Online shopping can help revitalise the high street

Mary Portas’s review of the future of our high streets highlights that online shopping has contributed to the demise of town centres.

But the work we have done with Makerhood shows that online sites can also help revitalise interest in buying locally.

Makerhood market stall
Photo by Andy Broomfield

Launched in July 2011, brixton.makerhood.com helps shoppers in Brixton and nearby areas of south London find local makers and producers.

Our website currently lists more than 540 items from local makers, ranging from biscuits and greetings cards to T-shirts, prints and bedside cabinets. Prices start at 80p for a Brixton postcard and go up to £1,400 for a piece of wall art.

But Makerhood is about more than selling online. We worked with the Brixton Market Traders Federation (BMTF) to help set up the monthly Brixton Makers’ Market on the second Saturday of every month. The success of this has encouraged the BMTF to launch themed markets on other Saturdays.

And Makerhood has collaborated with other venues in Brixton too, including:

  • an exhibition of Makerhood artists at the Lounge
  • a sell-out local makers’ forum at the Living Bar, offering business advice from experts in markets and small design businesses to help their makers establish sustainable business practices
  • pop-up stalls in Brixton Village in the run-up to Christmas.
Makerhood makers forum
Photo by Andy Broomfield

These events all contribute to the revitalisation of Brixton town centre and its reputation as a creative hub of south London.

Kristina Glushkova of Makerhood says: “Small creative businesses often can’t afford a high-street shop, especially when they’re just starting up. As well as offering them an opportunity to sell online, we’ve helped set up the monthly Makers’ Market and pop-up stalls in Brixton Village.

Photo by Andy Broomfield

“There’s a real creative buzz around Brixton at the moment and we’re proud that we’ve done our bit to help put it on the map.”

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We go shopping!

Karen, Damian, Biba, Andy and I went to the lovely Crafty Fox Market at the Dogstar on Saturday. Fantastic! Great work from the organisers, three floors of lovely hand-made things and art, and great workshops. Artists and makers from all over London, and some from as far as Edinburgh and the Isle of White.

Among the sellers were James Ward (who created the lovely Crafty Fox logo) showing his amazing plates, Kanganarora with handmade textiles (absolutely loved the cow cushion!) and FabricNation making beautiful things from recycled fabrics. We also loved handmade puppets from Twisted Myth,  textile deer heads from Wooden Tree and cute creatures from Hope and Eden. And many many others.

Downstairs, there was a group of ladies totally consumed with learning to make brooches with Handmade in Tooting and Seaside Sisters – they came up with many beautiful pieces.  Ms Cupcake’s stall – from a new shop on Coldharbour lane– was constantly overcrowded. I’m personally not into cupcakes, but Damian had one and couldn’t stop talking about it. It was apparently delicious!

We brought some flyers and talked to people about Makerhood and the forthcoming local online marketplace. The makers we talked to were very positive; many said there should be one in their areas too – this was really encouraging.  Something to ponder for the future; meanwhile, I guess one option is to relocate to Brixton 🙂