Social Justice: Toms Marketplace Deserves a Look

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Our post back in October  brought attention to the issues surrounding Toms Shoes’ One for One program and the criticisms the company has received.    That post spawned an interesting discussion about the responsibility of business to do social good, and to ensure that their programs were not only providing  long lasting impact, but not doing damage.

There was definitely a line of thinking among quite a few commentators that ‘at least Toms was doing SOMETHING.’ It is clear that Toms Shoes heeded some of the criticism and changed their One for One model; they are currently building a factory in Haiti and Ethiopia where they will produce the shoes they give away AND create jobs for an economy that sorely needs them.

Toms Marketplace Launches

Back in November, Toms launched Toms Marketplace with the following stated goal:

We believe commerce can be about more than just profits.

But it takes more than belief to make this a reality. So we’re giving other social entrepreneurs a platform right here on our site to help them succeed. Introducing The Marketplace, a new destination for making a difference.

They continue to explain that Toms Marketplace is a different kind of giving, and aims to highlight companies who are founded on doing social good by providing jobs, or using a portion of their profits to target various causes.

Here Blake Mycoskie explains his inspiration for starting Toms Marketplace:

Toms Marketplace Shop by Cause

One of the coolest features on the Marketplace segment of Toms Shoes’ webpage is the ability to Shop by Cause, Region or Brand.  Each of those pages is broken into segments, where, on the Cause Page you can shop based on:

      • ChildrenToms Marketplace Tee
      • Education
      • Health
      • Job Creation
      • Nutrition
      • Water

The Regions Page allows you to choose which part of the globe your purchase will impact, so for example, if you want to keep your charitable efforts focused on the US, you can search products only donating to causes within the US.

On the Search by Brand Page you can select from any of the companies Toms Marketplace features, including one of favorites and past featured companies, Sword & Plough.

And, to make it even easier, the page has its own menu allowing you to shop by product type.

More Great Features

Riley Roadster Toms MarketplaceYes, this post may seem like a love fest for Toms Marketplace, but I can’t help it – there are just so many things they did right on this.  For one, it is clear that they plan on growing the list of participating companies, and even have a Suggest a New Partner Page.  They also include a great FAQ Page to answer all of the obvious and common questions.

The page is simple to navigate and great looking, and on it they feature a product, a region, a partner and a founder.   It also features a Gift Finder option to help you narrow down your choice, a godsend for those shopping for the impossible to buy for.

Social Media for Toms Marketplace

Currently the Marketplace Page social media icons take you to the Toms Shoes vibrant Facebook Page and its 2 million plus followers.  The same is true of its equally active and well followed Twitter, Pinterest , G+, and YouTube profiles.

It is understandable that Toms Shoes does not want to create and then man new social profiles for Toms Marketplace, however, if indeed the new segment of their business is ‘bigger than us,’ as the marketing efforts state, there may come a day when it becomes necessary.

What Toms Marketplace Means When it Comes to Profits

Apart from being a brilliant idea and an antidote for the criticisms Tom Shoes began to hear about the short term impact of its One for One program, Toms Marketplace may be a hugely profitable segment of business for the company.  What you may not know is that 75% of the shoes Toms sell are purchased by women; the company has long struggled to attract male customers.

Carmen Lobello wrote a great article over on The Week where she highlights just why this move is so smart for Toms Shoes as they capitalize on the growing push for social responsibility in business.   Lobello also quotes a great post  on Buzzfeed that really nails how powerful the new Marketplace is:

Creating the website also makes sense looking at the brand’s growth projections — after all, how many pairs of Toms could a person need? Toms has added styles like ballet flats and brogues for customers who want something other than its classic slippers, but recognizes that especially during the holidays, there’s an opportunity to tap into demand for other products, [Blake Mycoskie, TOMS’ founder] said.

Rather than using a consignment model where TOMS charges the companies a fee for the items sold through the site, TOMS Marketplace operates independently, buying the goods at wholesale prices, controlling storage and shipment, and charging “a standard retail markup” to customers,says Maheshwari.

Give Back Toms Marketplace

Social Good is Big Business

A few weeks back we wrote about Social Good and whether businesses should be trying to do the ‘government’s work.’  It surprised us a bit that there was some moderate push back against companies who made social responsibility a part of their purpose.  There are those who believe business should be about profit and nothing else; I think that viewpoint will lose the debate over time.

This series has made very clear to us that consumers are embracing social good companies.  It will be interesting to watch Toms Marketplace, with all of the earned press and attention it gets, as it grows.

My prediction is that it will flourish, because it is my firm belief that consumers care a lot about what the companies they buy from are doing.  We’ll be watching, and of course reporting back, to see if my prediction is accurate.

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