The first virtual marketplace (www.brilliantlittlebrands.com) for charity fairs has been launched in time for the Christmas shopping season with the support of over 100 independent British brands and leading charities. The idea was born out of lockdown by two entrepreneurs who foresaw their incomes collapsing with the disappearance of Christmas markets and shopping events.
Brilliant Little Brands (BLB), whose brands donate 10% of all sales to charity, is offering a lifeline to charities and small businesses facing a drop in funding and sales and a bleak Christmas period, due to the Covid pandemic and closure of charity fairs and shopping events critical to the survival of a forgotten strata of small businesses.
New research by BLB shows that nearly a third (30%) of ‘pop-up’ retailers surveyed believe the closure of shopping events due to Covid is having a disastrous impact on their business. At the same time charities, which rely on around 38% of their income from people buying goods (CAF UK Giving 2019), are losing millions in revenue. The Christmas fair market alone has grown enormously over the last 5 years in the UK with annual sales of over £500 million (Local Government Associations’ Report).
Brilliant Little Brands (BLB) is a fully transactional marketplace with over 100 merchants offering over 5000 products, all available from one single checkout. The platform will enable independent brands to virtually “attend” over 50 fairs over the next few months, while providing an alternative home for charities to host their fairs.
BLB aims to be a win win for charities, shoppers and small retailers. Charities have a slice of the rapidly growing online shopping boom and can reach beyond their traditional charity fair audience to younger shoppers. Charity fair supporters have an opportunity to continue supporting their local charities and buy from their favourite independent brands. Online shoppers benefit from a new curated shopping experience where they can buy from a selection of boutique brands, not available on the High Street, and give to charity at the same time. And small independent brands have an organised outlet to reach national audiences and not just those attending local fairs.
BLB was born out of lockdown when two fellow stallholders – Emily Bradley and Amanda Hamlyn – saw their incomes collapse as charity fairs and shopping events were cancelled overnight. Concerned about their livelihoods and the drop in funding for charities, they – along with their husbands Mark and Nick – piloted a directory-style referral website immediately attracting over 150 brands.
Its success led to the launch of the new BLB transactional marketplace. There are other websites where shoppers can donate to charity (percentages are often less than 1%) but none which ‘host’ charity fairs. The website launches on 2 November with five virtual charity fairs fundraising for Macmillan (Merton & Wimbledon, London), Riding for the Disabled (Edinburgh & The Borders), St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group (Chelsea, London), North West Cancer Research (The Wirral), Motor Neurone Disease Association (Chilterns).
As well as income, Covid took away the sense of belonging these retailers had from seeing fellow stall holders at shopping events. As BLB grows, it will re-create that sense of community and mutual support.
“Covid made us re-think how we could work together to support other small businesses and continue to support charities”, says Emily Bradley, co-founder of Brilliant Little Brands.
“To date, so much online shopping has been driven by a discount culture which can be a race to the bottom for small businesses. BLB gives shoppers a feel-good shopping experience where they can shop and we donate. It offers products at a fair price so customers know that they are supporting small businesses and charities too. With the launch of BLB, we hope charities and small independent brands can work together for a brighter future.”