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eBay: Online sales could save the traditional high street

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A new survey from eBay has found that four-fifths of sellers who also have a bricks and mortar presence believe the rise of internet retailing is saving, rather than harming, their business.

The findings from the third Online Business Index “demolish claims that online retail is responsible for the decline of the traditional high street business,” says eBay. In fact, the company says, the majority (79%) of bricks and mortar firms believe the introduction of online trade has saved their business. Furthermore four fifths (80%) of online-onlySMEs believe that bricks and mortar businesses are rendered more sustainable by having an online offering as well.

The Index challenges perceptions of the online economy by showing a significant proportion (44%) of online retailers are based in rural areas, eBay continues. “These businesses are providing a much needed boost to rural economies and generating income in a way that would have been impossible without the internet.”

The online businesses surveyed in the report also call for improvements to the same infrastructure as bricks and mortar businesses including: enhanced postal and delivery services (42%), simplified rules on consumer protection (36%) and lower taxes for all businesses (53%). Investment in faster broadband (18%) or universal broadband access (13%) is considered much less of a priority, despite the considerable amount of attention given to them in the government’s Digital Britain report.

“There is no doubt that the internet has transformed the way we shop and has challenged retailers, both online and offline, to raise their game to meet ever higher consumer expectations,” comments Mark Lewis, managing director for eBay in the UK. “However, the assumption that the rise of the internet must mean the fall of the high street is shown to be a fallacy in our latest Online Business Index.”

“Yet while internet businesses provide a significant lifeline to both the high street and the countryside, there is a strong feeling that the government does not sufficiently understand the needs of online retailers,” he added.

“We began selling online because we wanted to sell our products to a wider market,” says Shaun Redhead, manager of a family-run shop selling musical instruments. “In the short time we have been trading online, the income of the business has doubled. As a result, we’ve been able to invest more into our business and grow at an exciting pace. Most importantly, it has allowed us to expand our bricks and mortar shop; in fact we have now bought the store next door and doubled the shop in size.”

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