You might have noticed that we're trying to do retail a little bit differently. If you order a product through our marketplace, the default delivery option that you are given is to collect the product directly from the creative who made it. We understand that this won't always be possible - that's why you can opt to have your product delivered by a courier, or in some circumstances arrange to pick up your product from a local independent shop - but our strong preference is for our sellers to directly hand their products over to our customers.
In this article we'll be exploring what's gone wrong with modern retail, debunking the myth that ecommerce retailers have to use courier delivery and explaining why we think it's time to meet your maker.
Retail should be about Story and Relationship: In Reality, it's become Impersonal
When you think about traditional ways in which retail transactions took place, the proverbial butcher, baker and candlestick maker often spring to mind. The customer's expenditure would be simultaneously both fragmented and frequent: you would shop in various different stores, but over time you would come to know the items and people in those stores exceedingly well. If you needed extraordinary items you would commission a specialist, and you would be prepared to wait some time for the finished product to be prepared for you.
Incidentally, the craftsman's products would be expected to last a lifetime, but that's a discussion for another day.
Today, of course, the retail relationship is radically different.
There are many reasons why this is a brilliant thing. If I can do my weekly grocery shopping online, or zip around my local magical German warehouse in 25 minutes flat, I have much more time to invest in other parts of my life. I can invest this time in my work, the people I love and the causes that I believe in. I also have access to an unprecedented range and quality of products, and I don't have to wait weeks or months until the local carpenter or blacksmith is next available.
However, there is something worryingly regressive about the way that we now buy products. The ease of online stores and self-checkouts encourage us not to speak to those that sell us our goods. The emphasis on speed and convenience tend to mean that we become less focussed on quality and provenance. We are in danger of defaulting to head-down retail whereby we don't engage with the people selling to us, we don't think about where our goods come from and we're not concerned about what it's taken to get them to our shelves.
We want you to understand that we're not simply trying to be old-fashioned for the sake of it. We've launched an online marketplace, after all. However, we do think that technology is something that should be harnessed, not indiscriminately dominant. There's a lot to be said for limiting the amount of time that we spend using screens, for example, and we believe that the same principle should apply to our retail habits. We don't expect our users to stop using Amazon or supermarkets - we certainly won't - but we think that there is freedom and joy to be found in reclaiming the way that we engage in retail and commerce.
One solution, then, is to simplify the commercial process. We want our customers to meet our creatives. Yes, it might take a little longer to get the product that you've ordered. Let's call it a rediscovery of anticipation. We want you to meet the person who has lovingly crafted something for you. We want you to thank them, and remember them. We want you to hear about why they create and how they create and where they create. We think these things matter.
Besides, Courier Delivery is Overrated
If you think that meeting your maker and reclaiming the authenticity of traditional retail sounds unnecessarily convoluted, or stressful, or just plain dumb, here are some examples of our recent experience with couriers:
- A bouquet of flowers, delivered whilst we were bringing our first child home from the maternity ward, being left in our black dustbin. Without a note. To be discovered two days later.
- Having an electrical product left outside our house, in plain site, in the rain.
- Being left a note to say that our parcel had been left with neighbours - neighbours who turned out to be university students who had gone home for the holidays.
- Missing a daytime deliver three times in a row, only to have to drive 15 miles each way the following weekend (12 days after the first delivery was attempted) to collect a £2.50 product that had been delivered from China.
That's before we even start talking about the ethical issues surrounding the ways that couriers are 'employed' - and exploited. Not to mention the problems experienced by those who are tasked with packing our products, the often unspoken carbon footprint left by our transactions or the environmental damage caused by unnecessary packaging.
All are huge issues in their own right.
When we launched Craftd we didn't want to offer courier delivery at all. However, we quickly realised that this approach would exclude both those who live in villages surrounding the city and those who are unable to travel to collect products. We're pleased to offer courier delivery, but our preference remains for products to be collected directly wherever possible.
Want to Meet Your Maker?
Retail should be exciting. There is something amazing about choosing, purchasing and receiving an item that you love. Anything that compromises this process should cause us to think carefully about our buying habits.
We hope that by restoring the direct relationship between the crafter and the customer we are helping to achieve something profoundly good, healthy and rewarding for all of us.