Store of the Month: April 2017

11 Apr

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Our store of the month for April is the fantastic ‘Childrens Outdoor Toys‘. Andrew had a dream to become his own boss. He didn’t let poor health stop him from realizing his dream and, using skills and contacts built up over time, has built up a successful business.

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your business and where it all started

Well, I’m Andrew originally from Shropshire in England, now living with my partner Sarah on the Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire border with my 2 step son’s and our daughter who was 3 this week (the real cheeky monkey) and our little 11-month-old tea-cup chihuahua called Lucy.

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The real cheeky monkeys of the business!

I did spend 10 years in the army and after that, I worked in mental health. After 3 years I decided to be my own boss and started up a private medical company to cover children’s events and sporting events. Things went downhill with my health as I was treating a patient I could not get back up so I visited the doctors and was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and severe arthritis and back problems. I thought it time to give up but found doing nothing was too boring.

2. What made you get into this line of work?

With all the contacts I picked up over a few years I decided to sell sports equipment and children’s outdoor toys. We decided to go for active toys and sports to get children away from the T.V and Game Station and get out in the garden and be active!

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I have played lots of sports in my time so the choice selection had to be around something I knew a lot about to help in making sales. Also, I set up at home at first as I cannot get out much then we hired an office address.

I love selling active toys and sporting equipment knowing that I am helping another person’s life to be more active than my own right now.

3. Do you have a physical store as well as an online store? How do you market your product?

At the minute we have an online store with a facebook store along with a pop-up store that my partner sets up either at fun days or a home shopping party. We are in talks to set up a retail unit but looking for the right location to be able to set up a good showroom.
At the minute I am enjoying taking the phone calls and processing the orders at home (if my partner is not in the office). I do a lot of blogging and Facebooking along with Twitter, just to help boost the sales.

4. If you could have ANYONE to come and work for you, who would it be and why?

It would be Alan Carr! He is soooo amazing, funny and he would be the best of people to jump around on our trampolines or play table tennis!
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Alan Carr would be Andrew’s perfect employee!

5. Do you have any advice for new store owners?

Never give up (as you have read above with my health). Giving up does cross your mind many times if you want something in life just grab it and be determined. If you fail, try again and again. I did…..

6. Is there a specific reason you chose to use freewebstore as your eCommerce platform?

I did purchase from a supplier when I was selling on facebook and saw the platform they used, freewebstore. I looked into it but saw another platform I went with. It turned out not to be what we were looking for – 7th place on Google was NOT what we wanted. Now we’re with freewebstore and we are 3rd with our keyword children’s outdoor toys and we’re looking at increasing this.

7. If you could choose one magic power, what would you go for?

I would like to have the power of healing – so I can see my daughters first day at nursery.

8. And finally, tell us your best joke!

I have given up on telling jokes! My little girl always says I am cheating when I tell her jokes. Oh and I won £2k for my last joke, would you believe it? Not really, I’m only joking… 😉

 

You can visit Sarah and Andrew’s shop just in time for summer by clicking here.

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Store of the Month: March

16 Mar

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Our store of the month for March is the delightful bellesheartsncrafts. Maxine, after learning from her father, has turned her passion and hobby into her very own creative business! We caught up with Maxine for a chat…

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your business and where it all started

I’m originally from England and before I moved to the USA I lived in a small village in North Lincolnshire with my 3 older children, dogs, cats, goats and chickens.

I met my American hubby in quite a bizarre way – playing a game called ‘Clash of Clans’ on my mobile phone. We traveled back and forth for a while, decided to get married and I moved over to Pennsylvania to live 4 years ago!

I was an English Language and Literature teacher in England, specializing in students with social and emotional barriers to learning.  To make any kind of difference, I had to be creative with teaching and learning – an anything goes kind of approach – learning through art, through building, making, drawing, painting – anything that interested my students and helped them to learn.

After I had my little boy, who is now 3, I wanted to combine being a stay at home mum with something to stimulate my mind and soul – bellesheartsncrafts was born.

