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First Permanent Social Enterprise Precinct Opens in Melbourne

13 January 2015 at 10:32 am
Xavier Smerdon
Down a long hallway in a building in the heart of Melbourne is a store with a difference.

Xavier Smerdon | 13 January 2015 at 10:32 am


First Permanent Social Enterprise Precinct Opens in Melbourne
13 January 2015 at 10:32 am

Down a long hallway in a building in the heart of Melbourne is a store with a difference.

On first impression it seems to be just like many of the other shops that grace Melbourne’s Central Business District.

A range of products from bags and vintage clothes to vinyl records and household cleaners are sold to eager customers.

But this shop is different to all the others in Melbourne. In fact, it is being spruiked as the first of its kind in Australia.

All of the products in the store are provided by socially aware retailers who use part of their profits to give back to society.

Pop Union and Donkey Wheel House have combined to create the space, called 12 x 12.

The shop gets its name from the fact that every 12 weeks a new list of businesses will replace those previously occupying the space.

Project Manager from Pop Union, Hugo Lamb, dreamed up the concept and put 12 x 12 together.

Pop Union is an organisation that helps set up temporary pop up shops throughout Melbourne.

Lamb said the reaction to the space had been positive.

“A lesson we’ve learned from other retailers is, first and foremost, people come for good quality items, and then convenience and then third there’s a social impact component to it as well,” Lamb said.

“For people in this building as a real hub for social and ethical businesses, a lot of them are very well travelled and very experienced so we had to make sure we were offering them something different as well because they’re going to be our biggest supporters and if they saw a repeat of something they had seen before then it just wouldn’t have been effective.

“We’ve really been committed to getting Donkey Wheel House right and getting all the different tenants and the people that work in this building on board. It’s been a bit of a slow uptake but there’s been an overwhelmingly positive reaction from people that have been coming in.”

Lamb said Pop Union had organised the space for the social enterprises to occupy and had provided a full time staff member to handle sales.

“For us, we do care about the retailers and we want to prove how doing something like this, taking a bit of a risk for some of them by moving out of the digital space, moving away from the safety of an online store and trying something a bit different can actually be successful,” he said.

“The average spend from the customers coming in here has actually been quite high, they’re spending upwards of $80.”

12 x 12 will be a permanent fixture at Donkey Wheel House and is located at the ground floor of 673 Bourke Street in Melbourne.

For more information visit

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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