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Canberra Centre closes its doors on fair trade shops

By Emma Davidson 9 January 2019 72
Oxfam shopfront in the Canberra Centre with pink balloons in doorway and sale signs in window

Oxfam’s Canberra Centre shop, due to close by 13 February. File photo.

Recent visitors to the Canberra Centre may have noticed the closure of Tree of Life on 5 January. Tree of Life has confirmed there are no plans to open a new store in Canberra at present. They are among a number of familiar businesses departing the Canberra Centre, including Oxfam.

News that the Oxfam shop will also close its doors, with the final day of trading understood to be February 13, means that there will no longer be any shop in the Canberra Centre where all products are fair trade, for the first time in decades.

“Just like many other Australian-based retailers, Oxfam Australia Trading is facing a tougher market, with increasing global competition and a continued shift to online shopping. In line with these trends, the new model will shift a greater emphasis on our online store and reduce our focus on retail shops,” an Oxfam Australia spokesperson said.

“Oxfam Australia Trading is conducting a store-by-store assessment of each of its retail shop’s medium to long-term viability. Following an assessment of Oxfam Australia Trading’s Canberra store in ACT, one permanent staff member and eight causal staff were informed on 11 December of the financially unviable terms of a new lease and the intention to close the shop.”

The Oxfam shop’s Canberra Centre lease expires on 28 February.

Several other shops at the Canberra Centre are also closing down. Photo: Dianna Snape.

Oxfam said that a staff consultation period was undertaken between 11-17 December 2018, during which staff were provided time to ask questions, seek clarification, make suggestions, provide feedback and communicate alternative options for consideration. Staff were advised on 21 December 2018 of the decision to close the shop.

“It is important to acknowledge that the decision to close the Canberra store is in no way reflective of the commitment, efforts and performance of staff. Oxfam always makes every attempt to redeploy employees in roles made redundant, and will continue to do this with the Canberra store employees,” the Oxfam spokesperson said.

The Oxfam shop provided an outlet for coffee, chocolate, sauces, books, homewares, jewellery, and skincare products from worker-owned co-operatives and fair trade producers worldwide, including Aboriginal-run co-operatives within Australia.

Fair trade means that the workers who produce the goods are paid a living wage, have fair working conditions, sustainable practices, environmental protection, and empowers farmers and workers. This is stronger protection for workers than merely meeting all legal obligations. In some countries, the legal minimum wage is not enough to live on, minimum standards for working conditions may include work practices that are not safe, and may not allow workers to collectivise and form unions.

“Shopping ethical, local, and buying fair trade is one way we as consumers can make a conscious choice and invest in a sustainable future,” says Sian Williamson, Amnesty International worker and an ethical shopper.

“I buy fair trade because I know this means the workers are paid at all levels of the supply chain, and I know my purchase has had a positive impact on communities and was sustainably sourced.”

For Canberra shoppers who want to continue to support fair trade, there are now limited options. Seeking out fair trade brands in mainstream stores is easier with the help of Fairtrade Association certification on coffee, chocolate, tea, and cotton. For clothing, Baptist World Aid Australia produce an Ethical Fashion Guide that you can download and keep on your phone.

There’s a local option online, with Canberra-based online store Ozfairtrade.org endorsed by the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand. Even after the Oxfam shop closes its doors in Canberra, it will continue to trade online. But for shoppers who can’t wait for postage or prefer to shop in person, Oxfam’s closure is sad news.


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60 Responses to
Canberra Centre closes its doors on fair trade shops
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Emma Em 5:58 am 10 Jan 19

If you really wanna be green/ethically responsible, don’t shop at all, or shop secondhand or from local craftsmen.

    Samantha Simpson-Morgan 8:48 am 10 Jan 19

    Emma Em though if people lose their jobs because you won’t shop there anymore, how is that ethical either?! What we need is diversity of shops, a mix of big brands and independents, variety. And holding shops/brands accountable to their practices. But malls will never do that as they are only after the biggest profits. Garema place could be redesigned to be a thriving independent creative shop scene .... at the moment the city is shocking, outside of Canberra Centre. It was a shock to see what it looked like when moving back to Canberra last year.

