Since opening its stores to smaller, independent sellers nearly 20 years ago, Amazon has been a growth engine for millions of small businesses around the world. In 2000, 3 per cent of physical gross merchandise sales on Amazon came from third-party businesses. By 2018 this increased to 58 per cent, following years of heavy investment in technology, infrastructure and selling tools to help them grow their business. Tens of thousands UK-based small businesses now sell their products on Amazon’s global sites, helping to support more than 80,000 UK jobs and achieving £2.5bn in export sales in 2018 alone.

One such company is Edinburgh-based, MorphCostumes, which celebrates its tenth birthday this year. The company was created after one of its directors went on a stag holiday dressed in a spandex costume. The attention he received on the holiday prompted him to team up with some of his friends when he returned home. They bought material to create their own suits in a few different colours and the idea for the Morphsuit was born.

The company was an instant hit and, like 80 per cent of UK SMEs selling on Amazon who already export, MorphCostumes is now looking to expand into more international territories.

In the early days of the business, the phenomenal demand for Morphsuits meant that the company’s founders, Ali, Fraser and Gregor’s original warehousing and shipping processes needed to grow quickly. To grow their processes at the same rapid pace as their sales, the trio turned to Fulfilment by Amazon; a service that allows sellers to send their products to Amazon to take care of storing, packing and shipping their products.

Fraser, chief executive at MorphCostumes, recently visited Amazon in Dunfermline, to see how their products are stored and processed for customers, he said: “Amazon handles everything for us, from storing and shipping the costumes to customer services, which means we can concentrate on developing our brand and our products without investing heavily in our own fulfilment and warehousing processes.”

Karen and Chris from Character.com picuterd smiling at the camera with Amazon employee, Donata - who is putting a SpongeBob SquarePants backpack (one of the sellers' items) into an Amazon box.

Another business which uses Fulfilment by Amazon and recently toured their local Amazon warehouse is Character.com, run by husband and wife team Stephen and Karen. The Swansea-based company that specialises in film and comic book character-themed clothing, is celebrating success ahead of a busy summer of sales by growing its export market to Australia and launching a brand-new business.

Stephen and Karen, whose company now employs 50 people in Swansea, visited Amazon and met some of the staff that have played a key role in helping them expand far beyond the shores of Wales.

“The people working at the fulfilment centre have had a huge impact on our business and we’re really thankful for everything that they continue to do for us. Working alongside Amazon has helped us sell products as far away as Australia and this support has allowed us to grow our Character.com business and launch our new brand, Harry Bear,” said Stephen.

An entrepreneur from Huntingdon, founder of the Unified Retail Group Limited, Gareth, also visited his local Amazon warehouse in Peterborough. Gareth launched the business in 2004 in a spare bedroom and began selling wellbeing products like natural nutritional supplements as part of his Blue Herbs brand.

Ryan and Gareth from United Retail Group Ltd pictured outside the Amazon warehouse in Peterborough
Photo by RICHARD GRANGE / UNP (United National Photographers)

Following the growth of Blue Herbs, which has more than 74,000 positive reviews on its Amazon store, Gareth launched another successful business, the Cambridge Pet Store. Gareth’s company has now grown to a business that exports products across Europe. Unified Retail Group employs 25 staff at its Huntingdon base and has expanded operations to North America. The team includes software engineers, finance managers, product managers, warehousing logistics and a sales team.

Unified Retail Group’s team of experts, led by Gareth, now helps other businesses in Huntingdon and around the UK to sell products via Amazon to customers globally. The team uses the knowledge built from 15 years of ecommerce training to help businesses embrace trading online for growth and exporting by providing advice on selling, marketing, shipping and more.

During his tour of the warehouse, Gareth explained “we work with hundreds of different companies and brands of all shapes and sizes. We get a real buzz out of passing on the great things we’ve learned in the last 15 years to entrepreneurs who are at the start of their commerce journey. Of course, we’re still fully focused on growing our own brands too, which is made possible thanks to the support from the local Amazon team.”

Prime Day 2019 was another record-breaking success for independent third-party sellers; mostly SMEs. These innovators, artisans, and entrepreneurs are an invaluable part of the Amazon family. Globally, these businesses far exceeded $2 billion in sales this Prime Day, making it the biggest Amazon shopping event ever for third-party sellers when comparing two-day periods.

Anyone wishing to follow in these sellers’ footsteps is invited to attend the Amazon Academy. Taking place in Amazon fulfilment centres across the UK throughout 2019, the events provide insight on how to use the power of the internet and technology to grow your company.