Christmas is the busiest time of the year for many shops and business is booming for many online retailers, too. Amazon has revealed exclusively to I Love Manchester that there are currently more than 7,000 Manchester-based sellers on its marketplace selling products to customers around the world.
In 2015, more than £80 million worth of goods were exported across the world from Manchester by local businesses using the Fulfilment by Amazon service which stores, picks, packs and distributes products for local entrepreneurs.
In addition to the support it provides for Marketplace sellers in Manchester, Amazon also operates a fulfilment centre in the city which opened in September 2016.
One Manchester man is helping to keep you warm as the nights get colder. Amer Kahn sells bedding across the world, making sure everyone is snugly tucked in as those temperatures start to drop. Just seven years after starting Love2Sleep, his business has an annual turnover of £4 million. As well as selling across Europe, he has plans to branch out into the US market.
“I was working as a sales rep for a local company, selling products to hospitals and care homes,” says Amer. “In 2009, I decided to branch out on my own, buying and selling textiles. That’s when I developed a taste for selling online.”
He soon realised how difficult it was for people to get their bulky bedding home and so started selling online from home, with his family helping fulfil orders. As his business grew, he decided to join Amazon Marketplace, opening a potential customer base across the UK and Europe. “Sales skyrocketed. We had to move warehouses twice to cope with the increase in business.
“We were constantly thinking ‘how big can we get?’ Our focus is very much on speed. We dispatch everything within 24 hours, but without Amazon we simply wouldn’t be able to offer this service.”
Another company helping us through the dark nights is The Light Factory, the brainchild of Eccles-born David Gutfreund who bounced back from the financial crash to create a £20 million business.
Using his acumen from years in the distribution business, David started out selling light fittings, bulbs and therapy lamps in 2010. Since then, his UK market share has doubled every six months and he now sells products across Europe.
“One of our biggest sellers are SAD therapy lamps. They help combat seasonal affective disorder and mimic natural sunlight which has great health benefits. The original designs were quite boxy and basic, but we have been able to transform them into more stylish, modern and transportable lamps.”
Today, David employs 80 staff and together, they are laying the foundations for what they hope will be another successful festive season.
“LED light bulb packs are among the best sellers at this time of year. People use them to brighten up their homes inside and out. The technology that goes into making them has improved too, so customers are benefitting from even better prices. They are almost half the price they were last year, so they are selling in their tens of thousands.”
You can’t have Christmas without those crucial stocking fillers, and another Manchester based firm is leading the way in toy sales. Wayne Kersh’s first sale was a Teletubbies beanie toy in 1998. He now fulfils hundreds of orders every day for customers across the world with his business, My Swift.
“It started out as a hobby for me,” Wayne recalls. “I was approached by an American seller who had spotted a big demand in hard-to-come-by Teletubbies products in the States and she asked me if I could source these in England. It was at this point I developed a taste for sourcing in-demand products and selling these online.”
“Running a business is a 24/7 commitment. We never truly switch off but I’m so lucky that I still get as much pleasure from the job now as I did on day one. My advice to any budding entrepreneurs out there would be, ‘If you don’t test the boundaries, you’ll never know what’s possible’.”
One man testing those boundaries is Manchester boxing fan Ray Qudos, who turned his passion for the sport into a hugely successful online business.
RDX, inspired by the name of a First World War explosive, was set up by Ray and a family friend to design branded equipment and accessories for a range of combat sports. With experience working for a number of larger companies, Ray had always dreamed of stepping in to the ring on his own and finally did in 2014.
The business has gone from a team of three people in the UK to 20, the global customer service operation has grown from eight to 60 employees and the factory overseas now employs 500 staff.
Key to his success has been partnering with Amazon’s FBA service. Sales have trebled year on year and RDX expects to top £6 million in sales this year.
“It feels like we have cracked America in a year,” Ray says. “We only launched in 2014 and already we are selling more than 100,000 units a month, such is the hunger for combat gear. In five years, we want to be as successful and well known as Nike and Adidas, we also want to put more focus on our charity work. For the immediate future, we want to deliver the best possible Christmas to our loyal customer base.”