New Year, New Economy, and a New Direction for Salutations

Can you feel it? There is a shift in the air that is palpable. Brought about largely by the economic downturn that ushered in the New Economy, there is a clear shift away from Rampant Materialism and toward The Meaningful ~ meaningful relationships, meaningful communications, and meaningful purchases. In other words, toward Things That Matter.

Retail store owners who are in the glass-half-empty camp are crying in their soup over this shift. It is not easy to be a retailer these days. It is no longer enough to have great products and excellent service. People are no longer looking for ways to spend their freely flowing money, but are instead carefully considering nearly every purchase.

I happen to be firmly in the glass-half-full camp and I have not been this excited in years!

What if . . . ?

On Christmas Day, as I reflected on 2010 and pondered the advent of 2011, I found myself asking several questions that began with the phrase “What if?”  {Those who know me know that my sentences often start with this phrase.}

What if my business could make a real difference in the lives of others?

What if my retail stores sold Things That Matter, rather than just things?

What if Salutations inspired, and even fostered, The Meaningful?

What if my business could serve as a vehicle to give back in a larger and more meaningful way to causes that greatly impact the lives of others?

What if my boutiques attracted a community of positive, inspired people who feel the same way?

And then, in a flash of true inspiration, the answer to all of these questions hit me in the form of another question . . . “Why not?!”

So here goes. . . . Salutations is redefining the meaning of “retail therapy” and I hope you will come along with me.

Going forward, my product selection process for Salutations will be based on a framework known as the “triple bottom-line”: People, Planet and Profits. As of January 1, 2011, any new product or line that I bring into Salutations must meet one or more of the following criteria:

~ positively impacts people through economic empowerment, education, and/or enhanced quality of life for a community {think TOMS Shoes} or by simply inspiring the end user to live more fully or more healthily {like the 5 Book}

~ positively impacts the planet by being eco-friendly and employing sustainable manufacturing practices {think Smock, our fabulous line of wedding invitations made by a company that really walks the walk}

~ contributes a portion of profits in a meaningful way to at least one cause that makes one of the above positive impacts {Smock does this too!}

In addition, I will contribute a percentage of Salutations’ annual profits to two high-impact charities that are close to my heart:

Wine to Water, founded by Doc Hendley {named 2009 CNN Hero} when he was a bartender in Raleigh, North Carolina. The mission of the charitable organization is to provide access to clean water in developing countries. {Did you know that more children die from water-related illnesses than AIDS, malaria and measles combined?}

Room to Read, founded by ex-Microsoft executive John Wood, whose mission is to transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. This organization recently received a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, the highest rating possible, due to Wood’s business-based approach to the non-profit, charitable entity.

I am proud to say that a large number of the products already carried by Salutations meet these criteria, including:

Smock ~ wedding invitations and stationery letterpress printed on paper made from bamboo, a truly sustainable and renewable resource. Smock’s printing facility is also wind-powered and 100% carbon-neutral. In addition, they routinely give back to environmental causes.

Blabla ~ beautiful, cuddly dolls and other items hand-knit by Peruvian artisans from natural fibers grown in Peru

Compendium ~ inspirational gift books and greeting cards

TableTopics ~ sets of cards with thought-provoking questions that help families stay connected by engaging in conversation

Candles, diffusers, and bath & body products made from natural ingredients like soy and essential oils

Banner Bags ~ stylish and durable tote bags made from upcycled event advertising banners

As a part of this new direction, we will begin to post informational signage throughout the store that will let you know the positive impact of these products, as well as offering more detailed information about the products and their producers for those who are interested in learning more.

Of course, the products must still be stylish, functional and high-quality. My goal is to have people fall in love with a product because of the product itself, with the “cherry on top” being the story of the positive impact created by the product. {You won’t be seeing any wood-carved tribal masks gracing our shelves ~ while beautiful in their own way, they don’t really fit the Salutations look and feel.}

What do you think of this new Retail Therapy, as redefined by Salutations? Do you know of any great products that meet one or more of the new criteria? Please leave a comment ~ I would love to hear your feedback and product suggestions. I’d also love to hear any “What if?” stories that have sent you in a new direction this year.

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