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Canberra Centre closes its doors on fair trade shops

Emma Davidson 10 January 2019 62
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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62 Responses to Canberra Centre closes its doors on fair trade shops
Eleanor McMillan Eleanor McMillan 4:38 am 10 Jan 19

We should be getting more shops with fair trade not less

Louise Veitch Louise Veitch 2:20 am 10 Jan 19

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

Margy Duke Margy Duke 1:17 am 10 Jan 19

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

Samantha Morgan Samantha Morgan 10:54 pm 09 Jan 19

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

Taru Morton 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 Gwenneth Haig 10:33 pm 09 Jan 19

Sad. My go to for gifts.

Elsa Gaskell Elsa Gaskell 10:23 pm 09 Jan 19

Isn't Lush fair trade?

Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 10:01 pm 09 Jan 19

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

Allira Middlebrook Allira Middlebrook 10:00 pm 09 Jan 19

Tree of life??! Nooooo

Hannah Walsh Hannah Walsh 9:58 pm 09 Jan 19

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

    Megan Detering Megan Detering 10:02 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...

    Shannon Crocker Shannon Crocker 10:21 pm 09 Jan 19

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

    Kytie Mclign 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 Smita Patel 12:18 pm 10 Jan 19

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

Diane Whitcombe 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?

    Simeran Maxwell Simeran Maxwell 1:39 pm 10 Jan 19

    Sizeable, thanks! I might pop in tomorrow if I get a chance.

Dinora Collins Dinora Collins 9:54 pm 09 Jan 19

Oh no I find the best birthday presents there!!

Donna Burns Donna Burns 9:52 pm 09 Jan 19

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

    Samantha Morgan Samantha Morgan 10:55 pm 09 Jan 19

    Donna Burns I heard the rumour was a Nike super store. Coz there’s a shortage of Nike, you know...?

    Donna Burns Donna Burns 10:58 pm 09 Jan 19

    That could happen because I think Wheel and Barrow are closing too ☹️. I guess time will tell.

    Sarah Beatty Sarah Beatty 6:10 am 10 Jan 19

    Nike is going in the wheel and barrow store I have heard.

Jess Ica Jess Ica 9:48 pm 09 Jan 19

I remember when the Oxfam shop was in the interchange and they sold beautiful clothes too. Sad

    Kelly Soli Kelly Soli 10:32 pm 09 Jan 19

    Jess Ica I did my first work experience there when I was in high school! Loved that store

Doris Andrews Doris Andrews 9:45 pm 09 Jan 19

Such a shame.

Erin Folkes Erin Folkes 9:42 pm 09 Jan 19

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

Venus de Siren Venus de Siren 9:37 pm 09 Jan 19

Very very disappointing news.

Karen Nulty 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 Sally Tregellas Wodzinska 9:34 pm 09 Jan 19

That's a shame.

Rauny Worm Rauny Worm 9:24 pm 09 Jan 19

No reason left to go there :)

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