2. What made you get into this line of work?

My father was an amazing artist, carpenter and all round DIY man, I spent hours as a young girl learning skills from him.  I love working with wood; in fact, I was the first girl ever in the history of my high school to take wood work and metal work as subjects rather than the only girl option of Home Economics.

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I love working with my hands, with wood, painting, it soothes my soul; every single item I make at bellesheartsncrafts is made from my heart. I decided to have a ‘dabble’ with selling some things I had made – mainly photos transferred onto wood and wood burned Christmas ornaments, to begin with.  It soon evolved into wedding ring boxes, hand painted signs, ornaments, leather products to name but a few – all made by hand by me.  I just LOVE being able to make something special for someone to treasure;  to help people in times of grief with memorial ornaments; to capture precious moments and memories for people to hold on to;  knowing it was specially made just for them with my love poured into it.

3. Do you have a physical store as well as an online store? How do you market your product?

I currently don’t have a physical store, it’s something I’d like to do in a few years maybe, but I’m enjoying working at home at crazy hours to fit around spending time with my family.

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I’m just really starting out with looking at marketing; I have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, my shop, word of mouth at the moment and am really excited to be expanding into building my own website as an additional place to show and sell my products.

4. If you could have ANYONE to come and work for you, who would it be and why?

Oooooo – this is a tough one! It would have to be my daughter who is 15 at the moment and is still living in England, she loves making things with me and we work really well together; but then I’d need my oldest son too who’s about to finish his Graphic Design degree – he’d be a great help! and my middle son too who has a great eye with aesthetics…what a team!

5. Do you have any advice for new store owners?

Never, never, never give up – if it’s your dream and you love it – just keep on going; be determined,  open-minded, tolerant, accepting and willing to try and fail and try again.

6. Is there a specific reason you chose to use freewebstore as your eCommerce platform?

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Fantastic display on Maxine’s freewebstore homepage

Actually it was a place I follow on Instagram called Oakley Dokely – they’ve recently started a website with you and I thought I’d take a look – it looked great; easy to build, FAB customer support (and incredibly patient with me when I’ve asked a phenomenal amount of questions!) I can’t wait to get all my products listed, set up newsletters, blogs… – so exciting!

7. If you could choose one magic power, what would you go for?

Oh my! – Does being a unicorn, a faery or a dragon count as magic powers? If not, then I would choose the power of healing.

8. And finally, tell us your best joke!

According to my hubby,  I don’t have a ‘best’ joke – but one of my favorites (and I apologise in advance…)

Why was the sand wet?
Because the sea-weed…..

Store of the Month: February

20 Feb

Our store of the month for February is fantastically elegant Pearls with Hanna!  We managed to grab a few words with Paul, the store owner about his and wife Hanna’s pearl business!

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1. Please tell us a bit about yourself your business and where it all started

We are Hanna and Paul. We’re both 31 and have three children aged 13, 9, and 3.  The idea of Pearls with Hanna was born in the spring of 2016 when Hanna found a live feed of a lady in America selling similar items in the same format. She got chatting with various people about how they went about starting up their businesses and it looked to be a non-starter as everyone doing it was in America and their suppliers either didn’t cover the UK or had an 8 week lead time.

Not one to be deterred Hanna continued to scour the internet for quality suppliers and eventually stumbled across a lady called Liz from Northern Ireland, who had established suppliers in Japan and China and had the vision to become a UK wholesaler for sterling silver jewellery and saltwater Akoya oysters, soon after her company Les Bel Amour Global was born.
Naturally, we jumped on the bandwagon, pushed in our investment and used our already established network marketing to launch in October 2016. Pearls with Hanna was born!

2. The pearl craze seems to have taken off in recent months, can you tell us a bit more about this? How did you get into this?

The pearl craze has been somewhat of a global phenomenon! It has taken off like a rocket in the online marketplace with many distributors, using different suppliers on multiple continents. It’s a thoroughly addictive watch on the live feeds, the anticipation of the next colour pearl and if there will be twins or even triplets!

3. What kind of marketing do you to attract visitors to your store?

Our marketing is primarily Facebook. We add our videos into selling sites and encourage people to like and share the page and the feeds.
Word of mouth from our customers to their friends and families plays a large part to.

screen-shot-2017-02-20-at-11-40-184. Do you have a physical store or do you operate solely online?

