Screenshot of the local.co.uk homepage

Our new venture, local.co.uk, is ready for its next phase. This is a new online marketplace to allow small, independent sellers to reach out to customers across the UK where they’re not served well at the moment. This is by no means a finished product, but by letting customers see and use it early on, we can use their data and feedback to help us develop it for the future – eg, which features to build and what products to range. This trial is part of our investment in our Stronger Co-op, Stronger Communities ambition.

Share with friends or join as a seller

Please help us publicise the site among your networks. We’re on Facebook and Instagram: @localcouk

Plus, we’re always looking out for new sellers who could sell quality hard to find children’s pet and homeware products. Please complete this online form if you’re interested in being a seller on the site.

Why we’re investing in local.co.uk

This venture supports both parts of our ambition. It helps us have a stronger Co-op by diversifying into a new service – therefore giving us new income and building stronger communities by allowing those with great ideas and products access to a nationwide audience – with those individuals taking that income back into their community and potentially being able to grow their business.

Why we’re different

Local.co.uk is different from our competitors in this area, such as eBay, Amazon and Etsy. In a world of internet giants we want to provide an alternative marketplace that’s based on the values and principles of the Co-op. We want to build a site which supports local communities, creates solidarity with independent sellers and makers and provides fair and transparent pricing.

Eric’s story

Eric is one of our sellers – Statement Artwork. Watch his story about what he does and his passion behind his very unique posters and prints.

You can view this video via YouTube (search for ‘statement artworks’) or read the transcript.

Note for preview users

Thank you to those colleagues around Manchester who tried the site in advance. From your feedback we’ve reduced postage costs, amended how we display the products and improved the product filter when you’re searching. And sorry if it was a bit slow when we first launched it, you overloaded our servers with your interest! We’ve now improved that and we’ve added 14 more sellers to it since we started – so go on, have another look.

Once you’ve visited local.co.uk, then come back and share your thoughts below, or email us your feedback.

Thanks,

Nathan Warner
Ventures – New Economies team

EDIT: If you want to know more about our ventures and what we’re aiming to achieve with them, have a look at this earlier story about what ventures is about.

Join the conversation! 19 Comments

  1. Nathan, ignore the key board warriors. Change is hard but you’re doing a good way job

    Reply
    • Whilst I’m sure that a good job is being done on this dismissing those giving feedback and asking questions on the subject as ‘key board warriors’ is somewhat rude – nobody has questioned the quality of the work being done by individuals.
      There are few mechanisms for feedback at the Co-op and dismissing genuine concerns about whether this is a good way to spend member’s money is not helpful.

      Reply
    • I would like to echo Anon’s comments but state further – the term keyboard warriors is not just rude but quite derogatory and intended to imply that those individuals would not speak out if they were not ‘hiding’ behind a keyboard – how offensive were you intending to be?

      We work for an organisation that thrives off of contribution and our ability to challenge is encouraged
      – in fact it is part of the empowerment colleagues demonstrate in working in The Coop. Also comments and feedback were requested and I felt provided in a very positive and considered way – they should not be devalued by such an inappropriate remark.

      As an organisation we are greater than the sum of our parts and should be encouraged to continue to feel empowered to contribute and challenge – not devalued for doing so.

      Reply
  2. Is this just for sellers of goods or can we suggest sellers of services such as fitness classes etc?

    Reply
    • Hi Tom,

      At the moment for the trial it is just goods however we may do a trial on services in the future.

      Thanks
      Callum

      Reply
  3. Well done Local team. 👏🏼
    It’s nice to see Co-op doing something new and relevant. Small businesses are so important to our community.

    Reply
  4. Thanks for your comments so far. It’s great that you’ve looked at our first iteration of the site and are passionate about how it helps towards our Co-op’s future. You’ve raised some great questions, so let me answer them:

    This is the first iteration of local.co.uk, built quickly (within 13 weeks) in order to run a series of tests. It’s a start not an end point. Primarily we will be testing a few key things:
    “I want to buy from small businesses near to me” – i.e. customers want to buy products locally to them
    “I want to sell on a platform that shares my values” – i.e. sellers would sign up to sell on our service.
    “Where I’m buying things I am passionate about, I care more about where they came from” i.e. telling the story of the seller and sourcing unique products will attract customers.

    The site will change week by week. By starting simple, we can launch a trial quickly and start taking live customer orders. This provides valuable learning with real data and real customers. For example, we have already taken 50+ customer orders providing valuable data on how they use the service. As an investment, local.co.uk is an example of how we can test new propositions whilst building valuable assets and capability for Co-op. The feedback on postage is an example of this. Our postage solution right now is suitable to launch a trial. We already are working on iteration 2 that will allow sellers more flexibility and expect this live within 2 weeks. By not building all of the complexity at the start we can launch the service quickly before iterating out to a final service based on real user data.

    We have invested a small internal team to build this out and run a series of tests, if we decide that the proposition is not right for Co-op we will still have an online marketplace platform owned by Co-op. This is a valuable investment for our current and future growth and in offering members more ways to shop with Co-op.

