Business Blooming: Amazon fuels local company’s turnaround

Jackson business facing shutdown after recession now thriving

Business boom

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - If you’re worried that big online retailers like Amazon are putting local stores out of business, consider this: Amazon says Mississippi businesses are its fastest-growing sellers.

Address America is a case in point. The small company makes high-profile address signs for homes and businesses so everyone from the pizza guy to the ambulance driver can find your home.

An Address America employee works on a sign at the company's Jackson office (Source: WLBT)
An Address America employee works on a sign at the company's Jackson office (Source: WLBT)

Business was good for the company, then based in Ridgeland, when 3 On Your Side profiled it in the station’s weekly “Mississippi Business Report" in June of 1999. But then came the recession of 2007.

“Everything went south," recalls owner David Ashley. "We were just on the brink.”

David Ashley of Address America (Source: WLBT)
David Ashley of Address America (Source: WLBT)

Ashley was forced to cut back and move to a smaller office on Interstate 55 in Jackson. Then in 2013, with his son Joshua now also in the business, the Ashleys made a decision that turned everything around.

“When we shifted gears with Amazon, it took us from being on the brink of insolvency to getting where we are today," says Joshua Ashley.

Joshua Ashley of Address America (Source: WLBT)
Joshua Ashley of Address America (Source: WLBT)

They knew they had to be online, and they decided to forgo their own website and sell on one that was already being used by millions.

“With our own website, we can do a lot, but we’re only as good as how many people find us," says the younger Ashley. "Amazon has a great deal of reach and a great deal of customer trust, and by following Amazon’s metrics for sellers, we’re able to partner with them to gain that customer trust.”

The Ashleys say since they started selling on Amazon six years ago, Address America’s sales are up 800 percent and continue to grow each year.

Andrea Ruge, who works in public affairs at the Amazon corporate office in Seattle, came to Jackson to share the Ashleys’ story. She says small- and medium-sized businesses like theirs are part of Amazon’s DNA -- and now account for more than half the items sold on Amazon.

Andrea Ruge of Amazon (Source: WLBT)
Andrea Ruge of Amazon (Source: WLBT)

“We looked at what states had the fastest-growing small- and medium-size businesses on Amazon," she says. "What we looked at were sales year-over-year and the percentage growth of overall sales. Mississippi’s small- and medium-size businesses topped that list.”

The Ashleys, like other sellers in Mississippi and elsewhere, have to follow strict guidelines to sell on Amazon, whose customers have come to expect a quick turnaround.

“An order can come in at 2:00, or just before 2:00 in the afternoon -- and if it’s a Prime order, it has to go out that day,” says David Ashley.

“Here at Address America, they’re doing ‘Merchant-Fulfilled Prime,’ which means they’re still sending their packages out and getting them to customers in two days, but they’re doing it here in-house," explains Ruge. That’s why you see “Ships and Sold by Address America” on Amazon’s website.

“Some smaller businesses can’t do that on their own, so it’s easier for them to send a bulk shipment of products over to Amazon, and then we handle it from there,” she says, referring to those cases when you see “fulfilled by Amazon” on the listing.

Of course, the business doesn’t get those services or Amazon’s reach for free, but for companies like Address America and the others in Mississippi that use it, the partnership with the world’s most valuable retailer is profitable.

“We would not be here today without Amazon,” says Joshua Ashley.

His father points out that his company’s success has a ripple effect.

“We purchase materials locally here in Mississippi, and we also hire people from Mississippi, so we are actually creating some jobs, and we’re able to send our materials all over the country," he says. "It’s a boom for small businesses to be able to sell on Amazon.”

And the next time you buy something on Amazon, you might find it was made right here in Mississippi.

Amazon has created this website with information for people interested in selling on the platform.

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