We are solely online at this pint in time but it is our overall aim to have our own shop!

 

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Pearls with Hanna – range of products

5. Do you have any advice for new store owners?

Try to make your store as user-friendly, informative, and as eye-catching as possible! Don’t be afraid to try something new or change something to a different style – you can always put it back afterward!

6. Is there a specific reason you chose to use freewebstore as your eCommerce platform

We use Freewebstore as it is the preferred site of the lovely lady who set up our store for us to begin with.

7. Please, sum up your freewebstore experience

So easy to use and maintain, fast response to tickets and really helpful staff. Everything is there for you, so logically placed and easy to fiddle about with to get it how you want it!

8. And finally, tell us your best joke!

I dreamt of a beautiful walk on a sandy beach last night. I guess that explains the footprints in the cat litter this morning.

Take a look at the fantastic range of products at pearlswithhanna.co.uk

Meet Stephen, our partner manager

17 Feb

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1. Partner Manager? Tell us a little more…

It’s my job to look after all our existing partners and also to look for new and exciting ones to join freewebstore 🙂

2. What’s your favourite pizza topping?

I do have a soft spot for a “Mexicana” pizza!

3. Beatles or Rolling Stones?

The Beatles.

4. If you could wake-up in the body of someone else who would it be and what would you do?

I reckon being Tom Hardy could have its perks 😉

5. If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?

Teleportation, just for those extra minutes in bed in the morning!

6. What are you afraid of the most?

Relegation (Editor: He’s a Burnley FC fan, so it’s a big possibility)

7. Finally, what’s so great about working at freewebstore?

I get to work in a fun and exciting environment with a great bunch of colleagues (I put that in preparation for future “Meet the gang” features).  Working for a rapidly growing company is both challenging and rewarding!

Let’s get social: Facebook

7 Feb

Digital media has massively changed the way businesses reach, inform and communicate with their audience, with social media being a ‘key player’ for businesses to engage with their audience. A massive 2.34bn people worldwide have a social media platform of some sort (Statista).

The first section of the ‘Let’s get social’ blog will briefly cover the benefits of having a general social media presence and will look more in-depth into one of the most popular social media platform, Facebook.

What are the benefits of social media?

I’m sure you’ll want to know the benefits of having a social media presence and how it may impact your business. Below are a few key benefits that social media can bring.

Increased Brand Awareness: Social media is a great way of increasing your presence in one single click. Getting a few shares on your post will share your brand to potentially thousands of new customers and allow you to easily monitor the engagement.

Real-time content vs pre-planned, scheduled content:  Unlike traditional marketing methods such as print, you can share and create real-time content and easily adapt your marketing efforts as and when you choose.

Learn about your users: You’ll be able to learn about your customer’s online habits and possibly find out new things about your main demographic. You can target specific demographics with new imaginative content that’s relevant to the right audience.

Feedback: Social media allows for instant dialogue with customers in real-time and helps promote customer service. Again, unlike traditional methods, you’re open to a two- way conversation and not just a one-way conversation.

A lil’ bit of spying: It’s more than likely that your major competitors will have a social media presence, this is a perfect way to monitor your competition and stay ahead of the game. You may notice something that your competition are doing well that may improve your own business or something that they’ve not done quite so well – something you can exploit. You can engage with your rivals audience through targeted ad campaigns to let them know that you’re the better choice!

Gather leads: Connect with your audience on social media and then move the conversation on. Gather email addresses by offering newsletters, contests etc. You can use the email addresses to lead your potential new customers to your website

This is just a snippet of the benefits that social media can offer your business, sounds great, right?!

Facebook

We start our ‘let’s get social’ series with Facebook. According to PEW research, 79% of online adults use Facebook (US) – a huge number! It’s a great platform to connect with new customers and help retain existing relationships.

What can I post on Facebook?