    Finally to address the questions of difference and broken markets. You are correct, there are a range of online marketplaces funded by well-backed investors. However, there is a growing swell of discontented small businesses who are being treated unfairly – some of these are our members. It is a broken model and needs someone to step in to offer an alternative. For consumers they have limited loyalty to existing brands and it is more about price, service and range. We believe that by becoming very attractive for unique sellers who would refuse to sell elsewhere we can ultimately offer a unique place for people to shop where they can search and find the products they can’t get elsewhere. This will take time to establish but does not require the same investment from Co-op as other market entrants might face. We have a “right to win” due to the unique combination of assets we can bring to establish and grow an attractive marketplace. This includes our scale to sell through members and customers, our community connection proposition to highlight local communities andour store distribution network and our brand.

    As I mentioned this is a start not an end, I hope you can imagine the future that we see and will keep monitoring progress to see how it develops. Trust that we are very aware of every penny we spend delivers value for our members and we are working closely with our members council to develop this service.

    Thank you for your continued support please, contact feedback@local.co.uk if you would like to discuss any of these points in more detail and we would be happy to take the time to discuss further with you. Thanks, Nathan.

    Reply
    • Nathan, your initial comment is odd. The majority of comments on this thread demonstrate real concern on value of this investment. We don’t have any right to win. We do have scale, but the cost of promotion through the store network is not for free. Operational hours in store are already below what is needed and any additional work in store take the store staff away from their core responsibilities. I get the “this has not cost us very much vibe” but when you add up “Fast Fail” projects such as “Paperless”, “Community Energy” amongst others and the infrastructure that supports this (Federation). I fear we are talking multiple hundreds of thousands of pounds. I guess that we are also using third parties extensively in these ventures.

      Like I have said, I truly hope I am wrong and this venture gives financial value and community values to members colleagues and communities. I just don’t see it though..

      Reply
    • I think you’re totally dead on with the problem, but I, like others, wonder whether we’re able to devote time and money to being the solution? The Food Assembly (https://thefoodassembly.com/en) is a great example of a venture opening up local markets in communities – it allows local producers to advertise and take weekly orders, giving consumers access to fair, ethical and honest products. The model – which is successful across Europe and elsewhere – has recently backed out of the UK market because the engagement wasn’t there. If this business can’t succeed in our market – when it’s their sole focus and they have global experience – how can we do better? We’ve got the heart for this, but do we have the scale?

      Reply
  5. This is a great idea and I bought one of Eric’s prints. It’s so unique and I love it!

    Reply
  6. Access to this site is blocked in stores. Of course.

    Reply
  7. As others have said, I’m not too sure this is the right direction for us at all! Where is the value for members? It’s their money we’re spending when investing in projects like this, so how will it give a good return for the investment – both to strengthen our Co-op for the future and for the communities we serve? You seem to say that the difference is that we’re supporting the sellers’ communities. How do you know that? What’s not to say that our sellers are just going to take their profit and buy their groceries from Tesco and their own household goods from Amazon? Are you vetting sellers first to check on their ethical standpoint in line with the Co-op principles?
    I think you’ve got a massive challenge to break into what you’re trying to say is a broken market. I’m not sure there is a broken market. I want something, I search for it, I find it, it gets delivered. The market leader is going to take some catching.
    And the current design doesn’t do it for me. We’re a co-operative. Where’s the things inspiring me from what others are buying, or ‘you’ve looked at this, have you thought about this’? It looks so cold and clinical and isn’t inspiring me.
    It seems to me that your explanation of why we’re different is more just a statement that you want us to believe in. Please explain it so I can understand more and get behind this. Currently, I’m unconvinced.

    Reply
  8. I also think this is a step in the wrong direction. Why are we repeating something that all the platforms mentioned above do really well? What’s the Co-op difference? I thought we were trying to fix broken markets. If we’re a true co-operative that’s what we should be doing. I understand we need to balance commerciality with ethics but how will this make any money? What’s in it for members?

    Reply
  9. Looks Amazing! Presumably it’s going to continue to develop but like the look of it as a launch site. Interesting products too. Whats the plan for increasing coverage around the country?

    Reply
  10. I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see this being successful.

    There’s no reason why niche sellers can’t be found these days. They don’t need another platform, especially a platform that is likely to be significantly under funded compared to Etsy, Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping, Shopify, Facebook, Instagram etc.

    The money behind this would be better served supporting sellers to allow them to market their products on existing platforms. Providing the skills through a community that supports online retail. Providing skills and contacts such as SEO, social marketing, product photography, translation, accountancy and legal compliance.

    Also, no customer wants to pay for delivery. A flat delivery charge is not fair and transparent for either the customer or the seller. Sellers should either be allowed to set rates (including premium delivery options – think last minute birthday presents) or offer free delivery by absorbing delivery charges into the sale price..

    Reply
    • I am 100% with you on this. The Co-op needs to accept that we do not have funds or skills to be an Incubator for new web based business and brands that are outside of our core business. You mention only a small number of Selling Platforms, there are also a whole host of mobile focussed selling sites such as Depop, Carousell, Mercari,PoshMark, Varagesale, Duriana, Threadflip. The funding required to make this a success I fear would be huge. Even the smaller platforms invest millions into above and below the line advertising to drive traffic to the platforms and have to repeat this invest to continue to grow.

      I also hope I am wrong because every pound we invest is a pound of members money that could be invested into Franchises, Our own E-comm business that has low investment, new stores, refits, growing the legal services business by acquisition. So many investment opportunities that should be ahead of a high risk venture such as this.

      Reply

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