When Alison Rentoul founded Aquamarine Home she had more than just a small coastal homewares business in mind. With a strong desire to 'change the world' her greater vision was to create a huge global shift in the way people buy and sell homewares, fashion and accessories.
The sad truth is that the current retail paradigm for the majority of these kinds of products sees their makers and manufacturers are at worst exploited, and at best largely disadvantaged. Alison's mission is to drive forward a new, ethical and sustainable retail model, where everyone in the supply chain (including the planet!) benefits from a fair, kind and positive trade exchange.
With this in mind, the idea for creating The Ethical Trade Hub was born. Starting out as a simple Facebook Group, Alison's plan for the Ethical Trade Hub is to create a thriving community of Ethical brands creating and wholesaling beautiful products, connecting in the group with retailers who are searching for interesting products to introduce more connection and purpose in their collections.
Many retailers are noticing a trend towards conscious consumerism, with more and more customers showing an interest in the provenance of products, and choosing ethical or sustainable products over others, purely on the basis of their credibility and back story.
For retailers, stocking products with an interesting story is like adding a sales superpower to their inventory. Not only are customers more likely to purchase them, the knock-on halo effect of 'doing good' rubs off on their brand, giving customers a positive association with them that will increase their potential to tell others about that store, and exponentially increase positive word of mouth.
The trouble is that while some retailers are interested and open to this idea, it can be quite difficult to find good sources of ethical and sustainable products. A Google search is somewhat unreliable without the certainty of knowing others have purchased from this supplier and had positive results. In addition to this, the very nature of the products, often being hand made or created by small groups of changing workers, means they are not always as consistent as mass produced items. Some items will be limited editions, being made from remnants or recycled materials, and some can differ considerably, depending on which artisan has made them.
The Ethical Trade Hub aims to help overcome some of these barriers to entry, by introducing retailers to trusted and trustworthy ethical suppliers, and also educating them as to the way to market and present these ethical items in their stores, for maximum sales.
This creates a positive cycle that benefits everyone along the chain: The producer is paid fairly for their work, making the products in a positive and healthy working environment. This positively impacts them, their families and communities through a 'Trade not Aid' approach, and sets them up for sustainable development that takes into consideration the environmental, economic and social aspects of their commercial activities.
Independent retailers benefit by stocking products that create a greater point of difference for them from High Street chains, who rely on mass produced product ranges with no room for variation. Stocking interesting ethical and sustainable products and featuring the great stories behind the social enterprises who create them, also gives retailers fantastic content to talk about in their social media, blogs and in store with customers.
Those delighted customers get to take home a product that not only looks beautiful, but that feels beautiful too, with a lovely story behind it that warms their heart every time they see or wear the item. They will also undoubtedly tell their admiring friends about the product's story and where they bought it, thereby driving greater interest and further sales, perpetuating a win-win cycle for everyone involved.
Having only launched at the end of March, the Ethical Trade Hub is already gathering astonishing momentum, with member requests rolling in thick and fast. Even more excitingly, new trade partnerships are already being formed within the group, with retailers discovering gorgeous new products to stock and producers finding great new outlets and sales channels for their wares.
Future plans include a members directory and Ethical Trade Show, where ethical suppliers and interested retailers can meet and show off their wares in a physical environment. Watch this space for further information and if you or anyone you know could be interested in joining the group please send them to http://www.facebook.com/groups/ethicaltradehub/
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What are your thoughts on creating an Ethical Trade Hub? We would love to hear your reflections on this in the comments below!