Ann Arbor Businesses Embrace 'Buy It For Life' Concept

Sep 17, 2018

89.1 WEMU's Jorge Avellan discovered there are businesses in Washtenaw County contributing to the vision of buying products for life.


Everyone loves a good deal.  Sometimes you get what you pay for, and the inexpensive items we choose don’t last very long, and we spend more money replacing those items.  There are some products and stores that are embracing the concept of “Buy it For Life.”  

"So on all of our products, all of Fjallraven clothes products we have this lifetime warranty on all mechanical defects."

You’ll find the Swedish outdoor outfitter located on Main Street in the heart of Ann Arbor.  It’s been there since 2015, and among the company’s trademark business models is to provide clothing that will last for the long-run.  Store manager Kelsey Patterson says that includes buttons, stitching on zippers, and components that should not break.  If something does break, Fjallraven will try to fix it for free or replace it with a new one. 

While the clothing may cost you more up front, that policy is attractive to customers like Abbey Moisio.  

"I think it’s awesome that they’re willing to fix it or replace the product for you.  That’s amazing, and it really speaks to the quality of the product and the company."

For generations, consumers expected long-lasting and durable products for a fair price.  In many instances, that is no longer the case, and that’s where you see the genesis of the modern-day “Buy it for Life” movement.  You’ll find that a good deal of that conversation is taking place on social media platform, including Reddit.  There, subscribers discuss the quality of specific product brands and share personal experiences.

Sandra Andrade is Executive Director of the Main Street Area Association in Ann Arbor

"It’s hard to make your money.  And when you pay for something you want it to last."

And, for some, there is an added environmental benefit to “Buy it For Life.”  Back at Fjallraven, store manager Kelsey Patterson says sustainability is the most important factor of their business model.

Kelsey: "People seek out environmentally made products.  We have backpacks that are made from recycled water bottles." 

Jorge: "You can’t drink out of them though, right?"  

Kelsey: "You can’t.  Maybe.  They are waterproof"

And, there are environmentally conscious decisions made as well.

"Some of our standards here at Fjallraven, we use organic cotton, recycled polyesters.  Everything is spin-dyed, so it cuts down on a ton of water and chemical use."

And that translates into sales.  A bit further down South Main Street, Ten Thousand Villages is using a similar model to the “Buy it for Life” concept.  Cathy Marks is the store manager.

"Our stated policy is that returns are accepted within 60 days, but we’ve always been extremely flexible if someone wants to return an item for any reason.  If it’s an item that we can identify, meaning that it’s still in our system, even if it’s been in our system for 30 years, and they bought it 10 years ago, we will always take it back as a return."

Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade store.  Fair trade is a designation developed to help consumers support products that come from underdeveloped countries that have been certified to provide fair wages and safe working conditions.  Forced child labor is prohibited.  

Marks says you should also know these are high-quality items. 

"We probably have about 1,500 unique items in the store right now.  One of our more popular lines is 'Bombshell Jewelry.'  It’s jewelry that is made from the brass of bombshell casings from Cambodia.  There are still a lot of bombshell casings littering the country side.  And they are able to transform them into beautiful pieces of brass jewelry.  Some of them are referred to as from 'Bombs to Peace' or from 'Bombs to Beauty.'"

Marks says the Ten Thousand Villages chain believes their products will last through generations, and that makes it easy for them to stand strong behind its customer-friendly return policy.

"If a customer has that in mind, that they want this item to continue through the generations, perhaps, we offer.  When people buy something here, we can print up a nice little gift card that explains that particular item.  How it was made and the artisan group that made it."

Both Fjallraven and Ten Thousand Villages believe if you are unhappy for any reason, it's better business to make it right.  Fjallraven has been in Ann Arbor since 2015 but has been Sweden’s leading outdoor apparel company since 1960.  The lifetime warranties on its products keeps generations of customers coming back, online and in-store, because they know the money they spend will “Buy it for Life. “

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— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him