Fair-trade retailer Ten Thousand Villages is winding down its corporate operations by liquidating inventory and closing 10 company-run stores across the country, the Mennonite Central Committee Canada announced Tuesday.
Winnipeg’s two Ten Thousand Villages locations (963 Henderson Hwy. and 134 Plaza Dr.) will be shuttered March 31 and May 29, respectively.
Eight independently-operated Ten Thousand Villages stores, including two Manitoba locations (Steinbach and Brandon), will remain open under a licensing agreement with MCC Canada.
Some independent stores, including locations in B.C., Ontario and New Brunswick, will also be closing. Canada’s first Ten Thousand Villages location, an independent store in Altona, shut down at the end of 2019.
MCC Canada executive director Rick Cober Bauman said the social enterprise helped develop the fair-trade movement in Canada and the United States, but new competition cropped up as the market grew.
“We tried to grow the online sales, we tried to grow wholesale sales, and worked very hard to diversify and shift from the model that had been very successful in the ’90s and the early 2000s — and we simply couldn’t do that,” said Cober Bauman.
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“And let’s remember: MCC is not primarily a retailer — we’re a Christian faith-based relief, development and peace organization that’s 100 years old. We continue to do that work locally, and especially internationally in over 50 countries.”
Roughly 100 full- and part-time employees across Canada will be impacted by the closures, Cober Bauman said, including 24 at the head office and warehouse in New Hamburg, Ont.
Ten Thousand Villages’ Canadian online store will close May 29. However, the U.S. arm is unaffected, and its online store will begin shipping to Canada to fill the void.
“Fair trade is in the mix in a way that it wouldn’t have been without Ten Thousand Villages, or without the engagement of people at all levels — staff, volunteers, shoppers, artisans — and that’s a really important message for today,” Cober Bauman said.
Solomon Israel is a full-time reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press and for two years, the lead writer for Free Press cannabis news site, The Leaf News. He continues to provide coverage of the cannabis beat while covering business in the city and province.