Is Australian Retail Becoming the Land of the Cheap?

By Judith Treanor | 27 Feb 2019

According to the Founder of Temples and Markets, Judith Treanor, the growing love affair Australia has with brands like Kmart and cheap, mass-produced goods is taking a toll on the local e-commerce sector.

With Facebook groups like Afterpay Obsession and Kmart mums, many artisans, craftspeople and creative types who make their products are suffering because people want things super cheap and super-fast.

Mass produced goods rule the market. I see daily posts on Facebook from very clever people who are making beautiful products being criticised because their items are too expensive. Things like beautifully hand knitted blankets for beds, or professionally made wedding cakes that would have taken hours to make.

Yet people only want to pay as little as they can for these products. I think people have no idea how much time and effort goes into making something from scratch that doesn’t involve an extrusion machine or a production line.

For the past few years, I’ve combined my love for travel and markets, exploring the world to curate a range of products for online store, Temples and Market.

When you travel and see a lot of the world, you see things differently. I have seen amazing things as I travel. I come home from Thailand with a ring made by a master craftsperson and people stop me in the street wanting to know where I got it.

But, sadly, the Australian market in design, fashion and homewares is limited; we do not have a huge choice despite how small the world is getting. For many big players, Australia is not worth it. But people really do want nice things and I wanted to expose people here to a wider market. So many have been brainwashed into thinking cheap is better. As consumers, we are our own worst enemy.

I honestly don’t think consumers realise that their choice of buying cheap is closing many shops and giving large multinationals the space to flood the market with cheaper products.

People want more bang for their buck and this is driving down the prices of everything, which inevitably has a ripple effect on the economy. It is not sustainable and is having an impact on retail.

Retailers have to make a profit and the people who make it have to earn better than a living wage. Think about how you can go into Kmart and buy a $4 t-shirt – how much does the person who made that shirt make?

On more than one occasion I’ve been taken to task by people who find my products too expensive. I was selling these beautiful cowhide stools that were handmade in Bangkok. One morning, I woke up to a tirade from someone who told me how disgusting it I was selling them for $180 each; ‘I could make this in my sleep’, she said.

Could she? People do not recognise quality and they certainly do not want to pay for it. It is getting harder to find people who appreciate quality.

Each item in my collection of curated products is loved and handpicked because of the attention to detail in connecting the product to the story of the person who made it. I want to create connections and share my love of creativity with others who appreciate craftsmanship and skill.

When people think of Asia, they think cheap tacky souvenirs, but I want to change that perception; there are unique products out there.  So many talented people using recycled materials, with amazing ideas, using traditional methods. I would hope that this is something people will come to appreciate.

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