UK hits £100bn online sales

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One hundred billion pounds! That’s the amount that’s been spent online in the 12 years since WH Smith became the first online retailer in the UK, according to the the Telegraph. The article traces ecommerce in the UK back to the first sale, a book sold by WH Smith on Compuserve in April 1995.

Online retailers saw the .com bubble burst and held back until the last two or three years, but are now embracing the Internet and it’s still a virtually untapped market, only about 10% of retail sales are placed online. This is predicted to grow to 13% in 2007 and eventually peak at around 25%.

New to e-tailing this year are Ikea and TopShop but sadly some still just don’t realise the potential. Dan Wilson points out that Clarks, the high street shoe shop have invested in a fancy flash based website, but neglected to add ecommerce capabilities. Buyers in the UK now assume all retailers will have an online shop and £100bn is just too big a market to ignore! It will be interesting to see which main stream retailer in the UK is first to follow in the footsteps of Discovery Channel and close all high street stores in favour of a ecommerce only model.

In 2007:

  • £42 billion will be spent online by UK shoppers, equivalent to the sales of 9 London West Ends;
  • 860 million parcels will be shipped to the UK’s 26 million internet shoppers, 33 each on average;
  • Online shoppers’ will each spend £1,600 on average.

– IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group)

With figures like that it’s no wonder that eBay eBay is so entrenched in UK culture that often it’s the venue of choice for buyers rather than a retailers own site. In fact the UK has an average spend of £50 on eBay, per head of population (the highest anywhere in the world). Great news for sellers!

The year ahead will be characterised by:

  • Inclusivity: people of all abilities being enabled to enjoy online shopping;
  • Normalisation: online shopping being an indispensable component of everyday life;
  • Diversification: towards all-inclusive ranges of goods and services being available;
  • Sophistication: online shopping becoming easier, quicker, richer, better, safer and more satisfying;
  • Exclusivity: a rise in specialist boutiques, offering more niche and exclusive goods.

– IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group)

So what should eBay sellers be looking out for in the next year? Firstly increased trade, the online market is growing and will do so for a number of years. Now is the time to consider opening your own off eBay website, especially if you have a range of unique or specialist products. Customers will be looking for you so make sure you can be found. Advertising both with search engines and increasing shopping comparison sites such as eBay’s will become more key to success as competition grows.

Most important of all a golden rule to success on eBay has always been niche markets. There is little point in attempting to compete head to head with the retailing giants. They have the resource and size to cut costs using methods which would be impractical for most eBay sellers. For example Tesco have recently moved from Jersey to Switzerland so that they can carry on selling CDs and DVDs without charging VAT. Smaller retailers and especially eBay sellers can win by reacting more quickly to market changes, and selecting which markets to compete in.

eBay UK is arguably the most advanced of all eBay territories even though it’s only the third biggest. 2007 should be a great year for eBay traders who take up the gauntlet and win.



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