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Caithness and Sutherland businesses urged to sign up for FSB e-commerce webinar

By Alan Hendry

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The FSB e-commerce webinar will take place on January 28.
The FSB e-commerce webinar will take place on January 28.

Caithness and Sutherland businesses are being urged to sign up for a webinar later this month aimed at helping them make the most of online sales.

The e-commerce event is being organised by David Richardson, Highlands and Islands development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, who points out that online trading is here to stay and it is a case of "if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”.

Mr Richardson says the FSB recognises that many small, independent businesses in the region have been hit hard by the rapid increase in internet sales since the pandemic began. The webinar will encourage more businesses to get into e-commerce or to boost their existing online presence.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that online sales are increasing rapidly. Year-on-year, all food saw 107.8 per cent growth, all non-food was up by 105.9 per cent and the total for all sales rose by 74.7 per cent

The British Retail Consortium reported that non-food online sales jumped by 44.8 per cent in December, while a report from the Centre for Retail Research earlier this month confirmed that 2020 was the worst year for high street job losses in more than 25 years.

Mr Richardson says the FSB understands that the switch to online sales during the pandemic is part of a trend that has been in place for years, that shopping online is "habit-forming" and that high streets are threatened.

“We know only too well that small, independent businesses are struggling for survival right across this region and beyond," he said. "Quite simply, the growth in e-commerce is a worldwide phenomenon and online sales are here to stay.

“The FSB is encouraging all appropriate business owners and managers to consider whether they can afford not to add online sales to their mixes – and, if they are already selling online, whether they could do so better.

"Given all that has happened, and all that is likely to happen, now really is the time to adopt an 'if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach.

“We fervently hope that as many Caithness and Sutherland businesses as possible will join us for this important event.”

The webinar will be based on three interviews conducted by the University of the Highlands and Islands’ key account director, Gary I Campbell.

The first will be with William Crawford, co-director of the Old School in Beauly. This small business saw growth of over 500 per cent in online sales during the first lockdown, and Mr Crawford will talk about his experiences.

The second interview is with Fergus Weir, managing director of Teclan in Inverness. Teclan is an e-commerce/digital marketing specialist and Mr Weir will discuss the services that companies like his provide and what businesses should look for.

Danny Gallagher from Business Gateway will discuss the public sector support available to help businesses go down the e-commerce route.

The webinar will take place between 10am and 11.30am on Thursday, January 28.

It is open to all businesses. For more information and to register go to www.fsb.org.uk/event-calendar, type Inverness in the search bar and click on January events.

Mr Crawford said: “I was both surprised and thrilled to see my online sales really take off during the first lockdown, and for sales to remain buoyant in the shop once we reopened in the summer.

“Selling online adds to workloads, but if you get it right the rewards are obvious. At this really difficult time for high streets, I would encourage everyone who can sell online to give it some serious thought. And remember, support is out there – you are not alone.”

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