SIS Retail Academy to help Scotland’s social enterprises gear up for Christmas

Alastair Davis, chief executive of SIS

A GROUP of 31 social entrepreneurs will gather virtually this week for Social Investment Scotland’s (SIS) Retail Academy – a programme designed to help social enterprises navigate changing markets, ahead of the peak Christmas period.

Now in its 4th year, the 2020 cohort includes:

  • Nicola Taylor, customer relationship manager at Just Trading Scotland, a seller of fair, fine and ethical food
  • Sinita Potiwal, café manager at Punjabi Junction, which supports women in the community with skills and work experience
  • Hazel Smith, mil manager at Uist Wool, an initiative using local fleece to connect the community with cultural heritage
  • Louise Hastie at Lower Impact Living, which sells ethical, sustainable gifts and toiletries with profits going towards eco-friendly initiatives

All 31 social enterprises and entrepreneurs will benefit from five days of interactive workshops that will help them to manage the complexities of selling goods and services amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and to take advantage of the opportunities available to them. Sessions will be hosted by specialists including Margaret McSorley Walker, director of Scotch Cross, trend specialist and an expert in product innovation, and Jamie Jefferson, co-founder of leading digital transformation agency, Equator.

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the retail sector, with online shopping accounting for more than a quarter (26.1%) of all sales in September, compared to 18.1% during the same period last year. At the height of lockdown, in May, the figure peaked at a record 32.8%. As well as shopping online, consumers are increasingly demanding more from their brands, with the recent EY Future Consumer Index showing that 62% of people would be more likely to purchase from companies that they feel are doing good for society.

As the UK gears up for the festive season, retail experts are predicting a huge surge in the demand for purpose-driven goods and services that can be purchased online. The main objective of the 2020 Retail Academy is to help social enterprises to embrace the opportunities of a changing marketplace and adapt to new consumer shopping habits.

The Retail Academy is delivered in partnership with Asda and supported by the Scottish Government. 

Alastair Davis, chief executive of SIS, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the opportunity to rebuild an economy which positively impacts people and planet as much as profit. This Christmas will be a crucial time for the social enterprise sector as more and more consumers look to shop for ethical and sustainable gifts from sellers who make a wider contribution to their local communities.

“We hope that by the end of the Retail Academy participants will feel better informed and better connected, with the confidence to sell their products and their impact, directly to consumers – perhaps even globally.

“This is the SIS programme that I am most proud of and I can’t wait to see what opportunities and partnerships develop over the course of the next week.”

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