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Fair Trade Retail in New Zealand
01 December 2012


WFTO member Trade Aid was the first business to retail Fair Trade products in New Zealand. Returning from two years in India working with a Tibetan Refugee Resettlement programme Richard and Vi Cottrell came home to New Zealand with a large number of Tibetan rugs for sale. Setting up an exhibition in an art gallery they were stunned when all the carpets were sold within 30 minutes. Because of tight import restrictions in place at the time the New Zealand public had little exposure to such exotic wares. Realizing that this presented them with a good opportunity to help the economic situation of the producers they had worked with, Richard and Vi established Trade Aid Importers in 1973. This captured the attention and interest of New Zealanders and a number of volunteer-run shops soon sprung up around the country to sell the products. In 1979, the shops and the import company formally began to operate under the common name of Trade Aid and became a single entity.  Today, there are 29 Trade Aid shops selling handcraft and food products with the average shop selling a ratio of 85% handcrafts and 15% food. The shops have undergone a number of changes over the years and are now all occupy mainstream retail sites in the best shopping precincts in the country.  

 The shops have undergone a number of changes over
 the years and are now all occupy mainstream retail
 sites in the best shopping precincts in New Zealand.
                                                          Photo: Trade Aid

With a Trade Aid shop in the majority of cities and towns in New Zealand and with the country’s small population of 4.5 million people, there has been little interest in other Fair Trade retailers becoming involved in selling Fair Trade handcrafts to date.

However, around 2004, Fairtrade labelled food products began appearing in supermarkets and other retail shops. Trade Aid offered their expertise and knowledge in helping many of the food importers get established. Today, there a good number of businesses involved in importing Fair Trade food items. In recent years, there has been an explosion of labelled food products for sale and nearly every supermarket is now selling Fair Trade. Bananas have been the latest product to be imported and appeared on the scene in 2008, initially from Samoa, but now they are primarily sourced from Ecuador. 

Fair Trade apparel has begun in a small way with a few businesses importing t-shirts from India. Sales of these have been mainly targeted at the conference and corporate market with few sold through conventional retail stores. A small number of local manufactures have imported Fairtrade certified cotton and are making locally made garments that carry the Fairtrade label. There is quite a lot of interest in Fair Trade apparel , especially double certified with organic, in forums and interest discussion boards and it looks to be the next growth area. It will be difficult to progress though as the New Zealand apparel market is heavily dominated by Australian brands and chains and so far they have been reluctant to become involved. It will likely be the small independent shops who pick up this challenge.

By Geoff White
Trade Aid Importers

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