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eBay opens its first high-street concept store to explore how offline and online retail work together

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eBay is exploring how online retail and stores work together as it opens its first high street concept store today. Forty small businesses from the local area will showcase and sell their wares for a month.

For the sellers, this represents an opportunity to put their online ranges before customers in-store – shoppers will be able to see, touch and feel a selection of sellers’ products, discovering them in the flesh and potentially going on to shop from their full range online. But for eBay this will act as a retail experiment, helping it to understand the interaction between physical and online retail. It will use QR codes for purchases and track sales and traffic metrics and says the store will give it an opportunity to understand the interaction between physical and online retail and explore the role that stores can play in driving online sales. 

Rob Hattrell, vice president of eBay in the UK, said: “The small retailers taking part in Wolverhampton’s Retail Revival have already shown that physical and online retail can survive – and thrive – together. They have achieved more than £2 million in sales as of March and many have employed more staff as a direct result of the partnership. This pop-up store aims to take that growth, and the value of this programme, to the next level. It will explore how stores of the future could combine technology with that vital human connection to powerful effect – whatever the size of the business.”

Homegrown Wolverhampton

The new store is designed around the theme ‘Home Grown by Wolverhampton’ and will feature a changing group of retailers each week, including Tony’s Deli – a local deli that sells food hampers online – HomeSmart Blinds and White B gifts, which sells illustrations inspired by local history.  

One business that will be participating in the concept store is Fizzbiz, which sells fabrics, zips, haberdashery and embroidered items online. Fiona Scarrott, who founded Fizzbiz in 2014, said: “The eBay Concept Store is such an exciting opportunity to learn more about physical retail and I’ve been blown away by the opportunities the Retail Revival programme has given me. I’ve received training and mentoring on new topics and skills, and it has taught me many valuable lessons to help develop my business.

“But it’s not just about getting to take part in the Concept Store – Retail Revival has opened so many other doors for Fizzbiz, which started as a hobby. In the last six months my turnover has almost doubled, helping fulfill my dream of building a workshop in my garden to let me focus on my business.”

eBay will offer visitors a 20% discount between May 13 and 16 that shoppers can redeem using the code POP20. It will also host a series of free, interactive workshops and training seminars during the course of the event, including a meet and greet with reptiles and pets hosted by pet supply store Hugglepets, a make-up tutorial from cruelty-free beauty brand Second Glance Cosmetics and a design your own backpack workshop by handmade accessories business Goodstart Jones.

City of Wolverhampton Council deputy managing director Mark Taylor said: “This concept store shows yet again the strong commitment eBay has made to the City of Wolverhampton. The Retail Revival scheme is making a real difference to the participating businesses and the pop-up store will help give them an even bigger profile. Other businesses will also be encouraged to take advantage of the free, interactive workshops and training seminars on offer.

“We very much value the presence of these independent businesses in our city and the creative local people behind them. They help give City of Wolverhampton its own identity and character and, in this challenging retail climate, they need all the support they can get.”

Retail revival

The concept store is also a showcase for eBay’s year-long Retail Revival pilot scheme, in which the marketplace is working with 64 local businesses to help them boost their digital sales and show how online and physical retail can work together, rather than in competition. It was first set up in September 2018 after Development Economics research showed that 255 of small UK retailers did not have an online presence aimed at generated sales, whether a website, social media channels or a presence on an online marketplace. Some 71% said they had no plans to close that gap in the future – but, showed the research, if they did close that digital gap they could collectively earn as much as £4.1bn in additional sales a year – or £19,250 for each business that previously did not have an online presence. 

Thos taking part in the Retail Revival programme, which includes one-to-one training and support on selling on eBay and digital skills including SEO and promotional support, had collectively made sales of £2m by the halfway point of the programme in March, 36% up on the same time last year.  Some 46% of businesses on the programme have expanded or plan to expand, while 42% have hired or plan to hire extra staff, according to eBay’s on survey of 26 Retail Revival participants, between February 4 and March 4 2019.

eBay’s Retail Revival programme is also running in Akron, Ohio and Lansing, Michigan.

Image courtesy of eBay

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