Shopping with a social purpose

Shopping with a social purpose

Buy a dozen doughnuts to help grant the wishes of terminally-ill children, or a lip gloss to raise awareness of breast cancer.

From now till Nov 2, shoppers at Tangs can help the less fortunate during the department store's Shop For Good drive to champion social awareness - its first such campaign.

Some 40 brands and companies at Tangs' Orchard Road and VivoCity stores have pledged to donate some of their proceeds to selected charity causes.

For example, beauty brand Aveda will donate US$4 (S$5) to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation for every Hand Relief moisturiser sold. And for every $23.40 box of 12 Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts sold, 30 per cent, or about $7, will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation Singapore.

Tangs will also donate 50 cents to the Community Chest - Shop For Good's primary beneficiary - for every receipt generated during the campaign period, up to a maximum of $100,000. The Government will then match the funds raised dollar for dollar.

"Society is growing more socially conscious, especially the young. We're going along with where the society is moving," Tangs chairman Tang Wee Sung, 61, told The Straits Times.

He cited a 2012 global study by public relations firm Edelman which explored consumer attitudes towards social purposes. The study found that 84 per cent of the 500 Singaporeans surveyed said they would buy products from a company that actively supports a good cause.

"People are waiting for an opportunity like this. It's what our store stands for - we want to be part of the community," said Mr Tang, the second son of the store's late founder, Mr Tang Choon Keng, better known as C.K. Tang.

If successful, Mr Tang plans to make the Shop For Good campaign an annual affair.

The move is one of Tangs' several new offerings; its Orchard Road store is being renovated to accommodate a more open layout, said Mr Tang. It also plans to beef up its e-store to compete with online retailers, he added, without giving details.

Besides helping the less fortunate, social causes could also be beneficial to business.

Said Singapore Polytechnic senior retail lecturer Sarah Lim: "It's one way to stand out from the crowd, rather than competing based on price and variety. You need to give customers a reason to shop with you."

But she added that such campaigns need to be sustained for them to have a positive impact on a business' image in the long run.

The Body Shop chain, for example, has long been regarded as a retailer big on social causes. The British brand supports a range of social and environmental causes, including anti-animal testing.

While some shoppers would prefer to make a direct donation to charities, rather than buy something they do not need just to support a social cause, such initiatives are still a good start.

Said sales associate Janice Lim, 29: "If I were going to buy the item anyway, it feels good to know I'm helping a cause at the same time."

This article was first published on Oct 14, 2014.
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