Amazon is launching a programme to put small businesses on the UK high street in a series of pop-up shops.
The online giant’s first Clicks and Mortar store opens in Manchester this week, with a further nine to follow. The shops will sell everything from homeware, food and electronics to health and beauty products, and will open in as-yet undisclosed locations in Wales, Scotland, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the Southeast.
The programme is part of a year-long pilot, launched in conjunction with small business support organisation Enterprise Nation, that aims to help 100 up-and-coming online businesses.
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Online brands that will get their first taste of a bricks and mortar presence include foldable adult scooter company Swifty Scooters, leather smartphone accessories maker Torro Cases and men’s skincare product maker Altr for Men.
Amazon is also providing £1m to train more than 150 full-time apprentices to help small businesses increase their productivity and boost their online sales, reports The Guardian.
Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, said: “UK shoppers like to shop both online and in high-street stores. This 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.”
An independent consultant will produce an analysis of the pilot that will be submitted to the Government to inform its Future High Streets strategy, says The Sun. That means the pop-ups could become a regular feature on high streets, Jones added.
According to the Office of National Statistics, although online sales are growing at a fast rate, bricks and mortar sales still account for nearly 82% of sales in the UK.
“Small businesses are one of our most important customer groups, and we’re thrilled to work with Enterprise Nation to design a comprehensive package to help entrepreneurs across the UK grow their businesses, both in-store and online,” said Doug Gurr, head of Amazon UK.
The American multinational “has been widely criticised for paying relatively little tax in the UK and for poor pay and conditions at its warehouses”, says The Guardian. Many retailers argue that “the rise of the group, which started selling books, has been a key factor contributing to the plight of high street businesses”, the newspaper adds.
The project “is the third life raft that Amazon has thrown to the high street, which has been assailed by competition from online retailers”, reports The Times.
“Having installed 2,500 self-service lockers at libraries, post offices and shops to which customers can have their purchases delivered, this month it launched “click-and-collect” counters in hundreds of Next shops across the country,” says the paper.
But retail analyst Clive Black, from Shore Capital Markets, has voiced doubts about whether the Clicks and Mortar initiative can salvage Amazon’s reputation.
“Time will tell whether this is a PR stunt, but in terms of Amazon’s perception on the high street, it has good reason to be concerned,” Black said. “There’s a divergence of views, including whether it pays full whack to the UK Exchequer.”
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