The rise of the eBay millionaires

The UK's eBay businesses are flourishing, a new survey has suggested. Time to abandon the high street?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
The high street may be having a particularly heinous summer – yesterday, Co-Op chief exec Peter Marks described it as the worst recession in 40 years. Online, though, things are looking decidedly sunnier: figures from online auction site eBay suggest businesses registered on the site are positively flourishing – in stark contrast to their bricks-and-mortar cousins. In fact, they’re doing so well that the site says it’s expecting the number of UK businesses making six-figure profits to rise by a quarter by the end of the year, to 159. Which might not sound like an awful lot – but anyone who can make a million flogging antiques from their bedroom deserves a certain amount of credit, by our reckoning…

According to eBay, the best-performing businesses are the ones going outside the UK for business: apparently, most of eBay’s millionaires have made their pile exporting to the US, Australia, Germany, Ireland and France. And speaking of the Germans, while the mittelstand may be the envy of the world’s manufacturing sectors, it turns out our eBay millionaires are developing at three times the rate of those in Germany. Schadenfreude, much?

Now obviously, eBay is keen to trumpet the benefits of using its services – but the trend isn’t just confined to online auctions. While figures out last week from the Office of National Statistics showed high street retail sales grew only very slightly in July, a survey last month by ecommerce industry body IMRG found that the online retail sector is expecting to create another 750,000 jobs over the next four years. And apparently, 63% of online retailers have increased the number of staff working for them over the past year. So business is clearly booming.  

Of course, having a purely online presence isn’t for everyone – but judging by figures from the likes of online clothing retailer Asos (63% rise in second-quarter sales) and Amazon (51% rise in second-quarter sales). So we’re obviously still a nation of shopkeepers – it’s just that it might be time to begin focusing less on bricks, and more on clicks…

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