New data shows Brits are biggest exporters in Europe


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

The report’s authors calculated “digital densities” based on the volume of small online retail businesses operating in a region and their sales, as a proportion of the local population.

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

These businesses range from fledgling ecommerce start-ups and ‘homepreneurs,’ through to fast-growing businesses like Thingimijigs, 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 Burnley.

The top UK regions with the highest concentration of small online retail businesses is Greater Manchester followed by Lancashire.

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

The report, based on newly released eBay data, independently analysed by law firm, Sidley Austin LLP, also reveals that the UK is the most advanced market in Europe for global exports.

Over half of small online retail businesses in the UK are ‘global’ – exporting to four or more different continents – more than any other European country. France follows closely with Spain, Italy and Germany.

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

Sarah Calcott, Director of Operations at eBay UK, commented: “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.

“At eBay we’re working hard to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit of small online businesses, providing them with the tools and the flexibility to export millions of British goods abroad, despite lacking the infrastructure of a traditional exporter.

“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.”

Electrolve Ltd, Grimsby, is an example of an exporting 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 Ltd, 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 per cent of the business is exports. 25 per cent of that is within Europe and 15 per cent of the products go to the rest of the world. The company has shipped to 170 countries to date including the U.S., Australia and Israel.

Image: Warehouse by Shuttersock