Bulk buy website wins ‘Buy Better Together’ prize

A project that provides loans to disadvantaged people to buy essential goods; has scooped a £15,000 prize launched by Co-operatives UK.

A project that provides loans to disadvantaged people to buy essential goods; has scooped a £15,000 prize launched by Co-operatives UK.

The ‘Smarterbuys’ scheme was the winner of the Buy Better Together Challenge, launched by Co-operatives UK, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in December 2011 to encourage groups of consumers to get together and negotiate discounted rates for buying goods and services in bulk.

The award was announced by Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson on November 26.

Smarterbuys is a website, which offers heavily discounted and low cost essential goods to low income households, whlist providing a range of payment options, making it accessible to those without bank accounts and providing links to affordable, responsible credit via credit unions & CDFI’s. It is run by run by the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC), a non-for-profit membership organisation for social housing providers and local authorities.

The site was launched in April 2012 and is currently being supported by 110 housing providers. Smarterbuys will use the award to develop their work further and to spread awareness of the website.

“The Buy Better Together Challenge has highlighted hundreds of fantastic ideas and examples from local communities, who banded together to make their money work harder. Collective purchasing is of immense value to groups, not just to make cost savings, but to increase social links in the community and reach out to vulnerable consumers who may not have access to online research or internet shopping;” said Jo Swinson.

The Challenge received 110 entries, and a panel of independent judges chose seven finalists overall. ‘Fair Food Carlise’ was awarded the runner-up prize of £5,000 for their scheme, which uses buying groups to provide workplaces with a weekly supply of food from local businesses.

“We're used to daily deals websites where people buy in bulk to save themselves money. The Challenge celebrates ethical bulk buying that's not just good for the pocket, but for the local community too;” Ed Mayo, Secretary-General of Co-operatives UK said.

He added: "The successful finalists are schemes where people work together to save money for themselves and their neighbours. They highlight innovative ways of cutting the costs on essentials like food or energy through co-operation.”

Other finalists included ‘Carbon Co-op’, which delivers boxes of tools and information on saving energy and cutting costs to local homes. And the ‘Community Energy Club’, which pools resources to provide discounted heating oil to those in the community at risk of fuel poverty.

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