Case study: collective buying in Manchester

morag_rose_50px_JPG_Morag Rose is a Community Hubs Development Officer at GMCVO (Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation). The Community Hubs team are specialists in community places and spaces. They offer a wide range of training, consultancy, information and practical support to enable organisations to grow, develop, manage and succeed.


gmcvo_JPEGCollective Buying in Manchester

The GMVSS Market Place is a project to help voluntary, community and faith groups in Greater Manchester benefit from bulk buying discounts.

Managed by GMCVO (Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation) it aims to help local organisations save money by joining our purchasing group. It offers a range of relevant goods and services including insurance, IT, utilities, telecoms, stationery, HR  and more.  Our selection process before recommending a supplier helps members save time shopping around and have confidence in their purchase.

Market Place also promotes ethical and environmentally friendly shopping and provides training and information on related issues such as purchasing, negotiating skills, environmental sustainability. It also offers members a chance to fill out a Costcontroller audit to compare current spend with the benefits of swapping to our preferred suppliers. Membership is free and GMCVO manage relationships with suppliers to avoid cold calling.

To date over sixty organisations have benefited from Market Place and this number is growing every week. Reaching this stage has been challenging, not least because of cultural issues working with commercial providers. Many have little experience of working with the VCS and we needed to work hard to explain the sector, and vice versa. However, we have learnt a lot and feel confident we have created a useful tool to support our offer to organisations.

These are a few of the key lessons we learned which helped make the project a success:

1) Collaboration is key The Market Place project was supported, financially and practically by GMVSS (Greater Manchester Voluntary Sector Support). This is a consortium of infrastructure bodies and a key aim was to encourage closer working relationships between members. We completed extensive market research amongst the membership to ensure we were meeting a real need and that we had a mandate for the work.

2) Tap into expertise The project delivery team were guided by a steering group of GMVSS members and  asked other supportive colleagues for their help on specific areas.  For example, we spoke to local experts with deeper specialist knowledge than we had on areas such as HR and environmental issues. We made sure they were listened to, learnt from and compensated for their time.

3) Build on existing work We knew there were already a range of successful buying groups in existence and we met with several of them. They were very generous in sharing knowledge and we decided to work in partnership with Pannone’s Costcontroller. We were impressed by their rigorous selection process and eagerness to support our work. They also have considerable buying clout which we could tap into.

4) Be sector specific Some products and services are not ‘one size fits all’ and so Costcontroller’s preferred suppliers would not have been appropriate for Market Place members. For example, their stationary contractor can work with anyone but insurance and HR are more specialised. We needed to be able to influence the supply chain and ensure products suitable for us so HR services and insurance were put out to tender.

5) Marketing We needed to spread the word and recruited GMVSS members to act as ‘portals’ and promote Market Place to their members. The team also attended as many events as possible – AGMs, conferences, training, networks etc to raise awareness. Word of mouth, as ever, is the most powerful marketing tool and so we talked to organisations with links to the grassroots. We also utilised websites, email lists, newsletters and flyers etc and made sure the message was simple and positive: Market Place can save you money.

Morag Rose

GMCVO would be very happy to act as consultants and share our work in more detail if you may be interested in replicating The Market Place elsewhere. For more information please see, email or telephone 0161 277 1039 or @GMCVO
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