September 19, 2008

Fairtrade Sales Rise Despite Downturn in the Economy Shoppers Confound the Money Experts


FAIRTRADE goods are becoming increasingly popular with shoppers despite the economic slowdown, figures have revealed .

Consumers have remained loyal to buying goods accredited by the Fairtrade charity, which helps tackle poverty in developing countries, as sales increased by 55per cent.

Meanwhile, defiant shoppers also confounded expectations last month, as official figures yesterday revealed a surprise leap in retail sales.

Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: "This continuing uplift in sales is great news and shows the public is still taking Fairtrade to heart.

"Every day in shops up and down the country consumers are becoming the champions of change. Times are tough for everyone, but producers need Fairtrade now more than ever.

"In Kenya recently, a farmer told me that a bag of maize had increased by 100per cent. On top of this, farmers are struggling to pay soaring fuel and fertiliser costs.

"Fairtrade offers people a ladder out of poverty, helping farmers themselves work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Business needs to play its part in offering farmers a market in the UK, so opening the way for more farmers to sell their goods on fairer terms."

The Fairtrade Foundation's annual conference entitled Tipping the Balance, announced that trade grew for April to June 2008 to an estimated GBP176m from GBP113m in the same period last year.

Ms Lamb said: "The scale and level of poverty worldwide demands that businesses and consumers urgently need to play their part to scale up Fairtrade and in these tough economic times, people in developing countries who typically spend over 50per cent of their income on food, are the most severely affected."

Tipping the Balance is also the name of the five-year strategy launched in February aimed at making Fairtrade the trade norm rather than the exception.

The call to action comes prior to a high-level UN event on September 25 to renew government and business commitments to meet 2015 Millennium Development Goals at the halfway point.

Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander, told delegates: "Fairtrade has helped put development on the shopping list and, in improving many poorer producers' incomes, is contributing to the Millennium Development Goals.

"But there are millions of other farmers in developing countries who want the fair prices and steady demand Fairtrade brings."

The Fairtrade trademark is an independent consumer label appearing on products as a guarantee that disadvantaged producers are getting a better deal. The international Fairtrade system benefits more than seven million people including farmers, workers and their families across 59 developing countries.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said yesterday that sales rose by 1.2per cent between July and August - coming in complete contrast with forecasts for a drop of 0.4per cent.

Clothing and footwear stores drove the hike in sales, said the ONS.

It comes after high street sales also raced ahead by an unexpected 0.8per cent in July.

Back-to-school shopping and summer discounting, particularly in the food sector, lured shoppers into stores, according to the ONS. Clothing and footwear stores saw sales rise 4.1per cent in the month .

The August rise brings the increase in sales to 3.3per cent compared to a year ago.

Economists had pencilled in a fall for last month, as hard- pressed consumers are being hit by higher utility, fuel and food bills.

But yesterday's figures showed signs that retailers are beginning to price their goods more competitively to help counter weaker consumer demand.

The retail price deflator - a measure of how high street prices are changing as a whole - dropped from a 10year high of 1.6per cent in July to 0.9per cent in August.

Economists said the August figures were surprisingly strong and were at odds with recent figures from the British Retail Consortium and business body the CBI.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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