eBay SMEs identify barriers to growth in survey

ebay postage graphiceBay has asked online sellers to rank policies based on their perceived helpfulness to growth over the next 12 months in advance of the General Election.

Here are the results:

1. Lowering taxes for all businesses (48%)
2. Investment in faster broadband (31%)
3. Improved postal and delivery services (27%)
4. Better advice on setting up and running an online business (17%)
5. More police effort to tackle cybercrime and fraud (16%)

And nearly one third (31%) of businesses surveyed by YouGov said that postage costs and delivery logistics will limit the growth of their business in the coming year.

A further 74% said that the cost of overseas shipping stymies their ability to reach customers in new markets and trade outside the UK.

Increasing competition in their sector is also a concern for one in four small businesses (25%) assessing their short term growth prospects. (There is no mention of Chinese sellers in the press release.)

Just 7% of small online businesses surveyed are concerned about a lack of suitable staff, challenging assertions of an apparent skills crisis. Just 10% regard staff wages and pension costs as barriers to growth.

Head of eBay in the UK Tanya Lawler says: “We have been calling on Government and policy makers for years to do more to level the playing field for Britain’s army of SMEs by reducing postal costs and improving delivery and logistics services. These diverse businesses are vital to the UK because they are the engine of our growth at home and abroad, with more than 4 in 5 small businesses on eBay in the UK selling internationally.

“We invest in infrastructure and technology that would be too expensive for small businesses to build for themselves: from Click and Collect with Argos to our Global Shipping platform. It’s time for political parties to listen up and gave these entrepreneurial businesses the attention they deserve.”

As an aside, I don’t much like it when eBay make demands like this. For years they have been utilising every legal tax loophole to minimise their tax liability here in the UK and that means less cash for the British coffers. And that’s money that could be spent on, just say, the broadband network or lowering business taxes for British businesses paying British tax.

It’s acceptable to off-shore to Luxembourg and reduce the tax burden (it’s perfectly legal) but it does irk when such companies then call on the Government to spend more to help them grow their business whilst limiting what they pay in.

And anyway, if eBay is serious about making life a little bit easier for sellers they could look closer to home. A reduction in fees would be seen by many sellers as a very good move and something entirely within eBay’s gift without the need for a General Election.