    Smita Patel 12:17 pm 10 Jan 19

    Weird argument. Not shopping does not make someone ‘not ethical’. It just makes them not a consumerist. To the above poster not the OP

    Samantha Simpson-Morgan what we need do is create new industries, and base our economy on services and fair employment not consumerism, things and the exploitation of the most disadvantaged in our societies, who are 99% of the time women and children.

    Samantha Simpson-Morgan 3:31 pm 10 Jan 19

    Canberra Women in Business - CWB how do you see that working? We still need certain ‘things’...

    Samantha Simpson-Morgan 3:38 pm 10 Jan 19

    Smita Patel it’s not a weird comment at all. It feels quite elitist to me to say all shops are bad and we should stop shopping or only shop ‘fair trade’ or from a local crafts person. As an artisan designer myself, I wouldn’t only expect people to buy solely from people like me. After all, where would you buy your furniture, your phone, your computer, your car? Big brands have their place as long as their supply chains are monitored and held accountable. What I was saying is, in malls and shopping centres we need diversity. Big brands also provide jobs to lots of people. Where shall those people work if the brands weren’t there? What about their supply chain, all those workers?

    Samantha Simpson-Morgan it’s about focus away from the mountains of things that we don’t need and towards sustainability, and fairness which will mean better quality things. And happier humans, that’s how we see it “working” 😀

    Samantha Simpson-Morgan 3:42 pm 11 Jan 19

    Canberra Women in Business - CWB yes I get it. That’s not what I was saying...

Eleanor McMillan 4:38 am 10 Jan 19

We should be getting more shops with fair trade not less

Louise Veitch 2:20 am 10 Jan 19

😢 sad, but there could be some good sales here Craig

Margy Duke 1:17 am 10 Jan 19

What? I was just in both these shops the week before Xmas!!

Samantha Simpson-Morgan 10:54 pm 09 Jan 19

It’s disgusting. The malls are just massive boring same same chains now...

Taru Morton 10:33 pm 09 Jan 19

Thanks to the Barr government and their exuberant rates, the retail rents are going up and up!!!!

Gwenneth Haig 10:33 pm 09 Jan 19

Sad. My go to for gifts.

Elsa Gaskell 10:23 pm 09 Jan 19

Isn't Lush fair trade?

Julie Coker-Godson 10:01 pm 09 Jan 19

This is very sad news indeed. I particularly loved The Tree of Life.

Allira Middlebrook 10:00 pm 09 Jan 19

Tree of life??! Nooooo

Hannah Walsh 9:58 pm 09 Jan 19

Oxfam’s rent was doubled for 2019 if they wanted to remain at the same premises.

    Shannon Crocker 10:21 pm 09 Jan 19

    Doesn't surprise me from Canberra Centre's reputation.

    Megan Detering 11:25 pm 09 Jan 19

    Probably all part of a strategy from the centre? The more rotation / renewal the better? At the expense of the shops of course...as long as there are people lining up to lease a space there...

    Kytie Mclign 6:09 am 10 Jan 19

    Hannah Walsh I hope ACT Government or others will come up with something outside the centre, like they did for Green Shed and the Red Cross Op Shop.

    Smita Patel 12:18 pm 10 Jan 19

    Not surprised. I never shop at the CC anymore, or even park there.

Diane Whitcombe 9:54 pm 09 Jan 19

Hey Simeran the oxfam shop sells those warthog/giraffe/hippo thong toy things - if they're having a closing down sale, you might find one cheap?

Dinora Collins 9:54 pm 09 Jan 19

Oh no I find the best birthday presents there!!

Donna Burns 9:52 pm 09 Jan 19

So sad, I only hope they’re not replaced with another nail salon or massage place.

Doris Andrews 9:45 pm 09 Jan 19

Such a shame.

Erin Folkes 9:42 pm 09 Jan 19

Oh well! Dont need to go to canberra centre anymore!

Venus de Siren 9:37 pm 09 Jan 19

Very very disappointing news.

Karen Nulty 9:34 pm 09 Jan 19

Not good. I bought some great products from the Oxfam shop. Personally I prefer to buy in person rather than online so this will be sad.

Sally Tregellas Wodzinska 9:34 pm 09 Jan 19

That's a shame.

Rauny Worm 9:24 pm 09 Jan 19

No reason left to go there :)

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