Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor fairs and markets have experienced rapid growth in prominent urban areas, as they align with social distancing guidelines while facilitating in-person interactions. These bustling events showcase a diverse range of products including apparel, handcrafted items, tea/coffee sets, antique collectables, exquisite ceramics, and paintings among others. Their offerings predominantly cater to the lifestyle preferences of the middle class rather than essential necessities. Notably, these outdoor fairs and markets strongly resonate with the principles of Fairtrade. Fairtrade, hence, endeavours to foster connections with potential partners and supporters who aspire to embrace a higher quality of environmental consciousness life.

Fairtrade organized a comprehensive activities comprising a study tour and booth assistance at the Suzhou Dongxi Qiao Market, China for representatives of 7 SPOs.  It focuses on the promotion of SPO products using a market-oriented approach. The tour was facilitated by esteemed individuals, namely Ms Jinghong Yu, the Chair of the Board of China Producers Network (CPN), and Mr Xinrong Zhao, a member of the NAPP Board and Vice Chair of the CPN Board. In total 8 meetings were conducted to organize this event.

The SPOs participating in the study tour gained invaluable insights and discovered best practices. These include the significance of booth layout and presentation in capturing the attention of customers. Various observations revealed that the effective utilization of display racks, signage, and decorations played a pivotal role in creating distinctive and appealing booths. The tour also emphasized the importance of quality packaging in bolstering brand recognition. Packaging serves as a vital bridge between the brand and consumers that shapes the brand’s image and fosters consumer recognition and trust.


Furthermore, the tour identified the skills required to engage with customers and share compelling narratives as crucial factors for success. The impressive interactions witnessed between vendors and customers, coupled with the storytelling behind the products established a strong emotional connection that effectively communicated the unique qualities and origin stories of the showcased items.

Based on the tour, 4 SPOs that have experience in retail packaging and complying with retailing regulations, have received support to showcase and endorse their products at a booth in Suzhou Market, China. Furthermore, 3 SPOs have been chosen as observers, with the anticipation that they will explore potential markets in the coming days. The objectives of this activity are as follows-

  1. To increase awareness of Fairtrade among the specific consumer demographic by actively promoting a curated selection of Fairtrade products.
  2. Sustain the progress of Small Producer Organizations (SPOs) that have received funding from SECO and the Fairtrade resilience fund. This ensures their continued participation in the retail sector.
  3. Encourage the participation of other SPOs that are in the early stages of establishing their retail business.

Drawing from their learning experiences at the Suzhou Market, SPOs have developed action plans tailored to their respective specialities. The Tea SPO recognizes the importance of crafting an enticing display to capture the attention of potential customers. Key tips include selecting an appropriate banner size, incorporating high-quality images, showcasing the uniqueness of their tea products, maintaining a simple and easily understandable presentation, offering samples, employing suitable lighting, and ensuring a seamless purchasing process.

The Peanut SPO created visually striking displays using baskets or wooden crates positioned at various heights. Their plan also involves providing samples, educating customers about the health benefits of organic peanuts, utilizing social media platforms for promotional purposes, collaborating with fellow vendors for cross-promotion, and introducing unique peanut-based products.

The Coffee SPO intends to enhance the visual appeal of its booth through effective signage and displays. They will offer complimentary samples, provide detailed information about their coffee offerings, be prepared to answer customer inquiries, consider implementing discounts or promotional offers, and actively engage with customers to foster meaningful relationships. On June 18, the Coffee SPO participated in a Fair in Kunshan, Jiangsu based on the knowledge acquired.

By implementing these best practices, SPOs can enhance their visibility, attract more customers, and ultimately increase their sales and market presence. Furthermore, the support provided SPOs to showcase their products at the Suzhou Market and the exploration of potential markets by other SPOs demonstrates Fairtrade’s commitment to helping SPOs expand their reach and tap into new consumer demographics. By leveraging their newfound knowledge and seizing these opportunities, SPOs can position themselves for sustained growth and success in the competitive retail landscape.


“The experience of participating in the Suzhou Craftsmen Market is very impressive.  As a coffee producer, I gained valuable insights and inspiration from other exhibitors’ designs and packaging.

Firstly, I learned the importance of booth setup. By observing the booth designs of participating exhibitors, including food, drinks, art crafts, I discovered that an eye-catching and inviting booth attracts more customers. They cleverly utilized display racks, signage, and decorations to create unique and appealing booths. I realized that the layout and presentation of the booth are crucial in capturing the attention of customers. By incorporating the lessons from exhibitors’ booth designs, I can improve the visual appeal of our coffee products and attract more potential buyers.

Secondly, I recognized the significance of product packaging. Most packaging emphasised on detail and brand image of the products, using high-quality packaging boxes, labels, and bags to enhance the attractiveness of the products. I vividly realized how good product packaging can help enhance consumer recognition and desire to purchase. We will put more focus on our coffee packaging in the future.

Lastly, I learned about the skills to engage with customers and tell a good story. At the market, I observed how exhibitors interacted with their customers and shared stories behind their products. They established emotional connections with customers and shared the unique qualities and origin stories of their products. This is very impressive, and I believe that as a Fairtrade coffer producer, I should be able to convey the distinctiveness and attractive stories of my coffee. This is the untouched area for us, and we need to work on this.

In conclusion, participating in the Suzhou Craftsmen Market provided us with valuable lessons and experiences. From booth setup and product packaging to customer engagement, we gained insights that will help us enhance our coffee business and better connect with customers in the market. – Coffee producer from Suzhou Craftsmen Market. 


“The participation in Suzhou Craftsmen Market is an eye-opening experience for us. The most impressive experience is that I recognized the importance of good product packaging. In the past, we focused on exporting and therefore paid little attention to packaging. As the market competition gets intensive, it is undoubted that we will invest more in packaging.

At the market, all participating exhibitors attached great attention to the packaging of their products. They use high-quality boxes, ribbons, and bags to make their products look outstanding and attractive, thus encouraging customers to try and buy their products.

Moreover, good packaging helps enhance brand recognition. By observing the product packaging of other tea farmers, I understood that packaging serves as a bridge between the brand and consumers. Well-designed packaging can shape brand image and enhance consumers’ recognition and trust in the brand. I have decided to draw inspiration from these packaging strategies to further elevate the brand value of our tea products, making them stand out in the market.

Furthermore, good packaging also help product products during transportation. Some tea exhibitors utilized appropriate packaging materials and structures to ensure the safety and quality of their teas during transportation. They paid attention to the details, ensuring that the packaging effectively protected the teas from external environmental factors.

Overall, participating in the Suzhou Craftsmen Market has made me deeply appreciate the significance of product packaging in marketing. I have reported what I have learnt to my supervisors and shared some pictures taken at the market. These will be helpful and thought-provoking for us to develop our packing.” – a tea producer from Suzhou Craftsmen Market.

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