20 reasons why businesses are celebrating eBay’s 20th birthday

This September marks eBay’s 20th birthday. To celebrate, the online marketplace has revealed 20 facts from its history which show how it has grown from a software programmer’s hobby into a global shopping destination with approximately 25 million sellers, 157 million buyers and 800 million listings – over 82% of which are for fixed price items.  Business pundits Rupert Eastell of Baker Tilly and author and academic Professor Richard Scase have also shared their views on how the business has influenced the UK’s retail and entrepreneurial landscape.

  1. 1995 saw eBay born in the US – opening for business over Labor Day weekend – the first item it sold was a laser pointer pen.

2.  eBay arrived in the UK in 1999 when a fifth of UK homes still bleeped to the tune of internet  dial up and Posh and Becks tied the knot.

3. The first item sold on eBay.co.uk was a three track CD from German rock outfit The Scorpions. It sold for £2.89. Fast forward to 2015 and eBay’s marketplace features 800 million live listings at any one time.

4.  2006 – eBay for Charity launches in the UK. Close to £90m has now been raised from the generosity of Brits buying and selling through the site.   Here are some of our favourites:

  • Princess Beatrice’s hat (‘the pretzel’) from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding fetched more than £80,000 on eBay with proceeds going to Unicef and Children in Crisis.
  • Harry Styles’ bow tie sold for more than £3,500 with proceeds going to Believe in Magic.
  • This July, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall also used the site to auction off the wristband that was thrown into the Royal Box by Andy Murray at Wimbledon in aid of The Animal Care Trust.

5. 2008 saw the value of sales on eBay.co.uk exceed the GDP of a whopping 68 countries.

6. 2008 also saw the eBay app launch in the UK, just two months after its US debut as the first commerce app on iTunes.  For the first time “Buy It Now!” listings hit 40 per cent of overall listings on eBay in the UK.

7. 2009 –eBay.co.uk turned 10.

8. 2010 – More Brits shopped through the eBay mobile app than any other country in Europe.

9. 2010 Buy it now sales also overtook auctions for the first time – accounting for almost two thirds of listings on the UK marketplace. More than 100 big high street brands could be found on eBay in 2010, while mobile sales hit £1.2bn.

10. 2013 eBay UK and Argos launch a Click & Collect trial with 50 eBay retailers and Argos stores nationwide

11. To date, more than 2.5 million eBay purchases have passed through the Click & Collect programme.

12.  On Christmas Day 2014, eBay saw listings for tablets and iPads shoot up 43 per cent and listings for perfume increase by 300 per cent as people rushed to sell their unwanted presents during the Queen’s speech. Items that were listed included a MacBook Pro, Canon EOS 6D, Aqua Master Watch and Samsung 48” TV.

13.  A report from eBay’s Public Policy lab this summer (26 May 2015) showed Greater Manchester has a greater concentration of small businesses than anywhere else in the UK, followed by Lancashire and West Yorkshire, revealing a Northern Powerhouse of ecommerce. Sarah Calcott, Director of Operations at eBay UK said ‘At eBay, we’re working hard to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses, providing them with the tools and the flexibility to export millions of British goods abroad, despite lacking the infrastructure of a traditional exporter’.

14.  A great example of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ case study is PF Jones, a family run business which sells diesel injectors and fuel pumps which launched its eBay store in 2009.  Since then, the company’s eBay turnover has doubled, causing them to expand their premises to cope with demand. PF Jones now has five people solely managing the company’s eBay business.

15. eBay also revealed that businesses set up and run by mums as sole proprietors are flourishing, generating 7.2billion for the UK economy and supporting 204,600 jobs in 2013.  These businesses range from micro-businesses run by mums at home while looking after young children through to multi-million pound operations.

16. Thingimijigs is an example of a ‘Mum-preneur’ business which started with just an eBay account, £200 and a kitchen table and now sells branded gifts and accessories for kids globally from a purpose built facility in Lancashire.

17. More than half the small online retailers on eBay’s UK marketplace are ‘global’, exporting to four or more different continents.

18. In May 2015, eBay’s Global Shipping Programme (GSP) which is used by up to 10,000 UK sellers a day and is designed to make selling internationally as easy and low cost as selling domestically, took its millionth order and expanded in to new markets.

19. 18 million visit eBay.co.uk every month.

20. Currently 59 per cent of eBay’s revenue is international.  In the 21st century, eBay’s total GMV has exceeded $660 billion.

Professor Richard Scase, leading academic and business forecaster commented on eBay’s impact on entrepreneurs.

“Governments try to create entrepreneurs and generally fail. Over the past 20 years eBay has done it for more than 25 million sellers. From house-tied mums to some of the world’s largest brands, eBay is the preferred selling channel. It has created millionaires out of men and women that started with nothing. But it has done more than that and will continue to revolutionize retailing in years to come.

eBay has transformed the business landscape destroying the relevance of geographical and national boundaries. With tablets, laptops and smartphones, teenagers through to pensioners can be international traders with eBay acting as a platform for buyers and sellers.

eBay will continue to offer profitable opportunities for students- even pupils still at school ( I know some)- and others pushed for cash.

In the past, to set up a trading business, you needed cash to get going. eBay has destroyed all of that. It will continue to flourish, creating a world of entrepreneurs where the dream of ‘from rags to riches’ can now become a global reality”.