Being able to sell products online to customers around the world has levelled the playing field for many small businesses, especially those based in remote areas. Whereas the scarcity of resources, professional networks and local buyers may have held some small businesses back, Amazon now enables businesses to sell directly to millions of customers around the world – no matter where your business is located.

For the Shetland Islands this is a familiar problem for small businesses. If you like knitters, crafters and creators then you’ll find plenty to love about the Shetland Islands, which are famed for their traditional skills and cottage industries. At the same time, the area is also the UK’s most northern and remote location – more than 150 miles from the tip of mainland Scotland.

Thankfully in the digital age, distance is no longer an obstacle when it comes to selling on Amazon. That’s why a small group of Shetland businesses were the latest to attend a specialist ‘Selling on Amazon’ workshop held in the Shetland Islands. The ‘Selling on Amazon’ half-day workshop, run in partnership with Scottish Enterprise follow our own Amazon Academy events launched for small and medium-sized businesses in 2018.

By providing hands-on, practical advice through our Amazon Academy programme, we hope to help small business across the UK succeed in the digital economy, boost their productivity and grow their revenue through exports.

From books, bins and beer to cushions, collectibles and cards, these online sellers are now able to sell their products to a global market whilst at the same time, customers benefit from more choice.

people sat around a desk learning to sell on Amazon
Learning to sell on Amazon, no matter where you’re based

The workshops have been delivered across Scotland by Scotland’s inward investment agency Scottish Development International (SDI). In attendance were small business owners by both existing Amazon sellers wanting to improve their knowledge and those wanting to learn the first steps to setting up their own businesses.

The ‘Selling on Amazon’ course focuses on the Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) service, which enables sellers to outsource the storage of their products and the despatch of their orders to Amazon – a service which has proved a popular option for many online sellers. FBA is of particular benefit to remote businesses who may otherwise face the challenges of slower, more costly postal services. The FBA model helps level the playing field for rural retailers and offers them a straightforward route to selling directly to customers throughout the world, which ties into a key objective of SDI to encourage overseas consumers to buy from Scottish businesses.

The recent workshop held at Business Gateway on the Shetland Islands in November represented a milestone in efforts to access some of the most remote UK locations – including a 12-hour ferry from Aberdeen for our workshop facilitators!

Karen Riddick holding booklet on Selling on Amazon

“The Shetland Islands are famed for their traditional skills and cottage industries, and local knitters, crafters and creators may soon find themselves empowered to sell plenty of their Shetland-produced good online” says Karen Riddick, the owner of Second Nature, which developed and delivers the course in partnership with Amazon. Her business sells eco-friendly furnishings online and, having started her own business while living on the Isle of Islay, she is no stranger to island life.“Over 200 Scottish businesses have now benefited from the workshop, which covers everything from account set-up and product listing to building sales, handling orders and selling internationally. Scottish Development International will continue to offer the workshop to groups of Scottish businesses,” she added.

Karen Riddick and the ‘Selling on Amazon’ group workshop attendees, 7th November 2019

Last year, we commissioned independent research by Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College which found that greater digital adoption in rural areas across the UK could add £12-26.4bn annually in GVA and at least £15bn to rural business turnover each year. Specifically in Scotland, greater digital adoption by SMEs in rural areas could add up to £2.5bn to the Scottish economy and grow annual business turnover in rural areas by at least £1.44 billion, with microbusinesses seeing the greatest returns.

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