Small Business Saturday & innovative retail relationships



Last weekend, Black Friday and Cyber Monday brought the nation’s biggest retailers into focus. Whilst not everybody agrees the US-import is necessarily a good thing for UK businesses, the numbers – not to mention the TV tugs of war – were staggering, with John Lewis racking up a tablet sale every second and recording its strongest ever week of sales. But this weekend, attention rightly shifts to the smaller, independent retailers. Tomorrow sees the return of Small Business Saturday, and Etsy – the online marketplace that boasts hundreds of thousands of sellers’ homemade and vintage goods – has popped up with a special Christmas store.

Small Business Saturday is another US import, conceived and first promoted by American Express in 2010 as a counterpart to Black Friday. It made its way across the pond last year when sales topped £460m. Attracting significant attention on Facebook and Twitter, organisers expect this year to be even bigger, with retailers right across the country taking part. You can follow it at #SmallBizSatUK.

Meanwhile, Etsy is one of the most exciting online platforms at the moment and I can’t wait to drop in on their Covent Garden pop-up, Etsy House, which opens today and runs until Monday. Marking the company’s first bricks-and-mortar venture in the UK, designers were invited to apply for their products to be included in the Christmas giftshop. Etsy launched a similar Holiday Shop in New York last year to boost brand awareness, and the experience attracted over 20,000 visitors.

 

As well as its new temporary store, Etsy is also looking to make permanent changes to its operating model by establishing wholesale relationships in key markets. The US’s wholesale operation kicked off earlier in the year and the UK arm is not far behind. Etsy already boasts relationships with influential retailers like Nordstrom and Liberty, so it is not hard to imagine that wholesale will be a key part of its business model for a long time to come. But the business is still thinking about its core members, both buyers and sellers. International multichannel manager Jonathan Zatland said: “it allows retailers to stock their shelves with meaning and create an authentic link between the person and the product.”

Etsy is at the forefront of a movement which takes the best parts of artisanal manufacturing and puts them onto a global platform. I think it is just brilliant that you can talk to the person behind the products you are buying, even if they are on the other side of the world. What Etsy is trying to do is clearly working. It recorded sales of US$1.35bn in 2013, and last month it had more than 25 million items for sale on its site. Other companies are now expanding into this kind of niche, thrifty space. ASOS, for instance, has seen its Marketplace site for independent designers grow successfully since its launch in 2012.

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Etsy’s other innovations include the introduction of a new card reader for its users, representing an exciting foray into the burgeoning payments space. Additionally, it was announced earlier this week that Tumblr has introduced a buy button specifically for Etsy that allows users to buy as they find them on the photo-sharing blog. It’s a big step forward for both Tumblr and Etsy, and we’re excited to see where this goes.

I always love buying something a bit different at Christmas, both online and in stores. Are there any other businesses you can think of who are pioneering this new kind of retail relationship? Let me know at moira@thembsgroup.co.uk and have a brilliant weekend.