I’m so proud to be associated with Traidcraft, temporarily taking the helm alongside Jenny Borden at this exciting and challenging time. It’s exciting because Traidcraft continues to have a huge impact on people’s lives, working with our many producers across the globe as we fight injustice in trade, helping disadvantaged farmers in developing countries grow their way out of poverty, and campaigning for the unheard people all over the world suffering because of the actions of UK companies. For 35 years, these principles have been at the core of what we do – and it’s why our supporters love us.
It’s challenging because trading conditions for all retailers, including Traidcraft, continue to be tough. Our Autumn period was disappointing, and the result was that sales for the year were lower than forecast. This was very disappointing and we’re not alone in experiencing these challenges, but it’s forced us into a healthy place. It’s a place where we’re having to scrutinise every area of our business, building a Traidcraft that’s fit for the future, one where we are profitable and sustainable. An early focus will be further developing our presence in the digital world, because we realise this is where we’re likely to be doing most of our business in the years ahead. I passionately feel that we should also be shouting louder about the fabulous work that we do, engaging with a wider audience to increase our supporter base.
In 2015, we’ve started the year off well. Our Spring catalogue is out and we’re getting excellent feedback on our new range. We’ve just completed a number of roadshows in towns and cities including Gateshead, London, Cardiff and Wolverhampton, where we’ve met many of our great supporters, gathering feedback, sharing the latest news and answering questions. Our tasty Geobar is now in Tesco, as well as on all Virgin Atlantic flights and has been short-listed for an upcoming ‘free-from’ award. So I feel things are moving in the right direction. The fair trade market is a healthy one and continues to grow, which is great. I just want to point out one very big reason for this growth, and this is important to know - a number of mainstream and major selling brands have recently switched to carry the Fairtrade label, therefore skewing the figures. Our approach to fair trade is different. All products carrying the Traidcraft badge go way beyond the standards set for Fairtrade Certification.
So, that’s why Traidcraft is different – we go beyond what others do. We don’t just buy and sell fairly traded products – we look to pioneer fair trade supply chains as part of our commercial business. But we also, through the Traidcraft Exchange charity, undertake development projects and campaign for trade justice to extend our impact well beyond the communities we trade with.
In case you’ve missed it, we’re in the middle of our Fair Necessities appeal, our biggest public fund raising appeal ever, with all donations being matched by the UK government. Did you know that 70 percent of the world’s food is grown by smallholder farmers, yet they represent half the planet’s hungriest people? It’s a startling fact, and we’d love to say a big thank you to everyone who’s donated so far. The appeal has really engaged people and their generosity has been amazing. Because it’s doing so well, we may look to run similar appeals in the very near future.
I’m in my role until a successor to Mags Vaughan as chief executive is appointed, at which point – once they’re in post – myself and Jenny will fall back to being non-executive members of the board. In the meantime, we and our senior management team are leaving no corner of Traidcraft untouched as we identify where improvements and changes can be made to refocus what is truly an extraordinary organisation. In fact, I would say there’s no organisation quite like it in the UK! As I said, I’m extremely proud to be associated with it.