The New Independent Product Hubs

Dec 15 2013

63% of Millennials would rather buy a product from a smaller company that has fewer choices, but is innovating within the industry, than buy something from a brand that has more products to choose from, yet has a monopoly on the market. In our Q2 Lifeline report, we wrote about Millennials as Retail Rebels, leading the charge in Creative Disruption and looking to alternate and independent ways of buying in order to disrupt the traditional systems. Our current digital era has spawned more options than ever before, and as a result, there is a rising outcry against models that have held consumers captive in the past. 50% of Millennials say that when it comes to the brands/products they buy, helping a small business beat out a big business is important to them. The ability to help break monopolies is being made available, and young consumers are both supporting brands that are fighting against the Goliaths in their marketplaces as well as finding great satisfaction in patronizing independent brands unsullied by corporate trappings. This is part of the motivation behind the massive support that Millennials have shown fledgling brands and products on platforms like Kickstarter. We’ve touched on life after Kickstarter in the past, and how for the new products and brands that raise funds on the platforms, expectations are sky high for delivering on crowdfunding promises and raising the bar for innovation with each new project. For the independent brands suddenly launched into the world with the funds they asked for, it can be difficult to navigate a future and to deal with an expectant audience and the next steps of producing and then selling the products they have promised. In this new landscape, we’re seeing the development of new independent product hubs: refuges for small brands and products to be sold to consumers in innovative ways. Here are three of the sites making independent products their lifeblood: 

1. The Grommet

Don’t call them an e-tailer: The Grommet is a “product launch platform” that encourages visitors to their site to “Buy Differently,” and are dedicated to helping undiscovered products succeed. Each product chosen to be on the site is called a “Grommet” and they coined the term “Citizen Commerce” to describe their marketplace. Citizen Commerce is a direct appeal to Retail Rebels, and is described as the desire to have every purchase reflect the buyers’ values, containg the core sentiment that buying based on beliefs can be a way to change the world. With this ethos as their backbone, The Grommet features only independent, “purposeful” products with a worthy backstory, and pay special attention to underrepresented entrepreneurs who create items that align with positive values. Their range of stock is impressive: Recent launches include littleBits, a modular electronic toy that teaches children to invent, and Huckstraps, a collection of colorful vegan belts. For the many Millennial consumers who want to support independent brands trying to innovate and make a difference, this is the place to find them. 

2. Hatch Hub

Hatch Hub calls themselves a “champion of independent designers,” and the site is truly a reaction to the democratization of design and commerce that the online independent marketplace has made possible. They describe the current process of bringing products to market “archaic” and aim to “shake things up” by turning the production process into a progressive conversation between consumers and designers. Visitors are given the power to shape the contents of the site by sharing their opinions and ideas on products they love and products they wish would be created. The designers in the Hatch Hub community can then be inspired by the consumers to create the things that they want and need. Then, Hub visitors can vote on the new ideas and concepts that have been submitted—the product concepts with the highest votes are the ones created, or “Hatched.” Finally, the Hatched items are sold through Hatch Hub, and pre-ordered while they are still in production. The result is a curated collection of independent products that were designed specifically for the community who will be purchasing them. 

3. Grand St.

Unlike Hatch Hub and The Grommet, Grand St. focuses on one product type, carefully curating creative technology and electronics for their customers. But like the other two sites on our independent product hub list, Grand St. is all about showcasing small products with great stories, and say their motivation is that “the way consumer electronics are made, bought, and sold is changing.” Every other day, they feature a new innovative item on their site and Android app, and each product is featured for just 12 days with only five featured items available for sale at any time. Grand St. chooses and tests each of their wares, and their most waitlisted and best-selling products are available in their Grand St. Collection, which visitors can shop at any time. From a super-slim charge card to a pot that turns open flames into USB charging power, Grand St. has hand-picked a wide range of innovative inventions and created a “new kind of store” to bring them to consumers in the know. 

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