Common Market: Shop ethically this Christmas with a new online marketplace
The National, by Kirsteen Paterson
A new online marketplace dedicated to “local, independent and ethical” Scottish producers is to launch in time for Christmas.
Common Market, an offshoot of the Common Weal think tank, aims to provide an alternative to the big businesses and high street stores that dominate UK retail.
The project, which will launch on November 14, will include homewares, confectionary, artwork and gifts from small Scots firms to help boost communities and aid the country’s creative sector.
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Project coordinator Daniel Young said: “We are trying to boost Scottish businesses and producers by providing them access to a market that, up until now, was under-served.
“Individuals in Scotland wish to purchase products from local businesses, producers and manufacturers but have no single access point to the wide variety of products available. Common Market provides a platform for these products.”
Artist Stewart Bremner is amongst the first entrepreneurs to sign up for the pilot phase of the project, which will see sellers pay a small fee to fund its continuation and expansion.
He said he is “really excited” by the venture, stating: “In the decade or so that I’ve sold my work online, I’ve used a number of platforms and while each has merits, they’re essentially faceless global corporations.
“Common Market is totally different – not only is it local, it supports an incredibly important institution. I have a wide selection of my work in Common Market, from prints to cards, calendars, bags and books, and I hope that both Common Weal and myself will benefit from this exciting collaboration.”
Luxury knitwear maker Lucy Donell will also sell her lambswool scarves, cushions and accessories through the online marketplace. She believes Common Market will help small firms like hers grow, saying: “Scotland has a wealth of design talent and many independent businesses producing beautiful contemporary craft. In my experience this industry is friendly and supportive, and together we help to boost the profile of quality Scottish products. Having the opportunity to show off and sell our work through quality platforms is really beneficial and I look forward to being part of Common Market.”
The Isle of Skye Fudge Company will also take part in the pilot phase of the project, as will Edinburgh Remakery, a social enterprise selling refurbished electronics and upcycled furniture.
Director Sophie Unwin said: “If each of us put £100 a year into local businesses instead of chain stores, it would put an extra £3 million a year into the economy and create 1,000s more jobs for local people.”
Common Weal will use its established networks to promote the new trading arm, with all items listed on it either produced, designed or upcycled in Scotland.
Following the pilot phase, a review will take place to determine whether or not the project is self-sufficient.
Organisers are now asking more small Scots producers to get in touch, and updates in the lead-up to the launch will be posted on the organisation’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Any enquiries can be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organisers said: “People who want to buy local, buy Scottish, buy ethical and buy independent can do so in this brand new site.
The goal of Common Market is to boost and promote local and independent manufacture, while also demonstrating that alternative and sustainable retail models can exist and thrive to boost local economies.
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"HOW do we build a Scotland with greater economic equality and less poverty? And what exactly does it have to do with your Christmas shopping?
One important contribution to a fairer Scottish economy is to shop local, shop ethical and shop independent. And that’s why Common Weal is about to launch a pilot version of Common Market, an online marketplace for independent Scottish producers.
The reason why shopping for things produced locally helps is because the real economic value in a product comes from the act of making it. If something is made in Scotland then the skills needed are rewarded here with higher pay.
The reason is because independent companies owned in Scotland are much more likely to buy goods and services from other Scottish companies and to spend the profits in Scotland.
And of course Scottish companies live by rules on workers’ rights, health and safety, and environmental protection – and they pay their taxes.
At the moment most of us buy presents made in countries that have none of those protections.
But just as damagingly, they are made and sold by multinational corporations that aim to extract as much of the profit from every stage of the process as they can. From low pay in sweatshops to low pay in the big Scottish high street shops, costs are kept low. Few of those corporate profits are reinvested in Scotland and are taken by wealthy international shareholders.
When we talk about the manufacturing sector in Scotland we almost always talk about exports. But this is to miss an enormous potential for national economic growth – if only we could manufacture in Scotland more of what we consume in Scotland.
So what’s the barrier? Common Weal works with small independent producers to explore what policies would help. One of the most common messages we get is about market access.
With both high streets and web shopping dominated by a small number of multinational companies, it is difficult for Scottish producers to get fair access to Scottish consumers. Our producers can compete on price (because they don’t have the same overheads or take out the same profits) but they can’t compete with monopolies.
Every time you buy from an independent Scottish producer rather than rely on imports sold by a multinational, you help a Scottish business to survive – or be born. The more of these businesses there are, the more jobs and the more wealth we keep in Scotland. And the more we reduce economic inequality.
Of course international trade is important, but if you talk to Scottish producers you’ll find that many of them have not done well out of markets dominated by multinationals. They just want a fighting chance to sell to Scottish customers who often don’t even know they exist.
Common Weal has large networks of people who are interested in Scottish economic development. We asked small producers if getting access to those networks would be helpful. They told us it was a no-brainer.
So we’re piloting Common Market, a non-profit initiative to help make the lives of these producers more sustainable. We know National readers feel the same. If you can just buy a few of your presents this year through Common Market (or directly from any independent producers you already know), you’re playing your part in growing Scotland’s economy and tackling inequality.