While most retailers are embracing e-commerce, the We organization has chosen instead to go to brick-and-mortar retail where it can actively engage with customers.
In the past, the charity has had a presence in Staples, Fossil and Indigo stores, but this year it's opened free-standing stores in the Toronto Eaton Centre and the Rideau Centre in Ottawa.
Roxanne Joyal, chief executive officer of Me to We, We's for-profit enterprise, says the goal is to enable shoppers to use the charity's Track Your Impact product. Customers can input a unique eight-digit code at trackyourimpact.com to see the impact of their purchase.
Why move from e-commerce? And why did you choose high-rent places such as the Toronto Eaton Centre?
We've expanded from e-commerce to include new and beautiful brick-and-mortar spaces. Me to We actually first started out selling rafiki bracelets and other artisan products at our first storefront in Cabbagetown [in dowtown Toronto] more than seven years ago.
Having a permanent retail space where people can visit, shop, engage and learn more about the We movement is so important for us. Our partnership with Cadillac Fairview has allowed us to bring to life the vision of a We store with in-kind spaces at the Toronto Eaton Centre and the Rideau Centre in Ottawa.
It is through our charitable partnership with Cadillac Fairview that we have been able to showcase our socially conscious Me to We products, and provide customers with a chance to experience in-store events such as the Build Your Own Rafiki Bar, meet Mama Helen from Kenya, and watch the Kenyan Boys Choir perform.
How were the retail spaces set up to keep that connection between purchasing an item and seeing how it impacts communities?
In both of our retail spaces, we have a water donation wall where people can come in and make an impact on the spot. We also have digital touchpads where people can track their impact and also witness our We Villages program progress and our most up-to-date impact stories.
Training staff around every facet of the We movement is also a way in which we help our consumers understand, engage and want to get more involved with We.
Why choose fashion as the vehicle for change?
Jewellery and accessories made the most sense as we work with women in our opportunity programs in We Villages. The pieces that we design and produce in our artisans program are also some of the most accessible products in the market. They empower people to wear their heart on their sleeves, to show and wear these beautiful handcrafted artisan products proudly, with positive stories and impact behind each piece.
Is there a connection between the store and the impact or are people buying it as an accessory first and as a change maker second?
We know that people buying Me to We products care about their impact, want to do good in the world, and also care about the thought and artistry that goes into our products. There is a connection when people wear them and it acts as a reminder of what we have to be grateful for. Of course, with everything that we do at Me to We, our goal is to be desired and more compelling than your average accessory store.
Why was it so important to set up the tracking tool?
It is important for us as a socially conscious business to always be as transparent, honest and accessible with our impact data and this is something that we are so proud of.
Did you see an uptick in purchases when people discovered they can track their donation?
The development of Track Your Impact was definitely an exciting time for us. We see TYI as our key differentiator in the market, and know how much our partners and consumers care about the transparency, and ability they have to see exactly how they are contributing to greater global good. Track Your Impact also makes it so easy to be able to share that information, whether that is online or in your daily life.
How are the in-store sales?
With conscious consumerism continuing to rise and becoming more important in our global and local shopping habits, we have definitely seen significant growth with Me to We and Track Your Impact products. We are so excited for what is to come and are looking forward to a fantastic year ahead.
This interview has been edited and condensed.