Novica Sells Peace With Art, Handicrafts From Around the World

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Novica United Inc., a retailer of handmade international art and home décor owned one-fifth by National Geographic, has created a new World Peace division featuring more than 500 peace-themed products.


Located at novica.com and peacegifts.com, the new store was born after the Los Angeles-based retailer began receiving huge quantities of peace-themed artworks and handicrafts originating from India, Mexico, Bali and Java in Indonesia, West Africa, Thailand, Brazil and the Andes.


"With war and peace on everyone's mind these days, I guess it was inevitable that so many artists would turn their focus to those themes," said Catherine Ryan, editor, vice president of communications and peace project leader at Novica.


The peace-focused store features jewelry, sculptures, paintings, angels, peace décor, love-themed knick-knacks, rugs and tapestries. The product pages carry photographs and descriptions of the items as well as biographies of the artists and artisans. Founded five years ago, Novica recently expanded to represent more than 10,000 artists and artisans worldwide. The site offers more than 20,000 limited-edition gift and home décor items.


Novica's vast inventory is another reason why a separate store for the peace-themed items was needed. Those artworks would have been lost among the other products. The items typically are in the $20 to $500 range. Artists set their own prices in dollars, earning more than they can locally. Orders placed online are communicated to the artist, who then brings the item to Novica's regional office for packaging and shipping.


Novica is relying on word-of-mouth from customers to promote the peace-themed store. It also anticipates some holiday coverage in gift guides and other press.


Ryan said the peace theme is resonating not just with its wholesale customers but also its retail channel. The company's customer base includes people passionate about indigenous artists, especially those seeking authenticity and the need to know about the items they buy.


"We're finding that this demographic is surprisingly enormous and increasing every year," Ryan said. "I think this is a time in history when more and more of us are seeking to fill empty spaces in our lives with as much meaning as possible, perhaps to counteract the increasingly homogenous and mass-market aspects of the world we live in. Catalog retailers, in particular, are also registering with our wholesale program in greater and greater numbers since we're able to bring story value to their pages."


Novica's experience in special projects includes an ongoing effort launched three years ago, the Build-A-School project that resulted in a school built in El Salvador. In 2002, the Paintings Elephant Project was launched to support elephant rescue shelters in Thailand and Bali in Indonesia. Seventeen elephants paint the canvases in this ongoing project.


The World Peace Project is now a permanent addition to Novica's retail and wholesale offerings.


"We'll place considerable energy on this theme well into next year, since it's already so well received by both our artists and customers," Ryan said. "We'd love to inspire others in the retail industry to follow suit. In the business world, there are so many opportunities to help make a difference and increase revenues at the same time."


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