The British High Street has a very unlikely saviour in the shape of Amazon following news that physical retail outlets are set to er, pop-up across the UK this year.
The online shopping giant has opened a store in Manchester, stocking products from 10 of its small business sellers. Sellers will be given two weeks in the shop in exchange for a nominal rent before being rotated for another 10 small business sellers.
Amazon claims third-party businesses now provide 58 per cent of gross merchandise sales, compared to just 3 per cent in 2000.
Other stores, branded Clicks and Mortar (oof), due to open this year will be located in Birmingham, Bradford, Cardiff and Edinburgh with additional areas still be chosen.
The year-long pilot is being run in association with Enterprise Nation – a training and networking business, card processor Square and insurer Direct Line for Business.
The group declined to tell us who is paying for what, but it has appointed an "independent research consultant" to study the pilot and to share its findings with the UK government.
The bookseller said it is also forking out funding for training 150 small business apprentices to boost online sales and offering free digital training to increase the UK's small business exports. The funding is open to any brand-owning small business currently selling on Amazon with turnover of less than £1m.
Although best known for selling online, and for its huge web services business, Amazon has dabbled in real-world retail before. Its Kindle devices are available for fondling in a variety of actual shops in the UK including John Lewis and Waterstones.
Amazon runs a variety of shops in the US under four groupings: the self-explanatory Books; 4 star – for flogging products with a four or five-star review; go, its auto-checkout grocery shops; and Presented by Amazon, which are mostly kiosks in malls which offer a changing inventory of big brands. ®