• U.S.

RETAIL TRADE: Deserter from Fair Trade

2 minute read

The crumbling front of Fair Trade was weakened by another major desertion. After six years of setting Fair Trade prices on its products, Westinghouse last week gave up. It abandoned Fair Trade pricing on its electric housewares and bed coverings. Said Westinghouse: “Actually, we believe in Fair Trade, but under present circumstances, do not believe it is workable.” The company explained: 1) mail-order shipments of price-cut appliances from non-Fair Trade places into Fair Trade states “hopelessly” broke down enforcement, and 2) the “varying price situation” from one state to another made national promotions almost impossible. It was the second big pull-out of the year; earlier, toy-train maker Lionel Corp. abandoned Fair Trade, dropped lawsuits against R. H. Macy and other retailers.

As the news of Westinghouse’s move hit Fair Traders, three manufacturers—General Electric, Sunbeam and Proctor Electric—announced they would hold the line. But it is a hard line to hold. The smart shopper can usually find name appliances below the “suggested” list price.

Fair Trade was also weakened in the book business last week. The Federal Trade Commission ruled that publishers who sell their books at discounts through book clubs cannot force retail stores to charge the list price. Bookstores can now cut prices on any club choice.

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