Fair Trade In A Bad Economy

On October 6 the Associated Press shared its analysis of global spending. The bottom line is that people are hoarding cash - avoiding debt, avoiding the stock market:

"A flight to safety on such a global scale is unprecedented since the end of World War II."

According to the article, the consumer is holding fast to their money because they are nervous about putting it in the hands of Wall Street or Main Street: The watchword is "safety."

At the same time people are showing an increasing willingness to pay more for products that are marked "fair trade." According to one report the market was up 19% in 2012 to £1.57 billion.

Clearly the fair trade customer is not holding fast to cash, but they are socially conscious. How do you get them to spend more, when they see that others have less? And if perhaps they're worried about a downturn themselves?

On a bright sunny day we visited Tenfold, a store in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia that may provide some answers. It had the elements of a fair trade retail brand with mass appeal in uncertain times.

First, the facade and exterior were charming and small-town - not in-your-face and overwhelming.

Second, the store was literally covered in Fair Trade messaging.

The merchandise was also beautiful. I am a handbag freak and was immediately drawn to the beautiful handmade items on display, with accompanying signs reassuring me that they actually were authentic.

Not only that but a lot of the material was imaginatively recycled too - to the socially conscious type and the customer who appreciates innovation. These handbags were made from recycled tires.

We appreciated the wide array of merchandise too. It was hard to believe you could put so many different kinds of things in such a small space.

It was also enthralling to see all the labels showing us the actual people who seemed to have made these products.

She is not pictured here, but the saleswoman also embodied the brand. Calm, friendly, helpful and very "chill." 

And when we paid, I felt like we were paying our fair share, not like we were being extravagant.

Here's the business card they had at the front desk. Check it out if you're ever in town. It was an immersive brand experience that guaranteed we would return again.

While I'm not sure that Tenfold will ever be a great brand - don't know if that's their ambition, and I'm not a huge fan of the name - it seems to have a lot of the ingredients.

* All opinions my own. Photos by me.