19, September 2022
INDIE SPOTLIGHT: THE EIGHTH DAY, MANCHESTER
Welcome back to another Indie Spotlight episode, where we get to celebrate the independent stores that make our world go round. This month we had the chance to visit our long-standing friends over at The Eighth Day, on Manchester Oxford Road. The 8th Day was founded in 1970 and has always been a workers co-operative. Selling vegan and vegetarian food, beauty products, health foods, vitamins, refill products, chocolate and much more!
What inspired you to start The Eighth Day and how long have you been up and running?
The 8th Day has been around for 52 years and was opened on the 11th of September 1970. The business was started by a group of like minded friends who had a passion for creating a radical and different way of trading. Initially, the business was run as a collective and opened as a craft exchange and alternative centre, it definitely had something of a reputation as a place to turn up to tune in and drop out! Inevitably, as often happens within any organisation, the original founders eventually left and new people joined the collective and this changed the focus of the business.
In 1976, we changed the status of the business from a collective to a workers’ co-operative, which allowed the business to run with the same values of shared ownership and responsibility, but added in a much better business framework and management system that we still use today. At some point over the early years we changed from mainly selling items such as hippy style clothes and incense and gradually added in vegetarian wholefoods, natural bodycare and food supplements and also opened a vegetarian cafe on the premises. The business as it is today, is one of the biggest independent health food shops in the North West which stocks around 5,500 vegetarian and vegan products along with our plant based cafe. We still run as a workers’ co-op with the same ethics of collective ownership and strive to trade in the most ethical and environmentally conscious way that we can.
What’s been the most surprising or unexpected thing about running your business?
Honestly, there are so many surprising and unexpected things happening on a weekly basis that it’s hard to even begin to narrow it down to one thing. However, when we had to move from our old dilapidated building in 2003 lots of our lovely customers collectively loaned us around £50,000 to help us make the move. We’re very pleased to say that we paid back every penny a long time ago, but it still strikes me even now that it was an incredibly generous and kind gesture from our customers!
Talk us through your product range, how do you select which brands and products to stock?
We stock a huge amount of brands (over 890) and over 5,500 products. Our products have to meet certain criteria, they all have to be vegetarian, though around 85% are actually vegan. When buying, we try to give preference to suppliers who are worker co-ops like ourselves, but also look at whether items are locally made, fairly traded, low waste or support specific communities.
We love that you put a focus on zero-waste and refills, are customers receptive to changing their shopping habits?
We’ve been refilling cleaning and body care products and offering packaging free items like bread and organic fruit and veg for many years. Many of our customers have been extremely receptive and love to save packaging and often a bit of cash and refill their food, household and body care products. The proportion of refillers in store is definitely growing as more people become aware of plastic waste and the resources used in packaging and we are seeing more people actively seeking out businesses that refill or offer lower waste alternatives.
We’ve always taken the view that every bottle, jar and bag filled is one less plastic item potentially going to landfill and it’s really important to encourage people to make easy swaps and long term changes and celebrate the small achievements they make, rather than expecting people to be perfect.
What are your favourite Faith In Nature products and your customer’s favourites?
Aloe Vera body wash, is my own personal favourite, to me it smells like lemon jelly sweets! Our staff love the soaps and shampoo bars judging by how many I see people buying. Customers though, do seem to really love the soaps which we sell unpackaged.
What do you love about your local area?
The diversity, it is a real cultural melting pot, there is always someone new in the shop to chat to. When the universities and colleges in the area are open, the bustle and pace the students bring gives the area a really exciting vibe.
Where is your go-to nature spot?
Chorlton Water park, it’s a great place to spot wildlife and birds including the famous Manchester Parakeets!
What is one simple sustainable swap someone can do straight away?
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to live near anywhere that provides unpackaged food or cleaning product refills, there are still opportunities to make some sustainable swaps. One tip would be to always ensure you take your own travel cup when out and about, we waste several billion disposable cups every year in the UK and most are not recyclable. Using your own cup doesn’t just help to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, it helps to reduce the resources that are used to make the cups.
Any exciting plans for the future of The 8th Day?
We’re always thinking of exciting plans, however the main focus for us is always going to be about passing the business onto the next generation of co-op members. It would be great to think the business will still be here in another 52 years.
Follow The Eighth Day on Instagram and if you're based in Manchester, go visit them over on Oxford Road next to Hatch Manchester. The Eighth Day's opening times are Monday - Saturday 9.30AM - 5.30PM.
Find Faith In Nature refill stores across the UK with our stockist map. We support independent retailers of any size, so if you are considering stocking Faith In Nature in your store, enquire about opening a Trade account here.