A CALL TO ARMS – I RAN THE WRONG WAY: A SMALL STORE WITH BIG IDEAS … BY MELINDA TUALLY

Primarily I see my shop as an agent for change. A way to show that consumption doesn’t have to be the dirty word that’s commonplace these days. A vehicle to demonstrate that there is much beauty being produced out there that we can feel good about – as producers as well as consumers. It’s about sharing the stories and giving meaning to what we buy so that people treasure rather than trash their purchases.

I’m often asked, with a rather incredulous face, how and where I find my products. It’s right at this moment, with the opening of minds and the dropping of pennies that makes running this business so worthwhile. There’s socially responsible ingenuity everywhere you turn. The fact that you don’t see items reflecting this as much as you should isn’t to do with their availability; it’s to do with the outdated priorities of retailers at large.

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I’m not out there shouting ‘Buy, buy, buy, shop, shop, shop’ at all yet I do think that whilst collaborative consumption and the sharing economy play a massive role in the way we live, the world is not going to stop purchasing overnight. So with that as my truth, I’m showing people they can do so in a manner that doesn’t have to be polluting or oppressive.

The products I choose need to prove this. Beyond the form and function test, what impresses me is if they demonstrate an awareness of their place in the ‘system’. By that, I mean they recognize where and whom they come from in a genuine considered way and they consider their life cycle by being resourceful right from the start of the design process. What is traditionally seen as waste is seen as a nutrient and from this perspective a whole new world of opportunity comes about.

Goods designed with this ‘Cradle to Cradle’ principle such as these house shoes and food wraps really excite me. The fact too that so many products from the developing world exhibit these principles naturally is no co-incidence. Poverty leaves little option but to be resourceful.

This selection process is pretty much the antithesis to that of the department stores and high street chains, now struggling to retain their customer base and relevance, and it’s this opportunity for change on a grand scale that really motivates me. As a retailer I believe we have a responsibility, as do designers, to be socially responsible enterprises that act with purpose for the greater good.

We live in transparent times. Consumers expect business to be more responsible these days, to listen to them and to respond by representing their values in the products they offer. The awareness around the impact of our lifestyles is well and truly out there now so ignoring it only means the market will ignore you.

My wish is that more and more local retailers and suppliers find a way to invest in good products with good tales, and in doing so show their customers they’re listening. Feeling respected engenders a culture of loyalty, the holy grail of any enterprise.

So let this be a call to arms to the big Aussie players out there. There’s a tonne of innovative designers offering very clever, marketable alternatives to the status quo.  The opportunity to shift procurement in a responsible direction is readily attainable. Market leaders already setting these precedents like Patagonia, Interface and Walmart in the US and Marks & Spencer’s in the UK are proving that a commitment to ethical supply chains makes good business sense.

I’d like to know which big name brand will be our pioneer in Australia. We’re more than ready for you. What are you waiting for?

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