I can understand why budget-constrained families may decide to buy $5 t-shirts made overseas at a discount department store. What I’m not as clear on is why someone buying a luxury decorative item would prefer to buy one mass-produced commercially overseas for a pittance but then marked up to an extravagant price before sale from a big box retailer. Why don’t they support a local artist or craftsperson? For the same price, they can get a high-quality, hand-crafted, unique item and support a resident of their own country or community. Why not buy Canadian when you indulge in one of life’s little luxuries?
Glossy Photos Selling Glittering Goods Arrive Daily
The simultaneous arrival in my mailbox of a catalogue from Crate and Barrel and a photo postcard from the Hamilton Potters’ Guild underlined this idea. Both ads had colourful collectible bowls, vases and teapots for sale. The prices were comparable. But there the similarities ended.
Support the Artist not the Retailer
A teapot from Crate and Barrel is listed at about $90 Canadian. It was made in Japan. A teapot from the Guild is about the same price (actually less) and was made in Canada. If you buy from the Guild all but a small percentage of the sale price goes to the artist who created the pot. (They do pay a percentage to the Guild itself to rent the hall, pay for renting the credit card terminals, mail the advertisements, etc.) Do you think the artisan in Japan gets 95% or more of the amount you spend at Crate and Barrel?
Canadian Does Not Have to Mean Uncompetitive
A single person bowl, admittedly custom designed, from Crate and Barrel is listed for $19.35. It is made in China. At the Guild show, for $5 more, I can buy a hand-thrown, uniquely decorated bowl selected from a large variety of glazes, clays and styles.
But I’m not really paying $25, because the entire amount is a donation to the Empty Bowls fundraiser supporting Hamilton Food Share. The Food Share then also gets matching money from corporate donors, bringing the total donation to almost $125 for that one bowl. (The potter does not lose either: they receive a charitable donation receipt for the value of the bowl they donated.) Everyone wins.
Hand-Stitched Stockings for Santa
I know if I go to one of the many local Christmas craft shows in the area, I can also find handmade decorative stockings for sale. Like the ones from Crate and Barrel, they will cost $20-30. Unlike the ones from the store, though, they will be handmade and my purchase will help a fellow Canadian pay their bills.
If you can afford to shop for small luxuries this year, please try to make your purchases from a source that you can feel proud to brag about. It often costs the same (or less!) but the benefits will enhance your community and your country. Or if you do decide you need something from overseas, check out the offerings from stores like 10,000 Villages that at least try to pay the artisan a reasonable price for their effort.
Do you buy Canadian (or American!) when it’s economically equal? Do you think that a brand label is more important than any other factor when buying a luxury item? Please share your views with a comment.