IT’S BEEN a long time coming but finally there is an ethical alternative weekly payment store – a national first – and it’s right here in Oldham.
What you won’t know is that this hasn’t just happened by chance: and nor was it ever going to.
The idea started as we looked forward from our two flagship fairness campaigns – Fair Energy and Fare’s Fare (Bus Fares): which made a real difference to the lives of thousands of residents.
When we asked local people what other things affected them and the financial wellbeing of their families they told us that access to affordable credit and being trapped in cycles of debt and penalty fees were huge issues.
So we set out on a very different route to the traditional method of just creating a leaflet advising local people on managing their finances (okay, we did do that as well!).
Instead we were more realistic and accepted that, for some people, paying for goods on a weekly basis was right for their needs. And providing they could afford the repayments then there isn’t anything instinctively wrong with that.
But we were also looking here at a market which isn’t regulated anywhere near as hard as it should be and one which, for too many people, is expensive and could trap them into a cycle of debt they may never get out of.
We didn’t think that was right and we wanted to do something practical about it.
That has all now led to the opening of Our House in Oldham – and I’ve invited them along to ‘guest blog’ this week and explain exactly what this new store is offering…
“We are delighted to announce the opening of the country’s first high street weekly payment store for new household goods run by a social business in the centre of Oldham.
Our House Oldham, now open on Albion Street, outside Tommyfield Market, has been created by FRC Group, a not-for-profit business, working in partnership with Oldham Council.
This is a completely new type of high street store, a weekly payment store offering a great range of new household furniture, appliances and electrical items, with all the brands customers want and at the lowest cost.
The weekly prices at Our House are up to 50 per cent cheaper than other high street rent-to-own stores, offering huge savings and with no late fees. There are also no hidden charges or unnecessary extra costs – no expensive service package and insurance is truly optional.
At Our House we want our customers to spend less money and we are here to help them to save as much as we can. We are also employing local people, including an apprentice, and offering a great training and development programme.
FRC Group was created more than 25 years ago to help low income families get furniture and help long-term unemployed people back into work. While social enterprises must reinvest 50 per cent of their profits back into their business to fulfil their social mission, FRC Group reinvests 100 per cent.
We have no shareholders, and we are also a charity. Our top aim is to offer the best value for our customers, not to make profits for ourselves, so we have kept our prices as low as we can and will continue to work hard to drive them down even further.
We sell new furniture to social landlords through our social business Furniture Resource Centre, and we run Bulky Bob’s, which reuses and recycles items collected through bulky household waste contracts with local authorities, including Oldham Council, giving away and selling furniture at low prices to those who need it.
But we understand that some families are not in furnished accommodation and some people do not want preloved or second hand furniture. Families who cannot save the money to buy new furniture or appliances, or who find it hard to get credit can get into major debt by turning to money lenders or rent-to-own businesses with very high interest rates and a range of hidden charges.
That’s why we worked with Oldham Council to create the Our House store because they understand that a growing number of people are turning to expensive sources of credit, and even loan sharks, in order to buy necessities like household goods.
Many people do not have bank accounts and have a poor credit history, which reduces their options and puts them at greater risk of financial exploitation.
Our House offers a fair credit solution, giving access to reasonably priced credit, keeping the total cost realistic and affordable.
The new Our House store is based at Unit 6-8 Albion Street, Tommyfield Market, Oldham, OL13BG, and it is open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm, (opening at 9.30am on Tuesdays).
To find out more, visit www.ourhouseshop.co.uk or call 0161 989 0304.”
Thanks for listening,