Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs from 25 February to 9 March, is the Fairtrade Foundation's major annual event, designed to encourage more retailers and consumers to buy into the Fairtrade movement. The Fairtrade mark guarantees a minimum price has been paid to farmers in developing countries.
Roadshows will be taking place in major cities across the country including Glasgow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol and Leeds, and will feature fashion shows and talks from growers. But, unfortunately, more work still needs to be done to raise awareness of the event in the independent trade, results from The Grocer's straw poll reveal.
Sixty-six per cent of respondents have not even heard of Fairtrade Fortnight, let alone know when it is, and only 22% of small stores have planned activities to coincide with this year's celebrations.
"I've never head of Fairtrade, so I don't know if we stock any products or not," was a common response from shop owners. "We don't purposefully buy Fairtrade products so I couldn't even tell you what products they may be," says one northern-based retailer.
Many shop owners who know about Fairtrade products are not aware that Fairtrade Fortnight kicks off next week, although many say they would like more information about it. "Not many people know about Fairtrade yet, but they would if the Foundation did more to publicise the event," says one retailer. "People aren't coming into the store and asking for Fairtrade products, so it's not something we really shout about."
The Fairtrade Foundation is trying to address this by encouraging consumers to ask their local stores to stock more Fairtrade products, but business development manager Mark Varney admits that it can do more. "Our intention is to grow the convenience store sector," he says. "We acknowledge more can be done."
The lack of awareness is restricting the offer that small stores stock, with only 20% of retailers saying they sell many products.
However, with 65% of independents saying they intend to expand their ranges, the future looks more promising.
"None of our customers actually come up and ask for specific Fairtrade products, but we do sell a fair amount of snacks and coffee," says one retailer. "This has encouraged us to look at selling more products, although we are not sure what these will yet be."