Fair-trade pioneer Ten Thousand Villages marks 75 years

Retail Gets Real episode 220: CEO Gordon Zook talks about positively impacting makers around the world

For 75 years, Ten Thousand Villages has served as a fair-trade pioneer, offering ethically sourced, handcrafted products made by artisans in developing countries.

In this episode, CEO Gordon Zook talks about how the organization continues its mission, helping positively impact the lives and communities of its makers around the world, even as consumers and the world of retail evolve.

Ten Thousand Villages creates a pathway of sustainable income for artisans, and has sourced unique items from more than 30 countries. Each item sold tells a story, and the company’s globally minded consumers’ interest in an ethical supply chain and environmentally sustainable products is growing.

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“They're trying to cultivate their own ethical style, and they want to be able to give unique gifts to their friends and family,” Zook said. “What we're seeing is a cultural shift, where there is more and more customers whose values align with the products that they purchase.”

One of Ten Thousand Villages' challenges is continuing the growth of its online market that began with the pandemic, while maintaining the personal touch that comes with a hand-crafted product.

"As important to us as the product, is the stories behind the product, so we always want to be able to have the two parts joined in what we're selling,” Zook said. “In our stores, we have staff who are trained in the stories behind the product. They can ensure that they have more opportunity to engage with customers in the stores. Online, we want to be able to duplicate some of that."

Listen to the full episode to hear more about Ten Thousand Village’s history and mission to stop the generational curse of poverty for its artisans.

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