eBay has announced the results of Retail Revival – a programme created by eBay to provide digital skills training to over 60 small retailers in Wolverhampton – which has been running in partnership with City of Wolverhampton Council for 12 months.

The results reveal that taking a grassroots approach in supporting small and medium sized retailers can provide a much needed boost to local economies, offering a potential antidote to the high street doom and gloom.

Businesses involved in the programme have reached over £7 million in sales with an average growth rate of 33% - 26.5% higher than the average increase in turnover for all small retail businesses across the UK between 2017 and 2018. Sole traders were the biggest beneficiaries, enjoying a growth rate of nearly 100%. A survey of the businesses involved found that 58% have hired or plan to hire more staff, 51% have expanded their business premises or plan to and 53% have exported their product to customers overseas.

With over half of the participating businesses having a physical shop, the programme was designed to test how online and offline can complement each other to help local economies thrive through retail. Economic analysis shows that the Retail Revival programme brought over £750,000 of additional business revenue to the city of Wolverhampton, meaning the revenue was not diverted from another local business, and genuine economic growth was achieved.

The programme has been a testbed for future SME growth and, if rolled out nationally, eBay estimates it could generate £227 million in revenue for small retailers across the UK.

Sophie Ison, Store Manager, at Homesmart Blinds, one of the businesses that took part in the programme said: “Before eBay’s Retail Revival programme, we operated solely out of our bricks and mortar store. Joining the programme gave us the skills and encouragement we needed to get online and thanks to eBay, we now have a steady flow of additional revenue coming through our online shop and have been able to develop new product lines as a result. Over the past year we have been able to establish the Homesmart Blinds brand and plan to expand our premises in the near future.” 

Rob Hattrell, VP eBay UK, said: “This clearly shows that the doom and gloom rhetoric surrounding UK high streets does not have to be a story that continues. The shift towards increased online spending is an opportunity for businesses to complement their physical store with online revenue, as well as an opportunity for budding entrepreneurs starting out.

“I am immensely proud of this programme, the people who have delivered it and, most importantly, the businesses who have been part of it. They say the proof is in the pudding, and these results clearly demonstrate that online and high street retail can survive and indeed thrive together.”

City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor Harman Banger, said: “The Retail Revival scheme has been hugely successful for Wolverhampton businesses and a fantastic example of how public and private sector can work together to be truly transformational.

“As a council, we were eager to work with eBay to boost the online skills of small businesses with a physical base in the city – almost as an as an antidote to the decline of the high street, complimentary not conflicting. 

“I’d like to pay tribute to our eBay colleagues and the hardworking businesses for their efforts. The growth it has produced cements our growing reputation as a city of opportunity – a place benefitting from £4.4 billion of investment, underpinned by 5G technology rollout.”

Through the Retail Revival programme, experts from eBay trained small retailers in either starting or expanding their online presence in a bid to grow the local economy. Participants on the programme have benefitted from one on one support to create a personalised eBay shop, a comprehensive training program that covers eBay selling basics as well as digital skills such as Search Engine Optimisation and promotional support.

eBay has also conducted ‘Train the Trainer’ sessions with local organisation Access To Business to ensure the skills learnt by programme participants can be passed on to even more retailers in the local area.