Giving small online brands the chance to experience selling in physical retail for the first time was the goal of Amazon’s Clicks and Mortar pilot programme. Launched in collaboration with Enterprise Nation, Square and Direct Line for Business, online brands including Amazon sellers were given a unique opportunity to meet face to face with customers for the first time, showcase their newest products and share learnings with other small business owners.
In Sheffield, the Clicks and Mortar shop found its home on Pinstone Street, in the city’s heart, thanks to a partnership with Sheffield Business Improvement District. The shop featured more than 50 small online brands, with many based locally, who benefitted from a taste of physical retail as a potential area of additional growth. These small business owners also had access to business advisers on site and participated in workshops to build their skills in selling both in-store and online. Sheffield was the latest in a line of Clicks and Mortar pop-up shops launched across the UK in 2019, including Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
Nicola Ogle, Sheffield
“Ever since university, I have loved being involved in creative work. I found the right place when I started working in fashion design but, after being made redundant, I took a desk job at a solicitor’s office to pay the bills. I knew I needed to find a creative outlet, and that’s why I started designing and printing t-shirts as a hobby. I had always liked slogan t-shirts, as they have been used since the 60’s to make statements and give people a voice… I added my love of pop culture, and that’s how my own fashion line was born. I opened my Amazon shop in 2015, answering customer emails after work. It started small, but it grew really fast, and I had to enlist my family to help me keep up with the demand. Eight months later, I was able to quit my day job because the business was doing so well. It was a big leap of faith… it’s been almost five years now, and I am really happy. Becoming my own boss has been the best thing I have ever done. When I lost my job in fashion, it felt like the end of the world, but looking back now I realise it was a gift!
I had never done any real-life sales before the Clicks and Mortar programme: most of my interactions with customers happen on social media, so this was a great opportunity to meet my customers in person, see what catches their eye, observe their style… basically, understand who they are, as I rarely get to see that online. I also enjoy the opportunity to network with other small business owners: I like being an entrepreneur, but it can get quite lonely at times.”
Oliver Lancaster and James Cook, Manchester
“My co-founder and I decided to start our business, Shole, after watching Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries. We hadn’t realised the scale of the plastic pollution problem at a global level: we were deeply shocked, and we began asking ourselves how we could be part of the solution. We chose to leverage our professional experience with eCommerce to tackle the issue of single-use plastics. For us, Amazon was the logical choice – from our previous experience we knew the incredible reach it can offer to small businesses. We have been selling for a few months now, and we are doing very well.
Everything we do aims at reducing single-use plastics by replacing disposable bottles, food wraps and coffee cups with our own sustainable products. We strive to use minimum packaging made of fully recyclable (and recycled!) materials, we offset our carbon emissions and we are members of 1% For The Planet, which means that a percentage of our sales is donated to environmental non-profits. Education is essential to our business, so we try to engage in conversations with customers on social media as much as we can. Even if in the end we don’t make a sale, we are happy with just having a chat and help change people’s mind sets, everything helps! We think Clicks and Mortar is a fantastic initiative, both to bring new life to the high street and to give small businesses visibility. We love being able to bring our products in front of physical customers: they can pick them up, play with them, feel the quality of the materials and ask all the questions they can think of. This tactile dimension is the only thing that is still missing in eCommerce. Maybe in the future some virtual reality device will change that, but, for now, nothing beats meeting customers face to face!”
Helen Davies and Louise Rodgers, St. Helens
“I have been an entrepreneur for a long time, although I began in a very different field: in my mid-twenties, I started a window cleaning company that grew to a fair size. After 13 years, I decided to sell the company and dedicate myself to designing and developing products for eCommerce, my true passion. It all began when my daughter was 8 months old, I was weaning her and I was looking for ways to make our meals less messy. I couldn’t find the products I was looking for, so I took the matter into my own hands and designed a silicone suction mat – without having any experience in product design whatsoever! My mat worked well, and I realised there was a potential market there. I found a partner company in Asia, opened my online shop and launched the first Easy Mat, which did surprisingly well: my gut feeling was right! We grew fast, the product won several awards and was endorsed by professionals and celebrities, soon becoming a bestseller on Amazon.co.uk. Since then, I have enjoyed developing more award-winning products for our brand EasyTots.
In 2018, with my business partner and childhood friend Louise, we launched the brand EasyPets, taking once more inspiration from real family life and the concrete needs of our dogs. Our best-selling product is the RollaBowl, a portable, foldable silicone bowl for all pet lovers. What makes us proud is knowing that the products we design are truly useful, and have made life easier for many families. We now sell in 20 different countries, and we couldn’t have achieved it without Amazon: it has been essential for our business to grow and sustain itself and now, with Clicks and Mortar, it has offered us a chance to bridge the online and offline dimensions. It’s so important for customers to know who we are, see our products, try them and realise how easy they are to use, and Clicks and Mortar is an ideal opportunity.”