Today (3 June) marks the launch of the Clicks and Mortar programme in the UK. The initiative, which saw its first pop-up store open in Manchester this morning, is designed to stimulate online and offline operations across Britain.
Clicks and Mortar is the result of a partnership between e-commerce giant Amazon, UK small business network Enterprise Nation, business insurance firm Direct Line for Business and payment services provider Square.
More than 100 small online brands will be sold across the UK with pop-up shops set to open in Wales, Scotland, the Midlands, Yorkshire, and the South East. The Manchester store – located at St Mary’s Gate – is selling the wares of 12 innovative businesses, including a number of food brands.
New Zealand nut butter brand Pic’s Peanut Butter is one such label to be stocked on Clicks and Mortar shelves, alongside UK-based sustainable brand the Coconut Merchant, and Ossa Organic – which manufacturers bone broth, ghee, and apple cider vinegar.
“UK shoppers like to shop both online and in High Street stores, and our intention is to empower local SMEs and help them succeed by combining the best elements of online and high street retail,” said Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation.
“This new concept will provide small businesses with the space, technology and support to experience physical retail for the first time – enabling customers to discover new brands while giving these businesses the experience and confidence to potentially open their own High Street shop in the future.”
Amazon UK country manager, Doug Gurr, said that small businesses are one of the company’s most important consumer groups. “From giving up-and-coming online British brands the chance to experience physical retail in an affordable way, to funding the training of full-time apprenticeships and providing free digital training, Amazon is committed to supporting the growth of small businesses – helping them to boost the economy and create jobs across the UK.”
Online support for offline sales
Today also marks the launch of Amazon’s £1m small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) Apprenticeship Fund, which will help small businesses hire apprentices to build skills in business, customer service, and digital.
According to Nick Carroll, associate director of retail at Mintel, the fund represents just one way the e-commerce giant is pushing its growing marketplace platform. In 2000 just 3% of Amazon’s physical gross merchandise sales came from independent third-party businesses, but by 2018, this had risen to 58%.
“Whilst many think Amazon is responsible for stores closing, 40% believe it does support independent retailers,” stated Carroll. “There is an obvious positive brand building aspect to Clicks and Mortar for Amazon. However, this should not take away from the fact that at a time when more should be done to support physical retailers, Amazon is one of the few that has put its expertise and money where its mouth is to look at a way to stimulate some growth in physical retail."
Elsewhere, online player eBay has also invested in offline with its Retail Revival pilot in Wolverhampton. In late 2018, the e-commerce player launched a concept store and pop-up activation to offer local retailers a physical space to sell their goods. By January this year, businesses had reached £1m in sales.
The move to support the struggling high street retail sector comes as online selling platforms grow in market share. "It is obviously notable that the two largest online-only players are two of the drivers of this, with them placing the greatest pressures on physical retail,” Carroll continued.
Indeed, according to Mintel data, 45% of Amazon’s own shoppers believe the retail giant is responsible for physical stores closing. However, Carroll argued that independent traders are crucial to Amazon’s own model, “and as such, helping such businesses to grow is central to Amazon’s own growth.”