eBay offers free ‘online shop window’ for small businesses

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With SMEs struggling to keep their businesses running through the coronavirus crisis, eBay UK has today pledged a major cashflow boost by offering payment holidays for all sellers and any new businesses joining the site.

From today, no business joining eBay UK will have to pay fees to list or sell until 31 May 2020. The offer will apply to 250 product listings each month – expected to help 99% of every new business-to-consumer seller listing on the site.

Existing sellers will also benefit from a 30-day payment holiday on all fees, with a commitment to consider a further holiday at the end of April.

The move, which represents a cashflow lifeline worth millions for hundreds of thousands of small businesses, marks an urgent response to calls for additional support by UK entrepreneurs.

Crucially, it provides self-employed retailers and entrepreneurs who rely on bricks and mortar stores a virtual shop window to reach eBay UK’s 26 million customers, without paying any fees until June.

On Monday, the Government ordered non-essential retailers to close down to help limit the spread of COVID-19, but encouraged online retail to continue, while postal services and delivery networks are continuing to run as normal.

Over the last week, many eBay sellers have expressed concerns about their future, with self-employed entrepreneurs and sole traders particularly worried about the lack of support compared to large businesses with furloughed employees.

This package of support from eBay will enable key parts of the SME economy to keep moving, although sellers and buyers should apply all the latest guidance on social distancing when visiting post offices or collection points.

The idea of inviting high street businesses to start trading online was inspired by a pilot launched by eBay in Wolverhampton in 2019 which saw eBay digitally upskill over 60 local businesses and train them on how to sell through the online marketplace. The programme drove a 33% uplift in revenues for the local businesses, adding £7million to their sales in a year.

Rob Hattrell, VP eBay UK, commented: “Small businesses are the backbone of Britain, but now more than ever, they need our support. If we don’t help them now, we risk losing a generation of successful SMEs and entrepreneurs.

“We recognise that the challenges are vast and wide-ranging for SMEs on Britain’s high streets, but while the offline world is on lockdown, a shift to online spending should represent a real growth opportunity and a vital lifeline.

“These are unprecedented times, but we must rise to the challenge to help ease the pressure that small businesses currently face. Now’s the time to be there when small businesses need us most, so that they can continue doing what they do best – safely, responsibly, and fairly.”

Michelle Ovens MBE, Founder of Small Business Britain, added: “With increased isolation and the closing of many business premises, there is a critical need for online sales channels for small businesses that can get up and running fast.

“This is why I am really encouraged to see eBay’s great steps to enable small businesses to build alternative sales channels with low cost and low complexity. I hope this will be a lifeline for many small businesses looking for new routes to market.”

Alongside the cashflow boost for eBay sellers, the platform has stepped up its crackdown on anyone listing items at unreasonably inflated prices. Over the last week, hundreds of seller accounts have been suspended and nearly half a million listings removed from the platform.

eBay has also introduced a new policy whereby only pre-approved whitelisted vendors are allowed to sell face masks and hand sanitiser items, and yesterday announced further restrictions on sales of toilet roll, baby formula, nappies, baby wipes and tampons by anyone excepted registered business sellers.

Today’s announcement also comes as eBay has committed to ‘maintaining seller standards’ for the next three months – ensuring that the reputation, standing and profile of individual sellers cannot be damaged by events out of their control during the coronavirus crisis. 

eBay continues to offer charities around the world free listings on the platform and will be writing to charities in all countries it operates to encourage them to get online.

Thousands of eBay support staff have been redeployed to work at home through the lockdown and despite the restrictions on economic activity across Britain, eBay is continuing to provide a round-the-clock service for the UK economy.