At Ten Thousand Villages Canada, every scarf, bowl, and handicraft tells a story of economic improvement in areas as far-flung as India, Peru, and Uganda.
Take the Cambodian artisans who gather discarded bombshells and fashion them into delicate, symbolic jewellery. Or the Kolaghat Socio-Economic Welfare Society in India, which started with one donated sewing machine only to grow into a 35-employee embroidery and tailoring workshop. It sells its wares through Ten Thousand Villages too.
But now, the non-profit program of the Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCCC) and the oldest and largest Fair Trade organization in North America is facing challenges for its traditional retail operations brought on by the most recent recession and changing buying patterns.
It is not alone. According to Statistics Canada, overall retail sales in the country fell in December 2012.
In the wake of these changing domestic trends, Ten Thousand Villages Canada is reenergizing its vision and efforts to stabilize the organization. This commitment to future sustainability will lead to the closure of 10 retail locations as well as a reduction of about 20 head office staff in 2013.
Thirty-five of the Ten Thousand Villages retail stores will remain open, as will its recently re-launched online store.
“The decision to make these retail and staffing changes was not an easy one – and certainly not one we make lightly – but it is a decision we need to make to ensure we are able to support our artisan communities for years to come,” says Ryan Jacobs, general manager of the organization. “That remains our primary objective.”
The new plan will uphold the organization’s operational principals and Fair Trade business practices, leverage current strengths, and partner more closely with its sister organization, Ten Thousand Villages in the U.S. It will continue to sell artisan-crafted personal accessories, home decor and gift items from around the globe through its remaining retail stores, Festival Sales, and online shopping.
“I am confident that this significant adjustment to our business model will strengthen Ten Thousand Villages and help us fulfill our mission of partnering with artisans around the world,” says Jacobs. “We thank all of the committed staff, volunteers, and customers who support our vision and give so generously of their time and talents.”
Ten Thousand Villages stores in the following locations are slated to close: Langley, B.C.; Commercial Drive, Vancouver; Broadway, Vancouver; Broadmead, Vancouver; Penticton, B.C.; Kelowna, B.C.; Regina; Kingston, Ont.; London, Ont.; Queen Street, Toronto.
—Ten Thousand Villages release