25% of small UK retailers are not online - inside eBay's plan to change that

Goodstart Jones website creative / Goodstart Jones

Etailers are partnering with physical retailers to help bring each medium closer together and more effectively benefit from the positive properties of each channel. To this end, eBay is piloting local retail partnerships in Wolverhampton, England.

Speaking to The Drum, Rob Hattrell, vice president of eBay in the UK, said the brand is on the hunt for business to join its Retail Revival scheme. It was launched with Goodstart Jones on board, a small retail that designs and sells backpacks and totebags.

This came off the back of research that found that 25% of SME retailers don’t have any online sales channels whatsoever – a space that could be opened by the online retailer. It will work with the city for a year.

It is offering one-on-one support to stores, as well as staff training, the creation of a personalised eBay shop, and a free one-year Premium store subscription to partners.

Hattrell said: “Our aim is to grow the City of Wolverhampton’s economy by protecting and promoting small retailers. To do this, we will work with them to make the most of the technology available to them, showing them the opportunity on our global marketplace.”

The Retail Revival scheme was inspired by a US eBay trial carrying the same name in Akron, Ohio. Company stats claim partnered business benefitted from an extra 5,000 sales, across all 50 states, with exports reaching more than 50 countries. It was later expanded to businesses in Lansing, Michigan, too.

Back in the UK, the retail space is rapidly changing admits Hattrell. “It has changed beyond recognition – and continues to change at pace. Shoppers now have more choice than ever – from where they shop, to how and from whom.

“At eBay, we see ourselves as uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between online and offline retailers. We believe high street and small retailers alike should enjoy the same benefits that our 200,000 SMB sellers do and, through our partnership with the City of Wolverhampton, hope to kick-start that change.”

The efforts are also reminiscent in how Asia retailer giant Alibaba is becoming a stakeholder and partner in many physical Chinese stores, modernising and innovating an industry that has been resistant to change.

Hattrell acknowledged this. “We want to foster an environment which will enable the retail sector as a whole to thrive – whether its online or on the high street – by bringing together online and offline businesses. There are clear opportunities for retailers who combine the convenience of online with the tangible experience of a shopfront: building reputation and brand loyalty, whilst accessing a global customer base.”

For now, the efforts remain focused on the City of Wolverhampton. The company will be keeping a close eye on the results of the study. Hattrel likened this to trying to find the right “formula” that could of course be scaled up across the UK if that’s a feasible business decision.

Wolverhampton council leader, Cllr Roger Lawrence, said: “I'm delighted a global brand like eBay has chosen to work with us on an initiative which is the first of its kind in the UK.”

He added: “eBay will provide valuable support to city retailers in the wake of a challenging national retail climate affected by changes in consumer behaviour and the economy. It is an exciting programme that will help businesses with their digital marketing and sales skills, giving them a solid platform for sustainable growth.”

Find out how the rise of Smart Cities will help mold the future of retail at the upcoming conference: The Drum’s Future of Marketing; Welcome to Cyberville in November.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.