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Social businesses face up to the challenges of Covid

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Social entrepreneurs look at how they can survive - and thrive - in a changing market

Leading social entrepreneurs will gather to investigate how they can navigate the impacts of the Covid crisis – and gear up for the crucial Christmas trading period.

A group of 31 will gather virtually this week to take part in Social Investment Scotland’s (SIS) Retail Academy.

This will consist of five days of interactive workshops that will help them to manage the complexities of selling goods and services amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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 one study 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, which is being held for the fourth year, is to help social enterprises to embrace the opportunities of a changing marketplace and adapt to new consumer shopping habits.

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

SIS chief executive Alastair Davis 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 in 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.



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