Increasingly over the last two decades we have become used to using the internet for shopping and enjoying the ease of clicking and purchasing from the couch, at any time of day, and from a huge array of shops. During the Covid 19 lockdowns this trend increased exponentially… but now we are seeing people going back to brick and mortar shops.
We’ve collated a list of the best places to find great shops stocking Fair Trade items across Australia.
Many people, I believe, really missed the social and tactile aspects of shopping in a real shop. There is something of an expedition involved, usually involving coffee with a friend along the way, or lunch out. When it is for a special occasion such as Christmas shopping then it becomes even more so a whole day’s adventure.
Fair Trade shops understand this need for connection. Theirs is the complete package. In a Fair Trade shop you will find enthusiastic owners and employees, keen to share the concept of Fair Trade and the stories of their producer partners.
Louise Visser of Sinerji points out that an advantage of buying in store is that she employs trained stylists who understand the collections including all the fits and colours and who will happily help you find the best combinations perfect for you.
You will also experience first hand the beauty and quality of Fair Trade products. No mass produced plastic trinkets churned out from factories. No too-cheap-to-be-true clothing with badly stitched seams and an expected life of three months, the product of a sweat shop in Bangladesh or China and the cause of someone’s ongoing poverty cycle.
Customers clearly love the experience of visiting a Fair Trade shop for it really is an experience with meaning and enrichment rather than just ‘browse, leave and forget’ . Barton Walsh of The Elephant Emporium in Picton and The Fair Trade Cove in Lane Cove, NSW believes that their shops provide customers with “a unique shopping experience, more immersive than online shopping”.
Furthermore, the experience for the employees is equally fulfilling as they meet customers face to face and have the opportunity, time after time, to share the producers’ customs, skills and stories with the public. Rosemary Frank of Afribeads, one of the brands showcased in ‘Fair Trade at the Hill’ in Summer Hill, Sydney says “It is a delight to see customers admire the products and enjoy purchasing something unique and meaningful”. Barton Walsh concurs: ”Customers can purchase ranges and discover the story behind each product and Artisan group we work directly with”.
It is they, the artisans, who make it all worth the effort for owners of Fair Trade shops. In many cases they have visited the producers on numerous occasions, helped them build up their businesses and have developed working relationships based on mutual respect and a desire to make Fair Trade the norm in our society.
Sinerji is well placed amongst other socially conscious retail outlets. Louise comments: “Our store is located in a quaint organic precinct on the Sunshine Coast. It’s a Mecca for all things organic. Not only can you come and get some fair trade clothing, but also a fabulous organic meal at the cafe next door, or some native seedlings for your garden from the nursery.” Discerning shoppers enjoy the grouping of shops likely to appeal to them.
It’s a fact: There aren’t too many multi-millionaire Fair Trade retailers out there. The challenges of soaring rents, insurance premiums, staffing cost and shortages and the financial downturn that the last three years of lockdowns has brought about for all but supermarkets, bottle shops and pharmacies all make running a Fair Trade shop a far from lucrative venture.
The Elephant Emporium has been operating in Picton for 10 years. During this period they have, like many small businesses in rural towns, endured floods, fires and a pandemic which has proved challenging. Barton and Leonie Wash attribute their survival to the support they enjoy from a loyal group of customers and Fair Trade followers who visit both the shop and their online store on a regular basis. That loyalty is clearly based on more than the products’ appeal, it is about the impact which Fair Trade has on the lives of some of the world’s most marginalised workers and their families and communities in developing countries.
Running a face-to-face business is a big time commitment. Diana Akkerman of Koguis in Richmond, Victoria, says “it is the arduous daily commitment and the monthly expenses involved in keeping our doors open” that present the biggest challenge. However, the owners of Fair Trade shops are passionate people and they persist - not to buy a Mercedes - but to provide ongoing work for their producers in whom they so ardently believe.
We spoke to Rosemary Frank of Afribeads, jewellery, basketry and other recycled and artisan products from Uganda featured at a Summer Hill’s Fair Trade at the Hill shop; Diana Ackermann of Koguis who stock handmade and ethically traded plus Fair Trade certified products that support indigenous communities and artisans from Colombia, Ecuador and Ghana; Lousie Visser of Sinerji organic and Fair Trade clothing and Barton Walsh of The Elephant Emporium and The Fair Trade Cove where they stock a very wide range of fair trade products from clothing to recycled bags, wooden carvings, homewares and paper made from elephant dung!
U-Chüs: The Park Centre. Shop 5/789 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park, 6101
Better World Arts: 34a King William Street, Adelaide 5000 and 144 Commercial Road, Port Adelaide, 5015
Sinerji: 330 Mons Road, Forest Glen, 4556
New South Wales:
The Elephant Emporium: 167 Argyle Street, Picton, 2571
The Fair Trade Cove 126 Longueville Road, Lane Cove 2066
Fair Trade At the Hill 27 Lackey St Summer Hill NSW,
Koguis 141 Bridge Road, Richmond VIC 3121.
Fair Trade Business Members: Stockists of fair trade
Aware the Social Design Project: Belmont South, NSW.
The Fair Trader: Croydon South, VIC.
The Anjelms Project, Fremantle, WA.
Only Just Fair Trade, Eltham Village, VIC.
Create Fair Trade, Batemans Bay, NSW.
The Toucan Shop, Annandale, NSW.
Ninbella gallery, Bangalow NSW.
Woodfolk, Bondi Junction, NSW.
Community Projects Worldwide, Eumundi, QLD.
Songbird Collection, Margate, TAS.
Jasper Coffee: Maribyrnong, Chadstone, Fitzroy and South Yarra, VIC.
Made In Earth Creations, St. Kilda, VIC.