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Put the Demand Back in Supply and Demand

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4.Establish your own non-price criteria (recyclable or recycled packaging, union-made, fair-trade, organic, locally produced, natural fibers, no sweatshop labor, American-made, support for boycotts, etc.) and gradually allow them to influence your purchasing habits.

5.Resist the impulse to purchase your specialty items on-line, without first trying to get them through local vendors. Your local infrastructure is funded in part by sales taxes. When you purchase on-line, your local area likely loses sales tax revenue. Certainly, if local vendors will not carry the item, click away using your new non-price criteria.

6.Talk to department managers about new items. Be polite, but make sure they realize that you can get it elsewhere (competitors, on-line), that you accept some inconvenience to obtain it, but that you would prefer to buy it at their store (an opportunity for the store to reap profit from a high mark-up item). Give them vendor information to make it easier for them to order specialty items.

7.If you want an item stocked, fill out customer request cards. These have more impact if done in person, after you have established yourself as a regular customer. Retailers are in business to sell products. If they believe there is demand for an item, they will stock it. The trick is to establish and maintain that demand. Follow up on the item, and if the store chooses to stock it, BUY it.

Yes Virginia, it works.

Here are a few success stories of active consumer-retailer relationships

Proctor and Gamble, in response to consumer activism has decided to carry a fair-trade coffee through its Millstone line. It remains for consumers to request the brand through their grocery stores.

King Arthur Flour is a worker owned business in upstate Vermont, carrying specialty flours and high-end baking supplies. They established relationships through their catalog customers, instructing them on how to approach grocery managers to establish supply chains directly from King Arthur to local supermarkets. Now, King Arthur ships to every state in the US.

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Eileen is a mother, progressive activist, artist and poet in the Greater Seattle area.

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