“Export Britannia!” UK small businesses tell eBay study
Stage 6: Expand
Paul Skeldon
8th June 2017
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From The Beatles to Bowie to Beckham to (cool) Britannia, the UK has long traded on Brand Britain. Despite well-documented uncertainty, small businesses claim Brand Britain is as strong as ever – and a powerful driver of UK exports, according to the eBay for Business Index. 

Overseas consumers buy British because of positive perceptions about the quality of UK goods and services, expectations of good customer service and even a positive association with quintessential British institutions like the BBC and Royal Family, according to the eBay study. 

In welcome news for exporters, a quarter (24%) of the small businesses eBay spoke to have seen an increase in those looking to buy British, compared with twelve months ago, allaying fears that the June 2016 referendum has dented the image of UK exporters. 

The eBay study reveals export optimism among British small businesses, with one in ten planning to enter new markets this year. Britain exported £550 billion in goods and services in 2016, according to Office for National Statistics.

Sally Steel, a single mum of three from Sheffield who runs two bespoke craft businesses on eBay, The Nose Warmer Company and Poppy and Petal, “won’t let uncertainty derail’ the growth of her businesses. She currently exports to 24 countries and has set her sights this year on consolidating her consumer base in the USA, and entering Poland. Poland has ‘a young, growing economy where demand for British made goods is increasing”, she said.

Over 200,000 small businesses trade on eBay in the UK, with 93 per cent exporting overseas to an average of 20 different countries.

The study also reveals that the top 5 export markets for British goods on eBay are:

  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. Italy

Whilst the potential for British exports is clear, eBay’s study sounds a note of caution on protectionism. A third (32 per cent) of the small businesses spoken to as part of the study said the continued rise of protectionist policies will harm to their business by limiting British exports. 

The eBay for Business Index is an annual barometer of Britain’s small businesses selling online.

Most popular British items for overseas customers:

Fashion heads the pack as eBay’s UK sellers’ biggest export category. The top ten categories for exports are:

  1. Clothes, shoes and accessories
  2. Vehicle parts
  3. Mobile phones and communication
  4. Home, furniture and DIY
  5. Sporting good
  6. Computers and tablets
  7. Office and industrial
  8. Jewellery and watches
  9. Health and beauty
  10. Collectables

Gareth Jones, Marketing Director at eBay in the UK adds: “Small business exports have had a strong twelve months, powered by the lower pound but crucially by the power of ‘Brand Britain’. The UK is going through a period of change that has led to fears that our image abroad could be harmed. But the business fundamentals of Brand Britain remain strong: trusted, quality products and good customer service. Small businesses are benefiting from this association and boosting their export plans to take advantage. This is good news for the economy and for eBay in the UK, which hosts over 200,000 of these enterprises, giving access to a global customer base of over 164 million people.”

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Author: Paul Skeldon
Editor specialising in all things mobile.

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