Sarah Calcott

Online retail businesses across the North are outperforming the UK average, a new report claims today.

The study by eBay’s Public Policy Lab found that Greater Manchester has a greater concentration of small online businesses than anywhere else in the UK.

Researchers from law firm Sidley Austin LLP analysed eBay data to identify digital clusters across the country, and especially in Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

By contrast, inner London, which includes Shoreditch and Tech City, is in 26th place, according to a study methodology that worked out ‘digital densities’ based both on the number of small online retail businesses operating in a region, and their sales as a proportion of the local population.

Director of operations at eBay UK Sarah Calcott, 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.

“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.”

The study also found that more than half (51.8%) of the UK’s small online retail businesses are ‘global,’ exporting to four or more different continents. That’s more than any other European country, and is followed by France (50.6%), Spain (41.9%), Italy (34.6%) and Germany (19.6%).

Almost all (91%) small businesses on eBay in the UK now export abroad, compared to 28% of traditional offline small businesses. The number selling to 15 countries or more has grown by 33% since 2010.