Forget Christmas in July. Try Christmas in February.
That’s exactly the mindset Kristen Fromm, Purchasing and Collections Planning Manager for Ten Thousand Villages, has to be in when she starts picking and choosing products to order for the next holiday collection.
That’s right. For Christmas – about 10 months away.
Between sampling (choosing what items to carry), buying, tracking, shipping, marketing, problem solving, merchandising and celebrating, it feels like the holiday season all year round at Ten Thousand Villages.
Here’s the inside scoop on what it takes to make sure you have handcrafted gifts when the snow starts to fly this year.
Just when everyone else is getting back into their regular routines after New Year’s Eve festivities, Kristen is looking through catalogues, consulting mood boards and contacting artisan partners. It’s already time to build the Christmas collections for the following year.
Time to start notifying artisans and putting in orders. Colours, dimensions and quantities are confirmed.
Makers get down to work on Christmas orders, whether they’re block printing luxurious tablecloths, sewing and embroidering ornaments, or hand-painting pottery. Some items are brand new for the year. Others are old favourites from past seasons.
Some issues can pop up during these months. Many artisans work from home and are dealing with some of the same challenges other entrepreneurs face: family life can make meeting deadlines difficult. Or sometimes the artisan’s head office asks that a product be fixed so all items are of the same qualitybefore being shipped out together. In these cases, Ten Thousand Villages works with the partner to create new shipping options or adjust quantities.
If all goes well, items are priced, packed, and boxed before leaving port from their country of origin. Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Artisans actually affix Ten Thousand Villages price tags to the products themselves. That means a much speedier unpacking process in Canada.
Our favourite time of the year! In late summer and early fall, the pieces begin to arrive at our warehouse. With trucks arriving daily, it’s all hands on deck to help unload, count and inspect the products before shipping them out to individual stores.
“It’s exciting to open packages and see the things that we ordered in the winter arriving,” says Kristen. “In some cases, they’re even nicer than what we had hoped for.”
Take a new holiday cushion partially covered in plaid flannel. The material is typically ubiquitous at Indian markets. Or at least it was when we received the samples in 2015. But when it came time to start stitching together the cozy fabric, there was no flannel to be found. It had disappeared from the markets.
Not to be thwarted, the Indian artisan group weavers started looming the fabric themselves!
“The product ended up being more handcrafted and more fair trade than it would have been if they’d made the product as it was originally envisioned,” says Kristen.
Look for the new holiday collection arriving in stores and online in the next few months. It’s also a great time of year to volunteer to help unpack boxes at your local store!
And when next January rolls around after Christmas 2016? You know what we’ll be doing: dreaming of the next fair trade Christmas nearly a whole year away.