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SIS Retail Academy helps social enterprise prepare for retail’s return

Social entrepreneurs from across the UK are this week taking part in an intensive five-day programme designed to support a return to retail, as lockdown restrictions on non-essential shopping are lifted in Scotland.

Led by responsible finance provider, Social Investment Scotland (SIS), a group of 34 social enterprise leaders will complete the Retail Academy this week, with coaching from leading retail experts focused on the growing global marketplace for purpose-led brands.

Some of the Retail Academy participants include:

• James Faddes, founder of Glesga Roasters, a Fairtrade coffee supplier working with cooperatives in Rwanda and in the local community
• Jenny Trott, director at Mecoco, a social enterprise offering opportunities for people with disabilities by making and selling candles and wax melts
• Sara Thomson, CEO of The Leith Collective, a unique retail space which supports over 130 artists and makers from across Scotland
• Louise Pearson from Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum, which includes the community cafe, gift shop and tourist information services of the GALE centre on the North Coast 500

Participants will receive mentoring and advice on topics such as marketing, trend spotting and business strategy from experts including Celia Hodson, founder of Hey Girls, a social enterprise on a mission to tackle period poverty; Gerard McKenzie-Govan, founder of The Blankfaces, the UK’s first fashion brand aimed at eliminating homelessness; and Jamie Jefferson, chief creative officer at digital agency, Equator.

Scotland’s retail market is expected to receive a significant boost this week as consumers head to physical stores – aside from essential retailers – for the first time since December. Ahead of similar restrictions being lifted in England and Wales earlier this month, analysts from Springboard predicted a 48% rise in sales, citing significant pent-up consumer demand for in-person bricks and mortar shopping, rather than online.

SIS’s Retail Academy, which is running for the fifth time, aims to support social enterprises to develop their retail strategy and offering in line with the increasing demand for purpose-led products and services. The programme, which is delivered in partnership with Asda and supported by the Scottish Government also offers social entrepreneurs with a chance to pitch for live commercial opportunities.

SIS chief executive, Alastair Davis, said: “This week marks an important milestone for many Scottish retail brands who can now return to some sense of normality and reopen their doors to shoppers. However, it’ll be far from a return to the old normal. The shift to online shopping is here to stay which poses a significant challenge for high streets across the country. As increasing numbers of consumers express a preference of buying purpose-led brands, there’s a real opportunity for social enterprise retailers to meet this demand and play a bigger role both in-store and online.

“Through the SIS Retail Academy, our aim is to support these social entrepreneurs to develop and grow their presence among traditional and emerging retail markets, bringing together like-minded individuals and a range of experts to help them overcome challenges and take advantage of the opportunities which lie ahead.”