In a survey compiled by Amazon, questioning 1,000 companies across the UK, rural business leaders are forecasting 2.1 per cent revenue growth and 0.9 per cent jobs growth.
With rural business operations less able to rely on passing trade or a large local market, those engaging with ecommerce are proving smaller companies can find a wider customer base abroad, Amazon found.
Karen Riddick, the owner of Scottish business Second Nature, now turns over £350,000 – of which half is generated through ecommerce.
“As someone who runs a successful rural based business, my message to other small businesses is that there are no geographical limits to ecommerce. For those who prefer rural living, I would say that it’s the perfect solution.
“Thanks to the internet and technology, you can have a high-growth business without giving up your scenery, your community or your quality of life. There’s huge opportunity for our rural economy.”
Writing for Real Business earlier in 2017, Brain Wilson, chair of directors at Rural England, said digital adoption will help the rural potential of all sectors.
“It is not too far-fetched to postulate that digital uptake may have a more transformational effect on the rural economy than on its urban counterpart, particularly if proximity to customers and suppliers becomes less important, and if more and more businesses trade and manage themselves by adopting ecommerce, video conferencing, cloud storage, online training and the like,” he added.
Rural England is working with Amazon and Scotland’s Rural College to “unlock” the digital potential of rural areas. At the upcoming Rural Entrepreneur Show in Birmingham in early November, the three organisations will present initial findings and provide rural businesses with the chance to offer up insights.
“We’re seeing thousands of rural SMEs use Amazon to export and successfully grow their business, so it’s great to see the projected export revenue and jobs growth reflected more broadly in the findings,” said Doug Gurr, UK country manager at Amazon.
In July the government unveiled the latest round of its Rural Development funding programme – a £200m grant pot expected to help generate 6,750 new jobs. For the first time under the current scheme, specific funding will be available to support new rural broadband projects, and provide “significant amounts” of funding to on-farm businesses to invest in new infrastructure such as new buildings and machinery.
Speaking then, rural affairs minister Lord Gardiner said: “One in three businesses in this country are based in the countryside, and this government is committed to providing the support needed to create a strong and prosperous rural economy.”
From the £200m grant pot, £30m will go towards improving rural broadband, £45m to help rural businesses grow and invest in new equipment and £120 is for projects that improve farm productivity.