The mutual trading platform

The Regather 'shop' in inner-city Sheffield

On an unassuming corner of a residential road close to the centre of Sheffield, a former furniture shop has become the base for the ‘mutualisation’ of the city’s economy.

Inside, racks of posters and Argos-style catalogues display the shop’s services, under headings such as Play, Learn, Care and Create. People wanting to purchase and trade goods and services will be able to pay not only with money but also with time and ‘stones’.

This is Regather, a trading co-operative which aims to mutualise a chunk of Sheffield’s local economy. The shop is its physical presence in the locality but its work will be undertaken by sole traders and small businesses across the city who join up for the benefits of being part of a mutual trading platform.

It is the brainchild of Gareth Roberts, who, after years as a sole trading events manager, wanted to explore more co-operative ways of doing business. Traders wishing to join the co-operative pay a small monthly subscription and can sign up to a tailored package of services needed to establish their business, from a Post Office box to storage space.

They receive a shop window in Regather’s physical and virtual space – a high-tech shared communications hub – allowing them to market their goods, generate customers and link with other traders and members.
For sole traders and small businesses it cuts the hassle, bureaucracy and costs that prohibit many start-ups from setting up, and allows the smallest of business ideas to get off the ground with minimum – or no – capital.

The co-operative takes a small commission from goods and services traded through the platform which it ploughs back into the co-operative and from which members receive a dividend. Traders can get their sales and marketing needs and insurance costs met by the co-op, tax will be lower and they will have access to meeting spaces and other infrastructure and ‘all those things that make sole trading difficult’, according to Mr Roberts.

As the holes in the corporate model of enterprise become more apparent, Mr Roberts is hoping the mutual model – and its benefits to the wider economy – will rise up the agenda.

‘The co-operative model enables members to share the costs and risks of business, whilst enjoying the benefits too. This has a wider positive impact on the local economy. Customers get better quality services and better value for their money, and because their money stays local, more local jobs are created and the local economy becomes more resilient. This is mutual trading.’

Regather launched its website and began formal trading this month.


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