Tuesday 21 May 2019

Online retail can work in rural hub

Niall McAllister at’s Ballymote headquarters
Niall McAllister at’s Ballymote headquarters

The potential for North West companies to sell online to 500 million customers in Europe is something the Government needs to actively promote and highlight to the public.

That's according to co-founder Niall McAllister. He and Andrew Davidson sell vegetable growing equipment through their website. They expect to turn over ¤2 million this year and employ nine staff.

Speaking to this newspaper in their Ballymote warehouse, Niall said the Government acted in haste in restricting the JobBridge programme.

"JobBridge was a fantastic thing but they backed away from that because it got some negative media publicity but they didn't go looking for the companies that were using it properly," he said.

"We grew probably a year ahead of what we would have because of JobBridge. We took on six JobBridge staff and four of them are full time now," he added.

Niall said good broadband infrastructure was key to their success. "The internet gives you access to 7 billion people and you can build a business here very quickly. The reason we're in Ballymote is because there's good broadband in Ballymote and the warehousing costs are quite small here.

"If you don't have good broadband you're running with one leg. We sell products that allow people to grow their own vegetables at home. An unlikely business to be online and yet it's very successful. I think the trick they're missing here is that they just do not realise the potential of selling online, for rural businesses to sell into the UK and European markets," he said.

Most of their products are sourced locally.

While Brexit has hit - they had to let two staff go - they are now hooking their future on Europe and the US.

Niall believes the Government should give well-qualified people financial support to move to the West.

"Most rural towns see online as a threat. But there's also a big opportunity because you can sell likewise. To produce a document and not address the potential for online retail is just crazy," he added.

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