Bookstore Trend Table Showcases Socially Conscious Crafts

June 04, 2012
The Leakey Collection helps fund small business opportunities in rural Africa; helping to feed families, educate children, improve healthcare and save the environment.

Now in its second year, the Trend Table is fast becoming a popular feature in many Barnes & Noble College stores. Offering a variety of unique merchandise, the idea behind the Trend Table is to introduce students to the kinds of products they might not usually associate with their neighborhood campus bookstore.

“We want to create really great reasons for our students to visit their store more often,” says Lisa Mazzio, Director of Merchandise for Barnes & Noble College. “For many colleges, there aren’t always a lot of retail options available around the campus, and the Trend Table gives us a showcase to introduce new ideas, or bring in products that our students are actively looking for – all at affordable price points.”

Collection with a Cause

The latest Trend Table collection features a “Give Back” theme and originated with research into the buying habits of the Barnes & Noble College demographic. Noting a strong reaction by students to cause-related products, Mazzio initiated a search to locate vendors who could offer strong socially-conscious narratives along with an eclectic mix of merchandise. Her search led to the seven or eight participating vendors who comprise the “Give Back” collection.

Giving Back With a Fair Trade Model

A portion of Marley headphone sales help provide musical instruments to students in disadvantaged schools.

“We wanted to offer a collection of mostly handmade artifacts from all around the world, provided from vendors who provide economic or sustainable benefits to the communities they represent,” Mazzio explains.

Examples include jewelry from The Leaky Collection, which is dedicated to creating empowerment and employment for rural Kenyans, to Bob Marley headphones, which help to support, a charity dedicated to youth and sustainable and responsible living. Students can also choose richly decorated scarves from SEAsTra, another participating vendor working to a Fair Trade business model, and bracelets from Thanda Zulu, whose products sustain South African beaders and fund the work of Thanda, a non-profit organization supporting Orphans Against AIDS.

“There’s a very personal connection and an attachment with these products,” points out Barnes & Noble College Buyer Dorm & Trend, Jeanne Parcella. “These are beautifully made artifacts, not made on a production line, and there is story behind each item.” 

Barnes & Noble campus bookstores will be promoting the Give Back Trend Tables through in-store signage, Facebook blasts and a blogging campaign. “We’ll be featuring a ‘vendor of the week’, offering more background on the organizations that make these products and profiling the kinds of people and initiatives our customers will be helping with their purchase,” Parcella explains. The Give Back Trend Tables will be featured in 100 stores beginning in June, and will be available through October.
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