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How an Irish startup is helping local retailers tackle Amazon

Edmund Heaphy
·Finance and news reporter
Christmas shoppers on one of Dublin’s main shopping streets. Pic: PA
Christmas shoppers on one of Dublin’s main shopping streets. Pic: PA

If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer in the digital age, it can be hard to compete with Amazon (AMZN). And in the last-minute dash before Christmas, consumers — at least in the US — almost unfailingly put their faith in the e-commerce giant.

With warehouses in over 30 states and an intricate delivery network, Amazon has manufactured an image of being almost more than convenient: Search for the product, it appears on your screen —and it’ll often be on your doorstep within the same day.

For decades, traditional retailers have been offering similar levels of convenience, at least if you live close to them. What many of them lack, however, is the kind of online presence that would let them compete with Amazon’s detailed catalogue. In an age defined by screen time and Google searches more than anything else, that’s a big problem.

READ MORE: Amazon Ramps Up Delivery Program With 10 More Cargo Aircraft

But one company is changing that — and quickly. Pointy, a Dublin-based startup, has already sold its ingenious little device to more than 1% of US retailers. Talk to store owners and Pointy is invariably described in terms like “frictionless”, “effortless” and “works like magic”.

You plug the £349/€399/$499 device into your existing point-of-sale system, and the rest just happens. Your store automatically gets a website replete with all of the products you sell. And Pointy also offers a comparable free product for retailers that use newer point-of-sale systems like Clover and Square.

That means that when a potential customer inevitably ends up searching online for the thing they’re looking for, they’ll be able to figure out that a retailer stocks it — and be far more inclined to visit your store than if all they were greeted with was an Amazon listing.

“We felt that it was crazy that you could find basically nearly any product online, but more often then not you wouldn’t know what’s in a store down the road from you,” Charles Bibby, a co-founder, told Yahoo Finance UK.

Up to now, many of the solutions have centred around helping retailers actually sell goods online.

“But the reality of selling stuff online is that it can actually be pretty tough, and brick-and-mortar retailers more often than not don’t have the resources or time to do that properly,” Bibby said.

“The simplest idea in our eyes was to get them found online for the product searches but then to drive that consumer into the local store.”

On top of that, not every country has a sprawling Amazon delivery network: “Countries like Ireland don’t have next-hour delivery and sometimes you just want to go and get it from a shop there and then. The nice thing for the brick-and-mortar retailer is that they don’t really have to change their behaviour at all.”

Founded by Bibby and CEO Mark Cummins in 2014, Pointy now has over 10,000 retailers in the US, UK and Ireland on its platform, and has consistently seen month-on-month growth of 15%.

Its staff has doubled in the past year, to more than 60 – and the company has raised $19m (£15m) to date from backers like Draper Associates, Frontline Ventures and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. By the end of 2019, it hopes to be in 6% of US retailers.

“We’ve got a few more ideas as to how we can help local retailers,” Bibby said, “but our goal at the moment is to get to a point where Pointy is everywhere.”