Retail rebel creates sales as an art form

Lynzi Leroy is founder of the Scottish Design Exchange
Lynzi Leroy is founder of the Scottish Design Exchange
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WITH more shops than ever closing across the country, at least one retailer is trying hard at reversing the downward trend.

Lynzi Leroy, known as Scotland’s “retail rebel”, is the founder of the Scottish Design Exchange (SDX).

She traveled the world working in the oil and gas industry, before growing tired of the corporate world and what she described as “a culture of greed and excess – where profit came before people and planet”.

What she wanted to do was to create a business that shared profits and made real social impacts.

Her idea? A shop that gave artists and designers a display space for a small rent – then use that rent to cover costs and employ sales staff. Her primary purpose however, was to give each artist full proceeds from the sale of their products. Starting on a shoestring budget, with 10 artists and a dogged determination, the Scottish Design Exchange was born.

Now, almost three years later, the Scottish Design Exchange is in full swing in Leith’s Ocean Terminal shopping centre, with more than 100 artists and designers displaying their creations and five paid staff, who know about the artists and will readily tell the story behind each creation. It is a social business model which benefits shoppers, artists and designers and, boosts the local economy. Based on two floors in Ocean Terminal, the SDX is open seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Both collective and commercial, the SDX has a diverse range of Scottish talent – from fashion designers to chocolatiers and furniture makers, all working to share the costs of creating and running a thriving store, where customers can buy locally made items, knowing that the manufacturers will be benefiting directly from their support.

“We are so stuck in traditional business approaches,” said Lynzi, “that it is difficult to break the mould. I wanted to challenge the arts world by cutting out the commission takers and mark-up agents who will extract up to 80 per cent – forcing artists and designers to forfeit the lion’s share of the earnings from their creative work.

“We have shown that business can be about people and that their resourcefulness, energy and willingness to collaborate is all the capital needed to start a business.”

SDX has turned over £1.1 million in under three years, and handed more than £800,000 to hard-working local artists. A shop in Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries is opening this month.

But, there is more to SDX than a healthy balance sheet. A total of 60 per cent of the 300 artists and designers the shop has supported, reported prior episodes of poor mental health. Newly appointed business development manager Mairi Munn said: “This great idea which has taken root in Leith will soon extend into other parts of Scotland.”

FRANCES ANDERSON