‘It’s been a wonderful place to work’

Trade Aid Oamaru general manager Delwyn Cox says says she will miss working at the Thames St...
Trade Aid Oamaru general manager Delwyn Cox says says she will miss working at the Thames St store. PHOTO: JULES CHIN
"Don’t cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

This Dr Seuss quote has kept Trade Aid Oamaru general manager Delwyn Cox going for the last several months, since the announcement the Oamaru Trade Aid store would close its doors for the last time on June 22, after 30 years.

Mrs Cox, who has worked at the store for 16 years, said although it was "very sad" the popular store was closing, she hoped everyone, including the dedicated volunteer staff, would focus on the positive.

"It’s been a wonderful place to work. It’s that feel-good place.

"Think of all the good we’ve done and can continue to do with fair trade."

Trade Aid has faced a challenging environment in the past two years, with the cost-of-living crisis leading to rising costs and diminishing sales that have significantly impacted the organisation’s financial performance.

To ensure its ongoing sustainability, Trade Aid has made the decision to begin the process of progressively closing its stores.

Thirteen stores will close by the end of June and the remaining stores will close by the end of the year.

Despite the shop closures, people will still be able to buy Trade Aid products online.

"It’s not over. It will go to version two. We don’t know what that looks like yet," Mrs Cox said.

The store has been an integral part of Oamaru’s community and "will be missed".

"There has been a lot of emotional reactions to us closing.

"We’ve had huge sales recently and such support from the locals and over the last 30 years.

"I really want to thank everyone and our past and present volunteers over the years, too."

Mrs Cox said the store was a "wonderful" place to work and they were like "family".

"We all really care about each other. It’s not a nine-to-five gig for us, it’s a way of life.

"They [the volunteers] bring passion and dedication to everything. It’s nice to be around people that have the same values and that want to help improve others’ lives, too." Mrs Cox said.

She said it had been a joy to watch previous volunteer Petra Melton, who came to the store through the Workbridge employment programme 16 years ago, grow and move on to fulltime work.

"She was the coffee queen, doing all the ordering, understanding systems, knowing when we needed new stock.

"I just taught her some skills. She was really good and is now working fulltime at the Lagonda (Tearooms), although she told them ‘I need my Wednesday morning free so I can still volunteer at Trade Aid, too’, which they obliged," she said.

The store and its volunteers have made a "huge" contribution to the fair trade movement in New Zealand, Mrs Cox said.

"By educating Kiwis about the importance of fair trade practice and why we should buy better and helping sell products to better the lives of our partners in countries like Bangladesh, Mexico, India, Vietnam and many more countries."

Mrs Cox said that Jo Blakey, who had sat on the Trade Aid Trust for 22 years and had many roles on the trust, deserved thanks for all her hard work, including as health and safety officer in the last few years.

The current products in store, made by artisans from around the world, including some of Trade Aid’s most popular craft products, food and coffee are on sale at 50%-70% off.