Retailer of the Month: Airedale Computers

Far from your typical tech store, Airedale refurbishes PCs, recycles broken equipment and gives its profits – as well as some of its computers – to charity. It also helps the unemployed get back into work.

PCR asks Airedale’s development manager Keith Sorrell how it has become an award-winning firm with a turnover of almost £500,000.

Tell us how Airedale works – are you a charity?
We are part of a registered charity. Airedale Computers was originally set up to get six long-term unemployed people off of the dole. We did it so successfully and made a profit doing it. We took in some old PCs and trained staff to refurbish them. We sold them straight away. We now have three retail shops and the recycling centre.

I volunteered at Airedale for six months, we made so much money, the charity picked up my wage and I continued. I’m also the chairman of the regional electronics initiative, which is aimed at getting people back into work.

Do you still give unemployed people jobs?
Yes. We take work experience placements from local schools, we do traineeships for school leavers, we do apprenticeships, we do volunteer places for the local colleges and people who want to learn. And then other unemployed people are sent from the job centres to help in our recycling centre. The Department for Work and Pensions send us the long- term unemployed, who work with us for 26 weeks. We pay our full-time employees.

Tell us about the recycling centre…
It’s in the same building as Airedale’s main shop. We have a warehouse manager there, plus a driver who goes out doing the collections. That’s where we have the unemployed. They break down the old equipment that we can’t re- use in the shops and we get good money for the scrap value. So it’s about providing work for the long-term unemployed as training to get them back into the work routine.

What charity are you part of?
We’re the trading arm of a charity called the Chrysalis Youth & Community Project. They run a place called The Hut, one of the Myplace projects. It’s a £5 million two- storey building. It’s a sports and community facility open to the general public.

How do you strike that balance between helping people and staying sustainable commercially? We don’t make a fortune recycling – it only pays for running the place. But it’s an ethical thing, that we can break down and recycle the stuff, rather than it going to landfill. Along the way, we give away lots of computers to good causes.

Who do you give PCs to?
Other charities and local good causes, such as The Sea Cadets, The Army Cadets, youth club associations, Scouts, Cubs, that sort of thing. We just gave ten PCs to a school that’s started a community magazine.

Do you think more businesses should give back to the community?
I was shortlisted for Gordon Brown’s social enterprise ambassadors, and I’ll give you the same quote I gave them: “Capitalism was good for this country. It built it up but it’s had its day. Now is the turn for social enterprise.”

It’s growing daily – there are more social enterprises doing the things that the Government used to.

Established: January 2002
Number of outlets: Three stores and a recycling facility
Number of staff: 11
Contact name and address: Keith Sorrell, The Active Centre, Stansfield Road, Castleford, WF10 3AS
Telephone: 01977 736283

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