Build up brand loyalty by producing and sharing helpful and entertaining articles to help educate the user, the soft sell approach works best! If you’re seen as being active and engaging with users, you’ll increase your chances of getting custom over someone who has a limited/no presence.  You can also drive users to your web-store and increase your chances of another customer. Post content that has a link back to your site, such as:

  • Informative blog articles.
  • How-to guides.
  • New product launches (as seen below).
  • Entertaining and visual content.

 

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Your Facebook page is a great way to promote product launches to new and exisiting users.

However, it’s important to know that it’s not all about attracting new custom, retaining current customers is equally, if not more, important. Interact with your users, get involved in discussions and show them that you value their custom! A simple reply to a comment goes a long way to achieving this, as seen below:

 

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Actively engage with your users & show them that they’re valued.

 

Encourage users to share their experience on Facebook page by comments, reviews and photos and interact with the posts! 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over advertising, so this is important to consider. Encourage customers to leave positive reviews on your store:

  • Offer an incentive for users to leave their feedback on Facebook, money off for example. (this is a freewebstore premium feature).
  • Inform your customers that you’re active on social media.
  • Encourage previous customers to share their product pictures.

Paid Facebook adverts are becoming the norm with most successful businesses utilising this feature. Now I know you’re thinking ‘what’s the point of spending money when I can post for free?’. The truth is, only 2% of organic posts reach their intended audience (Rob Peterson). So be prepared to splash a little cash to reap the full benefits. However, the costs are much cheaper than traditional marketing channels, such as print or adverts.

With information gained from Google analytics, Facebook analytics you can see who interacts with your content the most – then target Facebook users who fall under this demographic. Build up an audience that’s relevant to your business and are likely to interact and engage with your posts.

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An example of the Facebook custom audience page.

 

You can create custom adverts via the ‘Adverts Manager’ tab. From there, it’s possible to create a custom audience (so that you know the posts are hitting your intended audience), select your objectives and set the budget you want to stick to.

If you need help on setting up the perfect Facebook business page, have a read of this helpful blog article here.

 A great opportunity

Social media is a great opportunity for businesses to interact online. I’m sure that the majority of you have a social media presence. However, of freewebstore 40,000+ active store’s – only 5.6% (!) have utilised the FREE feature and connected their store to social media platforms. It’s a big opportunity lost in terms of customer engagement. Head over to your freewebstore control panel > Marketing > Social Media and connect your store now and get social!

The next blog in the series will cover Twitter.

 

Store of the Month: January 2017

13 Jan

Our latest store of the month is one of our longest serving stores – the good, the bad and the robots, specialising in collectable toys. We caught up with the store-owner, Lee, to find out a bit more about his business.

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1.Please tell us a bit about yourself

It’s really hard to explain yourself LOL. I love the movies, TV shows, gaming and music. I like walking my dog and I like good food and the occasional beer (ahem!).  I used to be a semi-pro magician but just don’t have the time anymore…! I live by the motto “ treat others how you would expect to be treated”, that goes for my friends, family and my customers.

2. Please tell us about your business and where it all started

My business sells niche toys/collectables. The bulk of my line is 1/6 scale figures with incredible detail of the body, face and tailoring. It all started way back in the 80’s really when I was just a kid…. I collected Star Wars, He-Man. I then had to grow up, get a job, get married etc but it was on my honeymoon, I stumbled across a comic book shop in the US selling the most awesome products. From there it just escalated!

3. You’ve got some pretty cool products – what kind of marketing do you?

The best marketing in the world is your own passion around your own products. If yoscreen-shot-2017-01-05-at-11-02-58u find what you are selling is in any way negative, you are selling the wrong stuff. Don’t pour money into bad advertising, use free channels like Facebook, twitter and such like. Don’t
just post an item, join the community groups set up for your products, chat to people, get involved. I don’t have a physical shop so I have to compensate for not meeting people face to face….

4. Do you have any advice for new store owners?

Stand out, be different, it’s a tough world out there. Do not think it’s as easy as setting up a shop front and watching the sales come in…. Be passionate, do your homework,  and love what you do.

5. Is there a specific reason you chose to use freewebstore as your eCommerce platform?

Yes, without a doubt the most user-friendly interface out there! Great customer support and I love the way you are striving for new ideas and add-ons….Perfect!

