Thank you for reading our post. We’re glad that this article inspired such thoughtful questions. What attracted us to the Medium community was the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations like this!
These are all questions that we have to ask ourselves every day. We don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but we have learned a lot since we first opened for business in 1999. One of the most important things that sets us apart from our competitors is our decision to remain independently owned and operated. This has allowed us to focus on becoming great rather than just big. Unlike other large retailers, we have the freedom to focus on sustainably delivering a well-edited assortment of unique designs, combined with an easy shopping experience and excellent customer service. Our independence also allows us the ability to make the necessary changes to keep improving our practices and, ultimately, our B Corp score, such as raising our starting wage 100% above the federal minimum.
We’re happy to see the handmade trend gain popularity. However, that does mean there is more room to stretch the meaning of “handmade.” That’s why it’s important to us to prominently feature our artists and share their stories. Nonetheless, you’re correct in that it can be tough to compete in this market. It is essential that we always make sure we’re being “uncommon.” By offering a collection of unique designs that you won’t easily find anywhere else, we’re able to coexist in the same space as our competitors. Right now, 35% of our assortment is exclusive to us. We’re working hard to grow our collection of items that you can only find at UncommonGoods.
As far as ensuring the quality of merchandise from our independent partners, our buying team does an excellent job at vetting all partners we work with and testing the designs we introduce! (Some of us even test the products ourselves for our blog: http://blog.uncommongoods.com/tag/gift-lab/). We work closely with our vendors to set up the proper paperwork to ensure that they are meeting their donation goals. We also keep thorough records for the donations we make as a company, whether it’s through our Better to Give program or through a give back on our own merchandise. You can view our current Better to Give partners here: https://www.uncommongoods.com/static/better.jsp
You ask a great question regarding our social impact compared to the impact of large brick-and-mortar retailers like Target and Walmart. We don’t have nearly as wide of a reach as these retailers, and we can’t offer as many jobs as they do around the globe. We believe that real lasting change can happen if the entire business community took responsibility to be forces for good, whether it’s the small Mom-and-Pop Shop or the larger retailers of the world. It is consumers themselves who have the power to influence want to see from the business community. So while we may not have as large of a reach as Walmart and Target, we can set an example for what a sustainable business looks like. When consumers demand better business practices and more transparency from businesses, the large retailers will follow. In this way, we can all work together toward progress.