While Amazon may not immediately spring to mind as champion of small businesses, the multinational behemoth has shifted focus over recent years. And this is in recognition of the growing gig economy.
As part of this drive to integrate small business owners into its overall business model, Amazon is teaming up with Enterprise Nation in the UK. The small business network and Amazon are launching ten pop-up shops across the country, called ‘Clicks and Mortar’.
What do Amazon’s small business initiatives involve?
The first Clicks and Mortar shop has opened in the centre of Manchester, with Wales, the Midlands, Yorkshire, Scotland and the South East following suit. The shops offer an opportunity for more than 100 small business online brands to interact with customers face-to-face. The idea is to boost both high street and online growth for small businesses.
This pilot programme will operate for 12 months around the country as an experiment to see whether online brands can reach high street consumers. The UK Government will analyse independent research about the scheme’s success. They will use the analysis to construct and inform the Future High Streets Fund strategy.
Government support for UK SMEs
The fund aims to support plans for local areas to improve town centres and high streets to future-proof small businesses against the rise of online sales. The Government says in the plan that they recognise changing consumer patterns and the need to adapt high streets to meet new demands.
An emphasis will be on the general experience levels of high streets, to offer something that can’t be found online. The current Government says it is committed to helping town centres adapt as part of its Our Plan for the High Street initiative, which carries funding of £675 million.
The Government also says it will cut business rates by a third for two years, offering this to selected retail properties. The Future High Streets Fund, which Amazon’s research will contribute towards, is part of the wider plan and will provide funding for transformative projects.
What is Amazon’s SME Apprenticeship Fund?
In addition, Amazon is also providing its new SME Apprenticeship Fund, which is worth £1 million. This is part of a package of new measures to practically help SMEs by training their workforce in digital and retail skills. It will create more than 150 roles that cover digital marketing, customer services and business administration.
The apprentices in these roles will work full time for SMEs that sell products on Amazon. The idea is for these apprenticeships to boost UK SME productivity by upskilling the workforce. The apprenticeships run for at least 12 months and offer online, at work and classroom training.
Any SME registered in England that owns a brand selling on Amazon can apply. To be eligible your business must have a turnover of less than £2 million.
Free training for UK small businesses
As well as the Apprenticeship Fund, Amazon is announcing its Amazon Academy 2019 programme. This brings a range of completely free training events across the country offering practical training to help UK small businesses. The training focuses particularly on helping small businesses boost their export sales and reach more people around the world.
Founder of Enterprise Nation, Emma Jones MBE, says that the intention behind teaming up with Amazon is to help small businesses by combining the best of high street and online retail. In Amazon’s blog she says: “This new concept will provide small businesses with the space, technology and support to experience physical retail for the first time while enabling customers to discover new brands on their local high streets.”
Adds James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited: “There is an increasing and welcome awareness from both the Government and multinationals of the importance of the small business community in the UK. For the UK’s economy to survive the impact of Brexit, and to thrive in a post-EU trading environment, it’s essential that small businesses are supported in every way possible”.
“These initiatives from Amazon and Enterprise Nation are welcomed by struggling high street retailers. There is a pressing need for the British High Street to adapt to the new expectations of consumers used to shopping in a digital online world. By finding a way to amalgamate physical bricks and mortar shops with online brands, a new era for High Streets can be formed.”
“Small businesses are one of the most important sectors in the UK, and initiatives like this will provide a boost in skills, job creation and growth across the country. All of which will contribute to a stronger economy.”
About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.