6. Please, sum up your freewebstore experience.

Relaxed, simple, innovative….( do I get the £20 you promised me now? haha)

7. And finally, tell us your best joke

I met a girl the other day, she said her name was “ Matarka”

I said, “ that is an unusual name, you don’t hear that every day!”

She said “ Actually, I do”

Guest Blog: Let’s Take a Closer Look at Stock Photos

30 Dec

Stock photos, not really a normal or common subject but more important than you think. Hi, I am Laura, also called Myu by people and I am the owner of the online store Collect and Play.  I hope this article will be helpful or at least contain useful tips for you to use for your own store. Now let’s get on with the main subject.

Stock photos

For those who don’t know, stock photos are the pictures you make of the products you sell so customers can see what they are buying. So, obviously, they are very important for your store. There are also two different types of stock photos. One is a very common used photo and is always used before the actual product becomes available or for folders but some stores stick to these standard photos as can be seen on sites like Amazon, eBay, Game Mania, Bart Smit and many others. The second type is the photo you make yourself once you received your new products. Now it should be noted that you should stick to the type that works best for your store and I highly recommend making your own because a product will stand out more in photos made by someone who can add a style to them. And so the next point is:

Experiment while making photos

Lighting and the background matter a lot. I recommend a white background but any neutral background works so if you have a table or anything to put your product on that’s neutral, you got one step covered. As for the lighting, that’s something you have to explore. I combine the room’s light with a standing table light to make sure the products are visible enough but also get highlighted enough. For example, I sell Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and just like any other TCG out there, they contain rare holofoil cards in their sets. That’s when regular lighting won’t do because such a card needs to sell itself to the viewer so the shinier they are in the photo, the better.

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If you aren’t sure about the lighting you can use and combine then make test photos and compare them to see which highlights your product the best. Then when you have the basic steps covered, you can decide whether or not you want to add personal touches to the photos to make your products stand out even more. In the end trying out and making test photos will lead to your store’s own unique stock photos. Next is:

Make your stock photos your own little assistants

Now I bet someone is going to say “hold on! how can a stock photo be an assistant” while also scratching their head? Just let me explain, as a seller, you seek popular products right? And what do popular products need? That’s right a stock quantity which means duplicates of a card, toy or any product you sell well. With all that stock, you have a little time-consuming job called counting. After all, we need to put in a stock number so we have to open our stock boxes and start counting all those products unless you use my nifty little trick and that’s where our little assisting stock photos come in. For example, I have 20 Pikachu cards that are the same so I put them all or just half of them together on the table and make the photo, voila! A stock photo that tells me exactly how many I have without having to open the box again to count.

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And customers also don’t mind these photos because then they see that they can take multiple and make their kids happy or complete their theme deck. Just like our trusty control panel makes work related to our stores easier so can stock photos. And you can make both a total amount stock photo and a detailed stock photo on which you show a single product so that you still have 1 highlighting photo.

That is all I can share for now so I really hope it was somewhat helpful. I hope to share more useful information soon.

Store of the Month: December

5 Dec

Huge congratulations to our store of the month for December, Hip-Pose. We grabbed a few words with the store owner, Sam, to discuss her award-winning business, any tips she may have for new business owners and to find out what she wants for Christmas!

1. Please tell us about your business and where it all started

My daughter was diagnosed with hip dysplasia (DDH) when she was just 6 weeks old and put into a restrictive harness as treatment. When this didn’t work, she had major hip surgery and had to wear a full cast for three months. This was a difficult time, to put it mildly, but one of my pet peeves was that no clothes fit her and we’d get disapproving looks when out at about people jumped to conclusions when seeing a baby in the cast. So I designed and made some trousers to go with the cast and the nasty looks were banished! People didn’t notice the cast, the trousers kept it clean and dry and I enjoyed dressing my girl again. The idea of Hip-Pose was then born!

2. How did you get into it?

me-and-lucyMy daughter was also born with a rare genetic condition that caused severe disability. I made the decision to give up my career to become her carer but I had always wanted to run my own business, so took the opportunity in between hospital appointments and baby clubs to set one up! My Mum was a professional dressmaker, so sewing, designing and creating are in my DNA. This definitely helped in developing a range of clothes that can be worn through all stages of DDH treatment. If I had to pay for those design skills I wouldn’t have been able to afford it!

