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Northern England becoming UK's e-commerce 'powerhouse'

A new survey suggests more start-up businesses in the North of England are setting up in online retail than anywhere else in the UK.

The index by eBay’s Public Policy Lab, which calculates “digital densities” based on the volume and sales of small online retailers, believes a new “Northern Powerhouse” of e-commerce is developing.

In particular, Manchester now has a greater concentration of e-commerce start-ups than any other major UK region, followed by Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

Although London is home to a highly lucrative tech hub of digital start-ups, this index placed Central London – which includes Tech City and Shoreditch – in 26th place behind the likes of Cheshire (sixth place) and Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire (eighth place).

The study also found that the UK is now Europe’s largest retail exporter with more than half (51 per cent) of British-based e-commerce start-ups exporting to four or more different continents – more than any other European country.

In addition, the number of small UK-based online retailers exporting to 15 or more countries had also increased by a third since 2010.

Meanwhile almost all (91 per cent) UK-based online small firms operating on eBay export goods overseas.

Sarah Calcott, director of operations, eBay UK, 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.”

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