My Column

Amazon is in a prime place to help stores.

  • Date: Monday 26th August 2019
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It’s of course been widely reported that there is a significant decline in trading for our high street stores - but worryingly, it shows no sign of stopping.

If anything, it’s getting worse.

New reports have revealed that on average nine businesses close every month and more than 400 have closed in Scotland alone since 2016. This includes local bank branches, retailers, and high street independents. 

The jarring stats have seen the Federation of Small Businesses call on the Scottish and UK Governments once again for further investment to help make local towns a better place to work, live, and run a business.

Among their requests is an ambitious £90 million of annual investment in hard-pressed Scottish towns from the Scottish National Investment Bank and the UK Stronger Towns Fund.

It’s just such a depressing sight when a high street is cluttered with rows of empty units and ugly ‘To Let’ signs but with increasing rates and a cloud of Brexit uncertainty, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the remaining businesses struggling to ply their trade.

One business which I think is making really positive strides towards supporting local businesses, budding entrepreneurs and independents is, surprisingly enough, Amazon.

That may sound like a contradiction, as many people would point the finger of blame at the web giant for customers’ spending habits moving online - but they’re not solely responsible and it’s of course laudable that they’re looking to give something back.

Amazon’s fulfilment centre in Dunfermline, which is the UK’s second largest, played host to the 2019 Amazon Academy Scotland last week. This free event was aimed at Scottish SMEs and entrepreneurs, and more than 200 attended.

The Amazon Academy is run in collaboration with small business support network Enterprise Nation, Scottish Enterprise, and the government’s Exporting is GREAT campaign.

Amazon has been running this academy for three years and during that time, it’s helped more than 1,700 SMEs and entrepreneurs across the UK to fulfil some form of business growth.

I think events like this are brilliant for the industry and this particular one was to encourage budding new businesses to embrace digital technology – ultimately helping them improve exports of their products and services.

Amazon is not only supporting businesses with online growth, but through its cleverly named Clicks and Mortar store initiative, it’s giving smaller ecommerce brands the chance to showcase their products on the high street.

These small brands can then boost their brand awareness with a physical presence that may not have been possible for them to afford as a solo enterprise with all the potential associated risks. It acts as a test for some businesses who can then hopefully pursue their own retail space.

Earlier this month, the first Scottish Clicks and Mortar store opened in Waverley Mall, Edinburgh.

Clicks and Mortar is part of a year-long pilot for the UK but I’m hopeful that will b extended.

By utilising empty high street units, showcasing up-and-coming businesses, and building relationships between retailers and customers, it benefits the local economy in so many ways. 

Amazon has undoubtedly hit upon a Prime initiative for boosting its reputation while providing vital assistance to the high street when it needs it most.

 

SIDE

I’ve been known to get my trainers on and clock up a few miles on a good morning run. For me, it’s a time to get my thoughts together and relax in the fresh air with no distractions.

There’s been numerous research completed and mountains of scientific evidence to show that exercise is great for your mental health. Running is not only a great way to keep physically fit, but mentally, it’s ideal for clearing your head.

With so much of the news agenda focusing on mental health and the Scottish Government recognising poor mental health as a public health challenge, we face real and significant mental health inequalities across Scotland.

So it’s great to see companies not only promoting running as a viable and easy way to keep fit, but raising awareness of the mental health challenges faced by communities across the country. 

Just last week, Bank of Scotland - part of Lloyds Banking Group - encouraged runners to sign up to the Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run and fundraise for Mental Health UK on Sunday 29 September.

The partnership between Lloyds Banking Group and the charity aims to promote the vital work Mental Health UK is doing to tackle a range of mental health issues faced by the public across Scotland and the UK.

Funds raised by Lloyds Banking Group colleagues throughout 2019, including taking part in The Great Scottish Run, will go directly towards Mental Health UK’s young people’s programme, Bloom, a UK-wide initiative that supports young people’s mental health resilience

The Great Scottish Run is a great way to help raise money for the partnership and running for Mental Health UK at this year’s event will go towards helping thousands of people with mental health problems across Scotland.

With this in mind, get your trainers on, start training and help make a difference.

 

LAUGH

Scottish sport isn’t making a huge splash at this moment, with our men’s national football team in limbo and Andy Murray recovering from hip surgery.

Step, or skip, forward then Scot Alex Lewis, who travelled down to Lake Windermere in England's Lake District, to not only defend his crown, but break his own All England Open Stone Skimming Championship record.

With a staggering 98m throw, the 22-year-old from Helensburgh smashed the championship record of 95 metres, which he himself set last year.

The property developer, who has competed in Japan due to his skimming prowess, stunned the crowd with his winning throw.

With the 2020 Olympics now accepting breakdancing, we Scots should get behind a campaign to get stone skimming recognised. A gold medal would surely be coming home from across the pond.     

 

WEEP

It’s disappointing to see that jobs are set to go at Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) sites.

With 35 posts under threat, it’s been put down to the major redesign of veterinary disease surveillance services.

The important work of the services can’t be downplayed, with post-mortem examinations on dead livestock forming part of their work to monitor for and combat animal diseases in Scotland.

The SRUC has announced its restructuring to improve the detection of diseases affecting livestock. However this will put laboratory and administrative roles at risk across Scotland including Aberdeen, Ayr, and Thurso.

With livestock so important to our economy, I hope the modernisation of the SRUC's services will see a real benefit in the protection of such a vital source of income in local communities.

 

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