Thinking outside the box: introducing brand b.kinda
Cheap, trendy and disposable, fast fashion is ruining our planet. Find out how a new venture supporting St Luke’s compassionate care is a style-savvy, purse-friendly way of fighting back.
Since our earliest days, in the 1980s, St Luke’s has been an innovator – a leader rather than a follower in the hospice sector, setting the bar high not only for patient care but in our fundraising, retail operations and the specialist education and training we provide for health and social care professionals, all of which generates vital income for our charity.
Did you know, though, that we also have St Luke’s Ventures (SLV), a trading company we established in order to make profits that support our compassionate care? For example, our popular weekly lottery is part of this. Excitingly, over the past year SLV has been developing a new brand – b.kinda – as you might’ve seen from social media posts about the launch of its ground-breaking, environmentally friendly ‘mystery box’ concept, which having gone live nationwide is already exceeding expectations.
How the b.kinda mystery box works
For a fee of just £15, the concept – believed to be the first of its kind in the country – enables each style-conscious women who signs up via the website at www.bkinda.co.uk to receive four items of high-quality, pre-loved womenswear by post, beautifully presented in an eco-friendly package complete with a handwritten note thanking her for her recycled purchase. The twist is that the items she receives are ‘sight unseen’, having been handpicked for her by the b.kinda team in accordance with the details she provided via a simple questionnaire before placing her order online.
Taking note of her clothing size, the age-range to whose style she gravitates and the colours she does not warm to, the team – Victoria Lammie, Gemma Axworthy and Sharon Clemens, assisted by volunteers – scans rail upon rail of second-hand womenswear options, all of which despite being of excellent quality (many with the tag still on!), have not sold when displayed in our charity shops.
Each b.kinda customer is sent clothes carefully selected for her to love and keep. If, however, there’s an item she decides she doesn’t like, we’re encouraging her to fully embrace the circular economy by clothes swapping with friends or donating the item to charity rather than throwing it away.
So, as our ‘new kid on the block’, just how did b.kinda and our mystery box idea come about? Mike Dukes, Commercial Director at St Luke’s, explains: “As a charity needing to raise millions each year to provide our service for local families, there is no room for complacency when it comes to seeking new ways to help fund what we do. As per St Luke’s strategy, we are constantly assessing the commercial environment around us, keeping an eye on developments that could dent our income as well as scanning the horizon for ways to diversify our income streams so we can channel profits into our hospice care.
“While our network of charity shops continues to generate significant income for St Luke’s, which is really good news, the high level of donations – particularly womenswear – means there simply isn’t enough space to display it all. Over the past five years, we’ve incorporated larger retail premises into our portfolio, but to keep adding more charity shops would simply be too expensive.
“Having already increased with regard to income from our shops and from fundraising, we came up with our mystery box concept because it builds on the recycling we already do so well through selling second-hand goods. As well as being a natural progression, it also provides the opportunity for us to sell donated womenswear nationwide rather than solely on our own patch, greatly increasing our income potential.
“As with any new venture there is always an element of risk, but the mystery box concept is underpinned by our robust market research, which shows that as well as wanting to support a worthy cause by shopping for pre-loved bargains, women who visit charity shops are also motivated by the thrill of ‘the find’. We have gone for a dedicated website rather than listing each item of clothing on our eBay store because with 6,000 donated items of womenswear at any one time, we could never photograph each item, let alone write up the individual descriptions required!
“I firmly believe the timing is right for what we are doing. Due to more people turning to online shopping during the pandemic, they are now far more comfortable purchasing what they need this way. It has become the norm, so it makes good business sense for us to turn this to our advantage. The early signs are really encouraging, but we’re focussing on growing slowly so that we maintain the quality of our offer. The potential is really exciting – over the next five years, our mystery boxes could generate at least half of the retail income we achieve now from shops.”