplier of its kind to establish a strict ethical policy and, (unlike many other equipment suppliers) has continually passed up many lucrative business opportunities over the years simply because of its stance on the environment and supply chain concerns.
The store, which specialises in affordable, low ecological impact products and services from mats to solar powered website hosting as well as fair trade goods still has many lines in stock and is expected to close around June 2012.
It was set up to enable people in isolated areas obtain specialist equipment that would otherwise only be available in large cities, and also to help micro-producers compete against the likes of massive sports and lifestyle brands like NIKE and PRANA.
“As more and more suppliers have come online it has become less and less enjoyable because of the tricks they play competing for consumers money, and consumer attitudes have also changed with many customers increasingly having quite aggressive and unreasonable expectations as to price and service from what is essentially a voluntary, community services type of organisation – it has just become a bit of a drag. In the early days people were interested, considerate and appreciative of what we were doing – there was a real sense of cameraderie, but in the last few years running the shop has just been like working in a supermarket – people have become less patient, less understanding of what we are trying to achieve with social enterprise.”
Family man, Mat (45) said:-
“It was never our idea to set Simply Yoga up to get rich – we wanted to explore yoga and business – to see where the stress points were and try to make a difference and help people. I didn’t really want to turn it into another typical, commercial enterprise – I had plenty of experience in finance and commerce to know how those models don’t work – and it was important that we didn’t just sell out in the boom”.
“Because of the temptation to turn our success into a money making machine for venture capitalists (at least one yoga company we know has appeared on the BBC’s Dragons Den) we converted to a Community Interest Company in 2006 and since then we have been spending as much time challenging claims made by manufacturers as to their own misleading environmental claims. Marketplaces like eBay for example host thousands of _”mom and pop micro-enterprises” and many have no idea that your bulk, standard vinyl yoga mat cannot really be called an “eco yoga mat” – the whole yoga equipment thing has become a bit of a moral dilemma – people are given a “Sophies Choice” of either accepting foolishly the plastics manufacturing industries “Greenwash” about so called “eco friendly” and “natural” products, or else working on cold, hard and unhygenic gym hall floors.”
“Getting the equipment has become more of a minefield because of all the added choice and competition in the marketplace. Free market capitalism that does quite well for consumers interests in almost all other sectors (the health and education sectors perhaps being amongst the less easy bedfellows) – is undoubtedly failing yoga and yogis”
His wife, Sati who now runs a new ethical online store from the UK, YogaWaves said: “It is a difficult decison, not just for Mat but for us both personally, the yoga community is at the mercy of “yoga companies” that are run just like any other business are run – they are run only for personal gain”.
“The online yoga scene is so different now. It is just factories in China pumping out tons of foam products and freighting around the planet to meet consumer demand, I mean are those celebrity, “signature yoga mats” really any good?. We are losing that vital tone that only a spiritual sensitive attitude to trading can bring to the marketplace.”
“I see very little clarity, openness or transparency in online stores. It really is a case of business as usual – and I believe yoga deserves better – it is a special case..”
“This closure is the result of a hard thinking and soul searching but the main cause is our unwillingness to compromise on our values, which means we cannot exploit the people and the planet the way that other companies can, and do just for private gain”.
“When we first opened it was great because the people we were dealing with had obviously already done a lot of work on themselves but since yoga has been made to look like nothing more than a stretch and exercise class the quality of our business has declined for us also – and in the past couple of years it has been getting worse and worse.”
Mat explained the situation in more detail:-
“Seriously – it’s getting a bit mental – we have had people actually threatening us with “legal action” just because their yoga mat is a few days late! and “yoga” studios and “yoga” websites not paying us for valuable supplies we made in good faith. When things like that happen too regularly you have to start re-evaluating what market you think you are in. I think that by staying the same we simply woke up some mornings and found ourselves in a very different market, not because we positioned our business to be mainstream but because of things outside our control, like the transnational media and the globalised fitness and manufacturing industries have been pushing very different ideas about what they want yoga to be than us, for them it’s just another multi-million fitness fad to exploit.”
Sati also said the decision has meant that they can continue to concentrate on our core values and services, which are about spiritual sensitivity, caring and supporting the yoga community: “Yoga is so obviously not what it used to be even ten years ago, and we are wanting to keep our business true to a wider, shared vision of yoga as a spiritual thing – and to try and stop it declining into sports and fitness.”
The shop has stopped taking new stock and is expected to transfer all of its remaining stock to the new ouitlet, YogaWaves around June.
The parent company, Yoga CIC where both Mat and Sati are staying on as Directors to oversee the transitions is now planning to leverage all the in-house expertise gained from ten years successful online trading to help others market, promote and develop their own websites and other resources, and of course websites like YogaWaves expect to benefit directly from that expertise over the coming years.
Mat signed off by saying:
“It’s been a really positive learning experience for everyone involved in running the shop – when it closes there will still be plenty of other websites like _YogaWaves that will continue to offer affordable and ethical items – but this closure is important as it will free us up some time to develop other areas of our business – probably under the same “brand” of Simply Yoga, except we will be involved in more creative things like PR, voice and advocacy, community reform, creating employment, offering technical services such as paralegal and administration support, online marketing and promotion services and engagement through community outreach initiatives – and we will of course continue to support and network with the thousands of other organisations we have connected with over the years within the international community – much as we have been doing”.
“It is a very exciting time for us right now – there is a lot of work to do and and the stress of running what had become a much imitated and popular shop has just become “too much” – in a way it has become victim of its own success – however the future for our parent company Yoga CIC despite this announcement looks very bright indeed.”
A COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY LIMITED BY SHARES
Company no. 4859621