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TMCNet:  Internet trading gives boost to rural businesses [Western Morning News (England)]

[December 27, 2013]

Internet trading gives boost to rural businesses [Western Morning News (England)]

(Western Morning News (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Change is a theme I return to again and again in my columns for this newspaper, but I'd say 2013 brought more of it to the Westcountry than any year since I began producing copy for the WMN in 1999.

And it is the great, often unseen, digital revolution that is really taking a hold across this peninsula.

Only a few days ago I interviewed two young Somerset men who'd built a booming business making old-fashioned shepherds' huts and they told me 99% of their success was down to being able to market the product on the internet.

In three years of operations they'd only sold one shepherd hut through traditional channels like advertising their wares at country shows. At the same time they were opening up franchises in Australia and the United States - openings that could never have happened without an effective website. Many regard internet commerce as a threat, but the evidence I've seen this year leads me to believe it could hugely benefit the rural Westcountry. We need people in our parishes if the countryside is to survive and flourish and - unless those people are wealthy retirees - they need ways to making a living.

In 2013 I have met a vast diversity of people - from fishermen to jewellers, from venison farmers to public relations consultants - who are now relying on their websites to sell products and services to a much wider audience than the tiny populace that surrounds them.

And I am able to say that as a journalist who does not specialise in business coverage.

This is the general, wider, aspect of the modern rural society I'm talking about - and, if it is fuelling growth and prosperity, it can only be a good thing.

Some years ago in one of these endof-year WMN round-ups I worried about the continuing de-population of the Westcountry's rural acres. I'd been reporting on local schools, pubs and shops all closing because families were vanishing from the more remote parts of our countryside.

Is that trend reversing? Perhaps it's too early to say; we need to watch this space. And we need to underline the fact that faster broadband speeds are, arguably, even more crucial to the frail rural economy than they are in burgeoning urban centres.

(c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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