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Under-25s drive online retail start-up boom across UK – and they sell more than older business owners

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One upshot of the pandemic and its lockdown is that there has been a surge in the number of young people starting their own retail businesses in the UK – and derive 12% more revenue from online sales than older business owners.

A survey of 2,502 aged 16 to 24 across the country, carried out by Censuswide for GoDaddy, shows that the retail industry is highly popular among young entrepreneurs, with 15% launching a retail business since February 2020.

This suggests that, based on the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) population estimates, around 95,000 new retail ventures were launched by ‘early entrepreneurs’ in the UK since the start of the pandemic.

As the global pandemic continues to accelerate the world of e-commerce, nine in ten (92%) of the 16 to 24-year-old entrepreneurs surveyed place great importance on having an online presence and consider having a website, social media channels or e-commerce capabilities to be important for their business.

This boom in the retail industry comes as GoDaddy’s research shows 9% of under 25-year olds have started their own business since February 2020. A further 18% of young people surveyed say they have a concrete business idea and are in the process of setting up their own company, indicating that the number of start-ups is expected to increase further this year.

These research findings suggest that the average age of a UK entrepreneur, which was 40 years old in 2019 according to Companies House data, is likely to decrease in the 2020s as a part of the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic.

James Slacke, 24, co-founded Swole Panda, a fashion brand using ethically-sourced bamboo materials to make sustainable accessories.  Having witnessed their e-commerce sales increase over the successive lockdowns, James comments on the important role their website is already playing in Swole Panda’s success: 

Slacke explains: “The last 12 months has undoubtedly been tough as a small business, but what it has shown is how valuable online presence is in the retail space amidst successive lockdowns. E-commerce has helped our business continue to thrive this year, and now accounts for 50% of our revenue, compared to 25% pre-Covid. We look forward to building up our online visibility further and being part of the transformative time for the online retail industry.”

With younger entrepreneurs successful in seizing the opportunities of e-commerce and maximising their revenues through online sales during the pandemic, the research showed their online sales were reported as having increased 10%, from 32% before the pandemic, to 42% since February 2020.

Furthermore, as more young people have had to get creative, over two fifths [44%] of new retail entrepreneurs reported selling products they make themselves. Young entrepreneurs also agreed on the concept of providing British-manufactured goods, with over half [51%] stating all products they sell are British-based. 

Sakshi Anand, Senior Director, GoDaddy UK and Ireland comments on the findings: “Retail has stood out to be one of the most popular industries to start a business, as our research shows. In a challenging time due to the global pandemic, online retail can be both a way for brick and mortar stores to stay active and connected with their customers, and a way to get a retail idea started more quickly. We’re proud to be helping UK entrepreneurs get online and grow their business.”

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