Published: 12:00, 26 March 2020
| Updated: 13:42, 26 March 2020
Local independent stores forced to close due to the coronavirus lockdown are being offered a free opportunity to sell their products online.
The scheme is the brainchild of Dartford-based website design and marketing firm the Creation Lab.
It hopes the platform is has created at orderonline.uk will enable stores with no other online presence to continue to trade over the coming weeks and months.
Explains managing director of the Creation Lab, Matt Soper: "The companies who come to us normally seem to understand digital marketing and the benefits they can get from it.
"But there a lot of small independent shops on the high street who even don't have the finances to do digital marketing or don't understand it.
"It's probably that they have never had to worry about it in the past. They have footfall in the high street, they make a nice turnover. But now things have been shaken up.
"They have been forced to shut or the people coming through the door has dropped because of the lockdown.
"They're really suffering.
"We wanted to allow people to have a taster of selling online - something which will get a selection of the products they sell in their shop onto the internet and allow them to continue trading during the next few months while we get through this crisis.
"Orderonline.uk is a basic online shop we're providing for free, but it has the essentials.
"It allows them to get their products up front. They can promote the shop using Facebook and Twitter and it is a simple platform that they can plumb in a PayPal account into, and anyone can sign up to PayPal quickly and easily.
"People can then buy your product, you will be notified by email and the money will go into your PayPal account and then all you have to decide is how to distribute the products - either by post or collection from your premises.
"We are guiding businesses as well and people are collecting or delivering the service through the shop they are conforming to government guidelines on social distancing.
"But this should really help businesses survive over the next few months until they can open their doors again."
And it is hoped it could prove a useful addition in the future for firms looking to enhance their revenues.
Mr Soper added: "It may be a platform that once they get a taste of online shopping and the customers they can attract both locally and further afield, it might be something they want to keep moving forward.
"This is a time of uncertainty, we need to not give up and we're saying to businesses, this is a time to try new things. Do things you didn't think about before. They have more time now to consider this and to give it a try.
"It may not just see you through but allow you to discover new opportunities and take the company forward - some benefits may come from this."
The free service which has "no catch, whatsoever" can be signed up to at orderonline.uk.
Each company taking part will have a subdomain as part of the site to allow them to promote their wares.
Creation Lab was started up 10 years ago predominantly to set up websites. It has since expanded and now offers social media management, video production, blogs and other elements for businesses to engage with their potential audience and customers.
More by this authorChris Britcher