Originally posted on October 14, 2011. A couple is telling me about a rug they just bought. They talk about the great service at the store they got it from and how the color works with everything in the room. I’m waiting for the purchase announcement tag line. As if on cue, I hear the words, “…and I got it for a good price.” It’s meant to convey they paid less than the retail price, much less.
As CEO of Working Wonders, and someone who views a new retail landscape as one of the prerequisites of a sustainable economy, I hear the “I got it for a good price” mantra differently than most people. It’s not that I don’t think people should buy things at good prices. Quite the opposite. But I wouldn’t categorize any price as good on products where it’s the case that I don’t know where they come from or how they are made.
Blind supply chains trigger the same kind of alarm in me as when Cole Sear makes his memorable “I see dead people” announcement in the movie, The Sixth Sense. Actually a lot more, because in faraway places people really are dying as a result of making our things. Don’t take my word for it. Read award-winning investigative journalist, Loretta Tofani’s in-depth series, “American Imports, Chinese Deaths.”
As the founder of a green-from-the-ground-up home and lifestyle retail brand, I focus on transparent information on earth-best products. I define a good price as the sum of the real costs of using sustainable, non-toxic materials and practices for sourcing, producing, packaging, and shipping products, along with the costs of making them accessible to people. A good price must support every link in the commerce supply chain, including the retailer.
Right now, most retailers are on a treadmill of a search for ever-cheaper products. As those products mount up on their shelves, they need to mark them down even further to induce people to buy. We end up with a glut of valueless merchandise and unsustainable retail brands.
Wouldn’t it be great if retailers just asked three simple questions to determine whether the products they are considering deserve to get in front of consumers, whether on store shelves or e-commerce pages?
First, are the processes and/or materials for making and shipping the consumer product harmful to us, to the people making the things, or to the earth? Second, does the supply chain for making and shipping the product make it “better traveled” than we ourselves are? And third, does the manufacturer/distributor expect their product to be stockpiled in “product hotel” warehouses in this day and age when thousands of homeless persons are still left out in the cold?
It’s time to restore the definition of a “good price” to one that is fair, socially conscious and environmentally responsible. We must maximize the power of our retail sector to realize the vision of sustainable American homes and lifestyles.
Imagine, again, the couple who bought the rug. They conclude their rug story with the same words, but this time “good price” means everything we’ve included in our re-created definition. Sounds like a better purchase announcement tag line to me.