3. You’re clearly very successful, what kind of marketing do you do for your store?

Thanks!! At the start, I just relied on word of mouth. DDH only affects 1-3 babies in every 1,000 born so my market is definitely niche! I find that social media is a quick and effective marketing tool, I use facebook, facebook forums and love the pace of Twitter although it can sap your time if you’re not careful! I am now working with others who are marketing to the same audience for different reasons. Teaming up with others is helpful when I don’t have a big budget or much time. This year I also collaborated with a major baby brand to create a new product that I designed. Working with a big company really showed me how many plates I spin running my own!

4. You’ve won numerous awards, can you tell us about them?

picHip-Pose has won the Prima Baby award for Innovation two years running (winning Gold in 2015!) Competing against top high street brands was a real buzz! I was also a finalist in 2015 Mumpreneur UK and this year I won the Most Inspiring Business Parent award 2016 voted by Mum and Working.
I was truly humbled by that, as raising a child with special needs and starting a business with my unique brand hasn’t always been easy, so it was lovely for that to be acknowledged. I think winning awards goes beyond pride and marketing, though, it helps to establish that a brand can stand on its own. It is an entity in itself.

5. Do you have any advice for new store owners?

Start off with fewer products then you’d love to put out there and see what sells best then build from there. I listen to customers and have created products in response to demand but only when this also ties in with my brand and is not copying someone else. Lastly, keep true to yourself and trust your gut!

6. Is there a specific reason you chose to use freewebstore as your eCommerce platform?

I needed an eCommerce platform that I could create and most importantly adapt at any time of the day or night myself. Having a limited budget, I have to be able to add products and content, change stock count and interact with my customers without going through a web designer every time. Plus as a working mum, I am often doing this in the evening! I’m not an IT person at all, so I was surprised and delighted that I was able to follow the instructions and develop a website that now sells worldwide. Hip-Pose clothes are being worn globally from the US to Oz and even in Greenland!

I couldn’t have reached all of these parents without freewebstore and from the positive feedback I get from them, freewebstore has helped me to help them.

7. Please, sum up your freewebstore experience

Great fun! I love the independence freewebstore has given me to launch and sell my unique brand globally. It’s helped me to create a successful business that’s really helping people and allowed me to develop Hip-Pose on my own without huge overheads. I love that the friendly support team are there at the click of a button to answer any techie questions I have and always help me.

8. And finally, what’s on your Christmas list, this year?

A clone of myself to do the washing up, answer emails and pack up orders!

Check out their amazing range of clothing and accessories for suffers from DDH here

Business to business transactions made simpler with freewebstore’s new checkout

24 Nov

Did you know that EU businesses with a VAT number only pay VAT on purchases within their own country?

If an EU business makes a purchase from a different EU country, the business does not pay VAT on the transaction and instead delays VAT payment to their own tax filing, in their own country.

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With freewebstore’s latest checkout, VAT registered companies based in the EU can now provide their VAT number to remove the VAT from their order. All EU VAT details are checked in real-time prior to the transaction being completed, ensuring that you’re always given an accurate EU VAT number.

Accounting for EU transactions is also made simple. Store owners are given the VAT number once the transaction is complete and EU VAT numbers are now available on all invoices.

Log into your control panel to enable freewebstore’s latest side-by-side checkout now.

Get started with freewebstore.com.

New Design Launched – ToyStore

16 Nov

New Design Launched – Introducing ToyStore

Introducing our latest design, ToyStore; the key to unlocking your youthful imagination.

Using the mobile first technique, incorporating a slideshow display and supporting multiple language packs, ToyStore is sure to woo your customers, all over the globe.

Key Features

  • Mobile Optimized
  • Social Media Icons Supported
  • Multiple Language Packs
  • Graphical Logo
  • Soft Add To Cart
  • Popular Products Widget
  • Advanced Search
  • Featured Products
  • Offers & Promotions

Check out the design