Yale Bookstore adds socially conscious brand

The Yale Bookstore is now carrying apparel made by Alta Gracia, an American-owned company that pays its workers in the Dominican Republic a living wage.

Along with 185 other Barnes & Noble-run college bookstores, the Yale Bookstore began carrying the label two months ago, manager Joseph King said. While clothing from Alta Gracia sells for the same price as other brands carried in the bookstore, the workers are paid three-and-a-half times more than the minimum wage in the Dominican Republic, according to the company’s website.

“Doing good can be good business — they’re not mutually exclusive,” company founder Joseph Bozich said at a press conference.

Instead of getting 80 cents an hour, which is the current minimum wage in the Dominican Republic, workers at Alta Gracia make $2.83 an hour, which enables them to provide their families with adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care and education, Bozich said.

Alta Gracia is also the first company endorsed by the Workers Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights monitoring organization, a company spokesman said.

At the Yale Bookstore, the Alta Gracia T-shirt sells for $17.98, the same price as a similar T-shirt made by Champion, another clothing brand. Joel Friedman, the vice president of general merchandise for Barnes & Noble, said the company has sent many signs to college bookstores to advertise the brand. So far, however, only a small rectangular sign stands among the piles of sweatshirts and T-shirts on the front table in the Yale Bookstore.

Two students interviewed said they were not aware that the bookstore now carries the brand.

“I have looked for clothes in the Yale Bookstore many times, but I am unaware of the Alta Gracia line,” Kristen Leung ’14 said.

The Yale Bookstore joined 185 other Barnes & Noble-run college booksstores in carrying apparel made by a company endorsed by an independent labor rights watchdog.
The Yale Bookstore joined 185 other Barnes & Noble-run college booksstores in carrying apparel made by a company endorsed by an independent labor rights watchdog.

Julia Hosch ’14 said if she were aware of the brand, she would buy an Alta Gracia T-shirt over a similar T-shirt for the same price.

While the Yale Bookstore manager King would not release specific sales numbers, he said the brand has sold “very well.” The bookstore at Duke University, which is not affiliated with Barnes & Noble, has purchased $250,000 of Alta Gracia apparel and cleared $31,000 over the past three weeks, said Jim Wilkerson, the bookstore’s director of trademark licensing and store operations. Wilkerson said the Duke bookstore has been aggressive with advertising Alta Gracia apparel, hanging banners from its ceiling and placing postcards about the company in every student’s mailbox.

At Campus Customs, located next door to the Yale Bookstore, manager Barry Cobden said his company supports Alta Gracia’s mission but will not actively seek to carry the brand. A Campus Custom T-shirt is $3 cheaper than an Alta Gracia T-shirt because Campus Customs’ clothing is printed on-site, Cobden said.

“There are a lot of unemployed people around this campus, so I would love to see T-shirts made in America,” he said.

One hundred seventy-five Barnes & Noble-run college bookstores are scheduled to sell Alta Gracia-made clothing in the next few months.

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