The number of online businesses meeting their sales targets has remained high and relatively stable over the past year, according to eBay's Online Business Index, which has tracked the attitudes and performance of up to 700 businesses over the past 12 months.
Overall, 70% of online firms met their sales targets, only 2% down on last year. Despite this success, however, it has not been without its difficulties with the number saying they found it hard to do so surging by 11%.
The number of firms expressing fear about the future has also dropped to just 9%, down six percentage points on this time last year. External economic pressures are easing as well, as the fall in the value of sterling has resulted in a 14% drop in fears about exchange rates. The number of firms struggling with access to finance has halved, as banks finally appear to be lending to SMEs, says eBay.
The Index also reveals that fears of inflation have eased over the past year, with two-thirds of online firms expecting prices to remain stable, 12% up on last year. The number of firms expecting prices to rise has fallen by 10%, despite inflation rising in the economy overall.
With pressures easing, 65% of online firms are confident about the outlook for their businesses over the next three months and 57% of businesses have raised their overall sales targets for the year ahead.
Concerns about consumer demand remain high at 45%, only 2% down on last year, however. 55% of respondents also cite that supply costs continue to act as a barrier to growth, up 5% in a year.
On average, the businesses covered by the survey obtain 61% of their income from eBay, 13% from their own website, 7% from Amazon and 15% from their own bricks and mortar businesses.
All survey respondents are registered as businesses on eBay and have an annual turnover of at least £50,000 on eBay alone, excluding other sources of income. The largest group of respondents (41%) were businesses with a turnover between £100,000 and £199,000.
"Since its launch a year ago, the Online Business Index has helped us to track how this vital sector of the UK economy has fared throughout the recession," says Mark Lewis, managing director of eBay in the UK. "While the past 12 months have proved difficult, these online businesses have bucked many economic trends. They have been forced to adapt to succeed, and the flexibility that ecommerce provides means that most have risen to the challenge and emerged stronger and more confident. While these latest findings show that we are not out of the woods yet, online firms have proved their ability to prosper despite tough conditions."