Businesses Unlock Online Potential With Highlands And Islands Enterprise Amazon Rural Academy

The global retail giant, in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), are to host their first e-commerce seminar in Inverness on 31 October.

Better delivery services and growing access to superfast broadband are opening up tremendous growth opportunities and export potential for rural SMEs and micro enterprises who want to sell online.

The Amazon Academy will demonstrate how the online marketplace can be fully harnessed. The seminar is available to watch live via Eventbrite.

Theresa Swayne, senior development manager for HIE, said: “Making the most of digitisation opens up a world of opportunity, and could be a huge benefit to the Scottish economy.

“The idea of companies entering international markets can seem daunting, but the Amazon Academy supports the ambitions of local entrepreneurs and shows how it can be done.”

Over 10,000 rural businesses across the UK currently sell on Amazon.

The company published a report earlier this year that revealed that unlocking the digital potential of rural areas in Scotland could add between £1.2bn and £2.5bn annually in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the rural economy, and at least £1.44bn in rural business turnover.

Karen Riddick will be encouraging others to follow her path when she appears at the Amazon Academy in Inverness, alongside James Salter from Amazon UK and Stephen Whitelaw.

Karen runs her eco-friendly soft furnishings business Second Nature Online from her home in Dumfries. She generates 1,200 orders a month with 75% of those coming from the Amazon marketplace. Half of Second Nature Online orders are made by overseas buyers.

Of particular relevance to rural businesses is the Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) service which enables sellers to outsource their storage and order despatch requirements to Amazon warehouses across the UK. In turn, this opens up channels for selling in other Amazon Europe marketplaces.

Karen originally used the FBA service in order to free up more of her time but, in doing so, Second Nature Online also achieved an eight fold increase in sales over the following year.

Amazon picks, packs and delivers items on behalf of tens of thousands of UK small businesses as well as handling customer service in local languages when exporting abroad.


Karen said: “FBA has given me more time to spend with family and to focus on crucial parts of the business such as visiting new suppliers and improving our product range.

“I first launched the business when I lived on Islay. I am well aware of the challenges faced by rural retailers but location does not need to be a barrier to success or growth. I have also had a brick and mortar store but 95% of business has always come from online buyers.

“I hope to re-open a physical shop premises again but reliance on footfall or passing trade is a risky business these days. I now know that an online arm to your retail store can provide the resilience to stay in business.”

 “Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen opportunities for rural businesses and entrepreneurs transformed through e-commerce, enabling them to potentially reach millions of additional customers through the power of the internet,” said James Salter, Senior Category Manager, Amazon UK.

“Through programmes like the Amazon Academy we want to help smaller, independent businesses grow their revenue, in particular by boosting export sales, meaning that rural businesses like those in the Highlands and Islands can be local, but reach global customers.”

Watch the live stream here from 12pm.