E-commerce platforms lead to bumper Christmas for UK SMEs, foreign exchange specialist shows

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Amid mixed Christmas sales figures from the British high street, a new analysis suggests their smaller online counterparts enjoyed a bumper festive season – earning millions from buyers in Europe and across the world thanks to their use of e-commerce sites.

Figures from foreign exchange specialists Currencies Direct suggest December saw a 6.8% year-on-year increase in foreign turnover by SME sellers using e-commerce platforms, which allow small companies and sole traders to sell their wares direct to consumers across the globe.

Based on international money transfers – sellers repatriating overseas takings – by a sample of 800 users of the Amazon Marketplace, the data shows the number of transfers rose 47% between October and December 2013.

This also suggests that December’s much-vaunted Cyber Monday extravaganza is the peak of a much longer upward trend for small online retailers, with the amount of money repatriated from sales steadily climbing from the end of the summer.

But it’s not just the volume of transfers that rose. The size of the average transfer climbed by 37% as retailers repatriated bumper Christmas takings, reaching well over £12,000.

According to the Currencies Direct data, the bulk of sales are between the UK and countries in the Eurozone, with 63.5% of sellers located in Britain.

But the figures also reveal that one in seven international Amazon Marketplace sellers (14.4%) are based in China.
In contrast, a mere 2.9% of international sellers are based in America, narrowly behind Germany (4.3%) and just ahead of France and Japan (both 2.1%).

The platforms are also growing in popularity, with almost twice as many overseas users on Amazon Marketplace in December 2013 than in 2012.

Alistair Cotton, Currencies Direct head of corporate dealing, said: “While high street retailers had a mixed Christmas, small online e-tailers enjoyed a strong festive period, as platforms like Amazon and eBay allowed them to reach far beyond local shoppers. But as overseas sales grow, the process of getting money back to your home country, and currency, can end up being neither straightforward nor cost effective.

“Previously, the only option was a local bank account, which would mean a 4% hit on any takings just to change funds back into their own currency. Setting up international bank accounts and using foreign exchange experts can mean not only better exchange rates, but also better economic management of transfers – crucial when maximising your profits from this key retail period.