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UK micro-etail outpaces European counterparts, but London lags behind


Micro-etailers in the UK are leading the European pack when it comes to exporting, according to a report from eBay’s Public Policy Lab.
The report states that 51.8% of small online retail businesses in the UK export to customers on four or more different continents, which is more than any other European country. France follows closely on 50.6%, Spain on 41.9% and Italy at 34.6% and Germany at 19.6%.

The number of small British online retailers exporting to 15 or more countries has grown by 33% since 2010, and now almost all UK small businesses trading on eBay send goods abroad – 91%, in comparison to 28% of traditional offline small businesses.

The report not only found that the UK is ahead of its European neighbours, but that the north of England is overtaking the rest of the country when it comes to online retailing.

Far from the popular perception that clusters of digital businesses only exist in London, the eBay report shows that Greater Manchester has a greater concentration of small online businesses than anywhere else in the UK.

Manchester is followed in the UK digital density rankings by Lancashire and West Yorkshire, revealing a new ‘Northern Powerhouse’ of ecommerce.

The top UK regions with the highest concentration of small online retail businesses are:

  • Greater Manchester
  • Lancashire
  • West Yorkshire
  • Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire
  • Essex
  • Cheshire
  • West Midlands
  • Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire
  • Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire
  • Shropshire and Staffordshire

Inner London, which includes Shoreditch and Tech City, languishes in 26th place.

The report, was based on newly released eBay data, and independently analysed by law firm, Sidley Austin LLP.

Sarah Calcott, Director of Operations at eBay UK, said: “Our research shows that technology is opening up tremendous opportunities for small businesses across the UK with digital clusters spread across the country, particularly in the North West and Yorkshire.

“Our technology is now breaking down barriers to global markets by allowing small businesses access to products and services that were once the preserve of large firms, such as smart shipping, international payments and translation, and using our global market to access millions of potential customers.”

Case study: PF Jones, Manchester

Family run business PF Jones was founded in July 1958 by Percy Frederick Jones. The Manchester-based business originally sold diesel injectors and fuel pumps.

In 2009, PF Jones added to its four bricks and mortar branches (in Manchester, Stoke on Trent, Buckley and Wigan), by launching an online store on eBay with the intention of increasing the firm’s customer base and boosting profits.

Since then, the company’s eBay turnover has doubled, causing them to expand their premises to cope with demand. Today PF Jones completes on average 100-150 transactions a day. Its eBay store has also created jobs, with five people now employed to solely manage the company’s eBay business.

Case study: Electrolve Ltd, Grimsby

Business founder Oliver Margarson started dabbling in online sales as a student in order to earn extra cash. In 2008 he turned this part-time venture into a full-time business. Electrolve, listed on eBay under etwist_shop, sells audio-visual items and accessories and other small household electronics.

In 2010 Oliver hired his first employee. Having originally run the business from a bedroom, Electrolve Ltd now operates from a 16,000 sq. foot warehouse, employs eight people and since inception has doubled its year on year sales.

About 40% of the business is exports – 25% of that is within Europe and 15% of the products go to the rest of the world. The company has shipped to 170 countries to date including the US, Australia and Israel.

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