With 20 new Fair Trade shops planned within the next 5 years, the UK can expect to see a huge increase in the sales of non-food fairly traded products.
Jeremy Piercy has worked within the Fair Trade industry for the past 20 years. He is well known in the industry for helping talented artisans create sustainable businesses to support entire communities in the developing world. When he relays his experiences, people listen with fascination about how his work of trading fairly has improved conditions for so many people in developing countries. His business has enabled him to benefit groups of individuals at the bottom of society. Jeremy talks fondly of his far reached friends and the passion, enthusiasm and kindness that they wrap into their livelihood.
Despite a difficult retail climate in the UK in recent years, Shared Earth’s 7 shops operate successfully. Three of these shops have opened within the last 3 years with sales and profit substantially increasing. With average sales from a Fair Trade shop being around £75,000 per annum, Jeremy’s Shared Earth shops generate an average of £300,000. His business alone is capable of doubling Fair Trade sales in the UK over the next five years with his growth plans through franchising the business model.
While most growth within the Fair Trade sector in the last 5 years has been focused on food, largely due to the supermarket chains, non-food products have yet to reach their full potential. Jeremy feels strongly that now is the time to capitalise on the opportunities to provide an array of fairly traded non-food products to customers who are hungry for ethical products. Shared Earth has become the most professional Fair Trade retailer in the UK which puts them in an excellent position to benefit producers. Whilst most other Fair Trade shops are run by volunteers Shared Earth employs a professional team to maximise the benefit to producers and enrich the lives of so many more people in developing countries.
“We have always aimed to address the imbalance of wealth, working together with people from different cultures while earning a decent living and, because we make good profits, we are able to offer our suppliers a good and fair price for their products,” explains Jeremy.
Shared Earth regularly travels with staff and designers to visit its overseas producers in countries like India and Nepal. Being specialists in recycled products, Shared Earth have established distribution channels which are heavily geared towards creating a sustainable and environmentally aware business culture. Being at the forefront of policy development in the Fair Trade movement has always been important, for instance the decision to travel by train rather than by car or air was taken. For example journeys within India which are less than 2,000 miles are made by train.
The products begin their creation with customer research that Shared Earth’s dedicated design team of three full time people undertake. This shows Shared Earth’s commitment to design and new product development. This knowledge is later transferred into designs for the artisans in developing countries so that they can work with Shared Earth to hand make products that UK consumers really want to buy. This process ensures that sales are kept high and Shared Earth can provide year round orders to suppliers, which in turn support whole families and communities. The product ranges include; unique jewellery, a whole host of fashion accessories, wood, ceramics, paper, soapstone and products for children.
With his first book being written at the moment, Jeremy endeavours to capture the wonderful experience that Fair Trade provides for all of its participants. Other books on Fair Trade are available, but this will be the first one written from someone actually trading, as opposed to a journalist, academic or campaigner.
Shared Earth link the customer with product origins through an enchanting retail environment with a vibrant atmosphere and colourful graphics. This gives them a sense of what their purchase means to the artisans who hand make the delights displayed. As well as 7 shops within the UK, a selection of Shared Earth’s products can be found online at www.sharedearth.co.uk.
Jeremy has been delighted at the huge initial response to the publicity about the franchise opportunity. The franchise has attracted national press interest from newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Express. Many individuals across the country have displayed an interest to come to Shared Earth’s orientation day at their York office, which is being planned for mid November to give people a deeper insight into what is involved.
“We are looking for individuals with the right qualities who want to own an ethical, profitable business. We are only looking for a small number of franchisees initially so that they receive an excellent level of care,” adds Jeremy.