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Welsh Independent Retailer Set for International Growth

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A Swansea business 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.

Character.com, run by husband and wife team Stephen and Karen Hewitt, is now the largest independent retailer of character clothing in the UK.

Stephen and Karen started their business nine years ago and the couple are now exporting products from Swansea to customers in the UK, US, Canada, Spain, France, Germany, Italy and even Australia. The company employs almost 50 staff in Swansea.

The global demand for their products meant that Stephen and Karen’s original warehousing and shipping processes from their Swansea base needed to grow quickly.

To grow their processes at the same rapid pace as their sales, Stephen and Karen turned to the local Amazon fulfilment centre to stow, pick, pack and ship their products to their global customer base.

The couple uses a service called Fulfilment by Amazon, which makes selling across the world easy for SMEs of all shapes and sizes.

Businesses simply send their products to Amazon’s fulfilment centres, where they’re stowed and given Prime listing status to final shipping. Amazon also offers tracking, customer service and handles returns all over Europe.

The Character.com team visited the Amazon site in Swansea Bay to see how their products are fulfilled. During the tour, they met some of the staff that have played a key role in helping them expand far beyond the shores of Swansea.

Stephen said:

“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.

“Selling products online makes it much easier to start a new company than it was 10 or 15 years ago. The opportunity to get an almost immediate, global distribution base is a fantastic asset for any business and trading online is something that’s worked fantastically well. To set up that infrastructure would probably cost hundreds of millions of pounds and working with a partner like Amazon makes that process so much easier.

“It would be physically impossible for us to cope with the sheer volume of orders that we have, especially during the busy summer shopping period. It’s great to know that there’s a huge building full of creative, inventive people working for our business just down the road from where we live at the fulfilment centre in Swansea Bay.”

The local entrepreneurs visited Amazon as it gears up for one of the biggest sales events of the year – Prime Day on July 15 and 16 – to experience the journey their products take once a customer in the UK, Europe or further afield clicks ‘buy’ on the Amazon website.

At the site, they met some of the staff that have helped grow their business. They also met the man in charge of Amazon in Swansea – Site Leader Chris Law.

Chris said:

“It’s been great meeting Stephen and Karen and we enjoyed showing them how the team at Amazon in Swansea is working to help their business grow. A key element of what we do at Amazon is helping small businesses to grow by exporting and we’re proud of the part we’ve played in helping a Swansea business like Character.com expand to international markets.”

Thousands of SMEs in the UK that will be taking part in this year’s sales event. On Prime Day in 2018, SMEs selling in Amazon’s stores surpassed $1.5 billion in sales globally.

Stephen and Karen have recently launched a brand-new business, Harry Bear, which makes fun, funky, trend-inspired clothing for kids. Harry Bear is named after the couple’s son, Harry, and the nickname they have for their daughter, Jessie bear.

The brand started with just 20 products and has now expanded to 80 different product lines thanks to its rapid growth. Harry Bear is predicted to achieve a turnover of £1m in only its second year in business.