Artists set for record £3.5m boost thanks to success of Scottish Design Exchange enterprise

A social enterprise set up to support hundreds of independent artists and producers is targeting a record pay out of more than £3.5 million following the launch of two new outlets.

The Scottish Design Exchange, established as a profit-for-good venture to provide high street retail space for hundreds of artists, designers and artisan food manufacturers, expects to more than double its sales over the next 12 months. The increase follows the success of its most recent outlet at the Tron Kirk on Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, and the imminent launch of Foodies, its first spin-out food and drink store, in Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries shopping centre. Those branches complement existing Scottish Design Exchange (SDX) stores in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Since it was launched in 2015, the social enterprise has provided high-footfall retail space, and generated more than £6m of income for hundreds of independent producers who would otherwise pay commission to outlets and galleries, which can be as high as 60 per cent. SDX tenants pay a small, fixed, monthly fee to rent space in the city centre stores, while keeping 100 per cent of their sales, so they’re not penalised for the popularity of their products.

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The new art market space, based at the Tron building on the capital’s High Street, is said to have been an “outstanding success”, generating record takings for its 21 small businesses since it opened on July 1 last year. It has generated employment for 51 people and the Tron Kirk Market has become one of the most visited places in the area, which has a very high tourism footfall.

SDX chief executive Lynzi Leroy, a former project manager for Shell, said the success of the Tron outlet had supercharged the business, creating opportunities for further expansion.

She said: “Just one of our outlets has created much needed stability for 21 small businesses, allowing many of them to become full-time producers, and to earn a good living. Given that most purchase their materials from other Scottish businesses, we are helping to create a sustainable supply chain that benefits not just our traders but the companies that supply them.”

She added: “Since the pandemic, SDX has gone from strength-to-strength and we expect further growth and expansion in the next few years. Despite the headwinds of a challenging economy, ours has proved a robust and resilient business model.”

Artist Liana Moran, who has sold her work through SDX outlets, including the Tron, for six years, said: “The growth in my business from the Tron alone has allowed me to leave my part-time job and focus on my artwork full time.”

Rona Innes, one of the artists at the Scottish Design Exchange's Tron Kirk Market on Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile.Rona Innes, one of the artists at the Scottish Design Exchange's Tron Kirk Market on Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile.
Rona Innes, one of the artists at the Scottish Design Exchange's Tron Kirk Market on Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile.

SDX signed a three-year lease with Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, which manages the Tron building, last July. Uncertainty had surrounded the future of the iconic, 17th century structure – formerly Edinburgh’s main parish church – which had been empty for 50 years after it closed as a church in 1952. It has been on a buildings at risk register since 2003. Most recently, it housed the Edinburgh World Heritage Exhibition, but it had been vacant and unused since the pandemic lockdown forced its closure in 2020.



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