Tuesday 3 April 2012

Re-Defining Retail

Of the great contentious debates, the topic of stores and shopping dominate.
Comparative development issues, labour force ethics, natural resource consumption, and societal values, all culminate at the store where we make some of our most important and influential decisions.
Western culture is undoubtedly fraught with materialism, which in turn, has contributed to resource waste on an unimaginable scale.
The implications of our excessive consumerism are vast and reach deeply into the lives of countless souls.

The tragedy is that while many of us understand the enormity of the problems associated with buying goods, few will escape the need to participate.
Ever driven by our search for the lowest price, ethics fall short of reaching parity with the lust for a good deal.
Perhaps there are some easy choices available such as fair trade, locally made, or so-called "green" products. Many claims, however, are largely unsubstantiated, lack reasonable context, and are employed as marketing tools rather than as free market altruism.
There are likely exceptions to this sweeping generalization, but when money is involved, good faith is shy.

There are solutions.
Many of them could bring the current economic growth model to it's knees.
Thrift stores have the innate ability to correct some of the injustices prevalent within the corporate drive for perpetual growth.
And though the second-hand stores may fall into a greed trap, the inherent reuse of manufactured goods diminishes the power that the retail sector wields.

There is a wonderful thrift store model in our local town.
Haliburton is home to a few such stores, including the Salvation Army shop.
The most notable is Ted's Thrift Store.
It is a very large warehouse packed with material goods.
Everything has been donated (read: disposed).
The owner takes a portion of the profits in order to make a modest living, and the remainder goes to charity.
To be honest, I don't know the exact details.
I suspect that the owner uses the more valuable but less sought after items to make his living. Perhaps larger and less manageable items and valuable scrap metals.
The warehouse is laden with housewares, electronics, furniture, appliances, plumbing and lighting fixtures, among other typical household goods.
There are no price tags, with the exception of the better quality furniture. The owner negotiates the price with the interested consumer.
The prices are, indeed, very low.

When we need to buy something, the thrift store (or junk shop as we call it), is the first store we consider.
Unfortunately, we cannot find everything we need there.
Also, there is an uniqueness that characterizes the owner.
Outward appearances suggest that his life is simple, and his goal is not wealth.
Entrepreneurial retailers rarely possess those traits.
Greater interest in this sort of marketplace would contribute product variety and availability.

If you are unable to buy a used product from an ethical thrift store, consider this.
Buying a quality item that has been imparted with longevity allows the opportunity for future reuse in the hands of another consumer.
A marketplace dominated by reused products, and refreshed only gently with new ones, would continue to satiate consumerism, while easing the burdens on natural and human resources.

No comments:

Post a Comment