North of England Leads the Way for Online Retail

The North of England has overtaken the rest of the UK for online retailing, according to a new report by eBay’s Public Policy Lab.

Despite the booming retail hub in London, the report from online giant eBay has shown that Greater Manchester is home to the largest concentration of small online businesses than anywhere else in the country

In the report, “digital densities” were calculated for each area of the UK by comparing the number of small online businesses working in each region and their sales figures to the local population total. A wide range of businesses were included in the report, ranging from home businesses (also dubbed ‘homepreneurs’) and small e-commerce start-ups, right through the fastest-growing companies in each region.

Close behind Greater Manchester in second and third place respectively were Lancashire and West Yorkshire, with other regions such as Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire, Essex and Cheshire also making the top ten.

Central London, a region which included popular areas such as Tech City and Shoreditch, ranked 26th in the list.

The report also showed that over half of small online businesses in the UK, 51.8%, were at the stage of “global” exportation to at least four continents, which is more than any other country in Europe.

Senior Director of Operations at eBay, 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.”

These findings by eBay shows that the UK is well on its way to developing the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ that Chancellor George Osborne spoke so passionately about during the run up to this year’s General Election, and has led to people calling for even more support for the North.

Speaking to the Business Quarter, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Roger Marsh, said he fully supported the continued growth of retail in the UK: “The Northern Powerhouse isn’t just good news for the North; it presents a huge opportunity for the country as a whole. If it were an independent state, the North of England would be nudging towards the 20th largest economy in the world.“Unlocking the potential of this vast economic area would unleash thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of growth, ensuring the UK remains a globally competitive force for decades to come and reducing pressures on the South East’s over-heated economy.”

Commenting on the announcement by eBay, Robert Mead, Marketing Manager at, said he hoped the report would draw more attention towards the North:

“As a business that was established and has grow in the North, it’s fantastic to see that other people are setting up their own companies outside of London. This report shows that all their hard work is paying off and it can only mean great things for those living and working in the North. As more online businesses grow in the North, no matter what their industry, those working to support them will develop too. If the government follows through on its promise for a Northern Powerhouse, there is no doubt it will become a strong economic and business leader.”

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