May 20, 2019
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Amazon has been a boon for many Maine small businesses

Courtesy of Hearth and Harrow
Courtesy of Hearth and Harrow
Casey Everett, owner of Hearth and Harrow in Rockland, creates silkscreen designs of nature that she affixes to tea towels, T-shirts and other items and sells via Amazon and other platforms.

Maine ranks third nationwide among states with the fastest-growing small- and medium-sized businesses that sell through Amazon’s stores.

Amazon, which released the study results Wednesday, found that more than half of the items sold in its stores are from small- and medium-sized businesses. Those sales total $160 billion.

The data also revealed that small businesses from states with large rural populations like Maine are growing their Amazon sales the fastest. Maine ranked third after Mississippi and Nebraska in sales growth.

Casey Everett, who owns Hearth and Harrow in Rockland, is one seller who has seen her sales double year-after-year since joining Amazon Handmade in 2015. That website is part of a group of Amazon entities catering to specific buyers.

“Joining Amazon Homemade took Hearth and Harrow to the next level,” Everett said. Online retail sales doubled immediately from 2015 to 2016.

Sales so far this year are up 50 percent over 2018, when full-year sales topped $150,000. Everett is now selling more than 250 products.

She said by the holiday season this year, she hopes to be able to hire seasonal employees. She plans to move the company out of her basement and into a renovated barn on her property by then.

“We’ve been saying no to a lot of things because we are a small batch, handmade shop,” she said. The extra space and workers will let the company expand.

She still sells on multiple platforms, including her own website and craft website Etsy, as well as via wholesale. She estimates 60 percent of her revenue is from retail sales, and of that, 60 percent is through Amazon. The remaining 40 percent of revenue is from wholesale sales.

Everett uses natural dyes and fabrics to make T-shirts, tea towels and pillow cases with scenes of nature on them. Two popular sellers are tea towels with an otter or chicken silkscreened onto them. The towels sell for $16 each and the T-shirts, which she added in February, go for $30.

The daughter of a fifth generation Maine dairy farmer, Everett is an artist who started the company five years ago on her kitchen table when she was pregnant with her second child.

She stayed on top of e-commerce developments, and quickly grew her online presence.

“I hoped to make $5,000 a year when I started so we could go on a family vacation,” she said.

“I’d encourage anyone considering starting an online business to try it. You can start with little overhead, get your feet wet and grow from there,” she said.

Nick Denissen, a vice president at Amazon, said online selling enables rural businesses to complement sales in physical stores by reaching customers they wouldn’t otherwise have access to as easily.

“Research shows that increased adoption of online tools and digital services could grow annual revenues of rural small business by 21 percent over the next three years and create 360,000 jobs in rural communities,” he said.

He said Amazon is investing billions of dollars to develop tools and services that help small businesses reach new customers.

Amazon cited a March 2019 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Amazon showing that nearly 20 percent of rural small businesses in America generate at least 80 percent of their revenue by selling their products and services online.

“I’m able to reach customers in Germany from my home-studio in Maine — it’s incredible,” Everett said.

Those wanting to sell via Amazon stores need to apply and be screened by Amazon. They pay according to volume and product price.

Individuals selling no more than 40 items per month pay 99 cents per item sold.

Professionals pay a monthly subscription fee of $39.99, but no per item fee.

Sellers all pay a referral fee, which averages 8 percent to 15 percent, depending on the item’s price. There also are variable closing and shipping fees.

 



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