The true spirit of Christmas - Jenny Trott

Despite ongoing economic uncertainty, Black Friday has once again seen a surge in sales, rounding off a record-breaking month for online retail. Regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping season, it has become a much-anticipated highlight in the retail calendar for both retailers and consumers.

Jenny Trott, director of Mecoco
Jenny Trott, director of Mecoco

For Mecoco, the situation is no different. Although we’re a small social enterprise retailer, Black Friday marks an important sales day in the calendar. Yet, while social enterprise products have traditionally been a gifting consideration for the few rather than the many, two bigger trends are beginning to drive demand for purpose-led brands.

First, there is an emerging movement to ‘Turn Black Friday Green’, championing sustainability over spending and encouraging shoppers to think more carefully about their purchases. Given increased environmental awareness among consumers, there is a real chance we will see a positive impact over the coming years.

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Perhaps more importantly, there has been a huge increase in the volume of consumers committed to buying from brands with an authentic social or environmental purpose. A recent EY Future Consumer Index showed that 62% of people were more likely to purchase from companies that they feel are doing good for society. This positive shift in consumer attitudes has been largely influenced by Covid-19, encouraging people to re-evaluate their spending decisions along ethical lines.

Mecoco volunteers make high quality candles

Of course, the other change which has been expedited by the pandemic has been the growth of e-commerce - some claim it has forced the digital progress of decades in days. Given the increased demand for purpose-driven goods and services that can be purchased online, some social enterprises have had to set up a digital shop almost overnight.

This year’s Retail Academy run by Social Investment Scotland was designed to support Scotland’s social enterprise adapt to the changing retail environment of this year. As one of 31 social entrepreneurs taking part, it was great to share and learn from others with the same experiences. We spoke about the challenges and opportunities that this year has thrown at us, as well as thinking ahead to growth and development in 2021.

Mecoco (which stands for Meaningful Contribution in the Community) provides work experience opportunities for disabled people and has had to adapt to the challenges of 2020 like every other retailer, moving entirely online in a matter of days. We developed new tester sets and sample sizes so that customers could experience our candles and wax melts at home and have been progressing plans for our move to new premises in Dalry in the new year.

In the midst of lockdown, we accessed the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Fund to create 350 ‘We Care’ gift boxes for unpaid carers across Scotland, teaming up with fellow Retail Academy participants Grace Chocolates and Shetland Soap Company, to give a much needed boost for carers. Many of our employees were shielding, but we were able to get the materials to them to enable them to contribute to the boxes and work from home. Building on that project, we have once again teamed up with the social enterprises, this time to offer corporate gifting boxes for Christmas.

Christmas gifting can be such an enjoyable and rewarding experience, even more so when we buy gifts that give something back to society. So, during a year, when we have all faced challenges in adapting to life during a pandemic, why not buy a gift with purpose – one that helps those in society who need it most. Surely, that’s the true spirit of Christmas after all?

Visit www.mecoco.org to shop our range of Christmas gifts (last posting date 17th Dec).

Jenny Trott, director of Mecoco

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