ABC Home is launching an Africa promotion on Thursday. The event, which runs through the holiday season, spotlights about $1 million worth of Congolese raffia wraps, indigo textiles from Mali, Rwandan pottery and other indigenous, handmade and sustainable merchandise, as well as organizations dedicated to healing the economic and social ills of the continent.
This story first appeared in the November 12, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The promotion, themed “Power to Women: Our Most Precious Resource,” will donate 5 percent of sales to three organizations: V-day, which provides refuge for survivors of war and sexual violence; the Batonga Foundation, a provider of secondary school and higher education to girls, and the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots effort that began in Kenya to reduce global warming and employs women who plant trees.
“ABC is not about charity,” said Paulette Cole, chief executive officer and creative director of ABC Home, on Broadway and 19th Street in Manhattan. “We provide the tools to fish, rather than the fish.
“We are using commerce to influence the economy [of Africa] and enable consumers to make more significant spending choices,” she said. “This is anything but empty consumerism.”
The African imports will be cross-merchandised primarily on the first and second floors of the store, with some goods also featured on the third floor. In the past, ABC has focused on different “micro-stories” that support African causes, but this is the first time a broader approach to the continent has been taken. “With this campaign, we are trying to initiate real consciousness,” Cole said. She further described the purpose as “illuminating Africa as a nexus point of healing in the effort to transform our world.”
The promotion reflects ABC’s strategy of cause-related merchandising whether it involves environmentally sound products that support Earth Day, imports that support endangered indigenous species from different parts of the world, or safe beauty products that underscore cancer awareness. Typically, the store stages a few such events each year.
Aside from Mali, Congo and Rwanda, there are products from South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Morocco. “So much of it is one-of-a-kind merchandise,” Cole said. “Very little of what you find here is distributed in other stores.”
In addition, for the first time, mannequins from the Phansi museum in Durban, South Africa, are on display outside that country. Each is dressed in traditional ceremonial costume representing diverse regions of South Africa. Also featured will be demonstrations by artisans and a speaker series.