Hubbub: Shop online and shop local

Want to support your local shops but unable to get there during the hours they’re open? This was the predicament Marisa Leaf had and it was what led her to start Hubbub a website which allows people to order from their local shops and have it delivered to their door.  She explains how her business works and why it’s different…

Marisa Leaf, photo credit Bill Knight

Marisa Leaf, photo credit Bill KnightWhat inspired you to create Hubbub?

What inspired you to create Hubbub?

So it was an idea I had because I used to be a Human Rights barrister I worked long hours so it was one of the things that I missed in my life. So by the time I left work it was always very late and the only places open were supermarkets or take-aways. Given the kind of work that I did I was very conscious that I spent every waking hour trying to make the world a better place but then when it came to where I spent my money I just wasn’t able to make the choices that I wanted to and what I wanted to do was to be able to support people who lived and worked in my community and actually made it a place that I wanted to live and work in as well but just wasn’t feasible because they were always closed when I got home from work and I worked most weekends as well and I didn’t drive either so it just really wasn’t practical for me to be able to support the shops and the people that I wanted to and buy the brilliant food and stuff that they sold. So that’s where the idea came from.

How do you choose the shops that you deliver from? 

Shops don’t pay to be on Hubbub. We go mainly on customer recommendations each area is different and the whole idea of Hubbub is to give local people access to the local shops that they want in order to buy from. It was very much customer-led in terms of the shops we approach, obviously shops approach us as well and there we’re looking for the quality of the product, we look at price, we look at range as well. We try not to have two suppliers competing on the exact same product but rather have them complimenting each other. We look at provenance and sustainability; how do they source their food, where does it come from. For me that’s linked with quality as well and we look at service which is key because there are some shops which are great when you go into them in person but they wouldn’t necessarily be able to handle the home delivery side of things which comes with its own very specific set of demands. They need to have the resource and motivation to handle the home delivery side of things as well.

Was it important to make sure that online sales weren’t taking customers away from the shop?

 We’re really conscious that we need to be bringing them extra sales we don’t want to be cannibalising their customer base we don’t want to be taking people out of the shops and online. That’s not what I built a company to do, what I built Hubbub to do is to bring them customers who couldn’t otherwise get to them and so increase their sales and increase their profits. And I think that’s one thing that certainly at the beginning shops were worried about. Am I going to lose my customers in-store to online? So we were very careful to measure that and monitor that and very confidently saying that’s not what’s happening.  We’ve found that we’ve increased their sales partly through bringing them sales through customers ordering online when they can’t get to them in person partly through cross-sales lots of customers will come onto Hubbub because they know some of the shops we work with—maybe they know Ginger Pig or E5 Bakehouse but they might not know Mrs Lovell’s greengrocer or they might not know Johnathan Norris Fishmonger but while they’re on Hubbub they’ll discover other shops in the area and order from them too so it’s a really nice kind of community of shops for people to discover other suppliers too. They bring each other sales that way too which is great. And then the third thing that we’ve heard from the shops anecdotally is that they’ll get lots of customers coming into their shops as well who’ve discovered them through Hubbub and then have gone in to introduce themselves so not only do we increase their sales online but we’re also increasing their footfall which is fascinating.

Carlton McFarlane, Hubbub driver photo credit Bill Knight

Carlton McFarlane, Hubbub driver photo credit Bill Knight

You’re concerned with preserving a sense of community in the locality has the extent to which you can do that online surprised you?

That’s why Hubbub is different because it’s linked to real shops, real people and real products and our drivers are very much when our drivers turn up with your food they are real people and they’re really charming and they’re passionate about food, they’re passionate about what they do, they love talking to our customers on the doorstep. It’s not just an online community; it’s very much online is a way to facilitate a real life community and I think that’s quite different to what you typically think of as an online community. For our customers part of what makes it so attractive is that they know at least some of the shops we’re delivering from and most of them will go to at least some of the shops at some point during the year they have some kind of relationship, some kind of affinity—even if it’s just at Christmas or whenever they can they will go in person. Hubbub is just a way to supplement and build on that relationship; it’s not replacing it.

What do you say to people who shop at supermarkets because they think they’re cheaper?

It really frustrates me because I just think that the supermarkets have just done a brilliant marketing job so that everybody believes that they’re cheaper and if you compare like with like a basket on Hubbub is certainly comparable with any of the supermarkets and if value is the only thing that you care about then there are certainly cheaper ways to shop you know markets are so much cheaper than Tesco or Asda is ever going to be and I would love for Hubbub to start working with markets that’s very much on our agenda as well.

What’s the next step for the business?

For us the goal is to be able to say if you want the best quality come to Hubbub, we’re better quality than Waitrose or Occado and if you want the best value come to Hubbub we’re better value than Tescos and Asda and coupled with that the other big goal is geographical. I want us to serve high streets across the UK and I want us not to just make it possible for them to survive but I really want these high streets to thrive and that’s a significant ambition but I think we can do it. For us it’s about scaling up now. We’ve reached a very good point in terms of where we are in London and now we’re focussing on scale.

Why the name Hubbub?

I like the way that it had ‘hub’ in it which made me think about communities. Hubbub conjured up the image for me of lots of exciting things going on, bustling communities, people chatting over garden fences and over shop counters and the idea of lots and lots of interesting and diverse things happening in a place rather than the kind of stale, uniformity of a clone town with supermarkets and branded shops. For me it just seems like what we all want and where we all want to live.

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