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UK named as largest online exporter in Europe

For international online shoppers, the UK is an increasingly appealing retail destination – new findings show that more overseas shoppers buy from the UK than any other European country. 

Market research company Ipsos carried out “cross-border merchant research” on behalf of payment provider PayPal. It found that 14% of global online shoppers had bought from the UK in the last 12 months, making the UK the largest online exporter in Europe.

Clothing was found to be the number one category for international shoppers, and 68% had bought clothes from other countries in the past year.

The US was found to be the largest export market for the UK  –  it bought an estimated £12.5bn over the past 12 months. China bought £5.7bn of goods. Shoppers in European countries also showed a favourable attitude to the UK – customers in seven European nations including France, Germany, Italy and Sweden, rated the UK in their “top three” countries to buy from.

Overall, 72% were found to shop from other countries because of cheaper prices. Since the fall in the value of sterling in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union, the UK has become a more tempting prospect for international shoppers on the hunt for a bargain.

Premium sportswear start-up Castore, co-founded by Drapers 30 Under 30 alumnus Philip Beahon, is one business to have benefited from international demand. The business expects sales to rise from £750,000 in 2017 to £2.7m in 2018, and more than half of sales over the past three months have come from North America or Asia. 

Although Baroness Fairhead, minister of state for the Department for International Trade, called the results “great news for Britain” she also noted that the sector could be strengthened: “To build on this achievement, the Department for International Trade is making it easier and cheaper for UK firms to sell online to customers around the world.”

Shipping costs, language barriers and foreign currency payments were cited as the reasons some shoppers were wary of buying from overseas.

Commenting on the findings, Nicola Longfield, director of small business at PayPal, highlighted the potential for international online shoppers to boost online businesses: “As growth in the UK economy remains modest, it’s time for all British businesses to open their doors to the international shopper.

“International shopping is increasing at a rapid pace, and this study highlights the small adjustments that businesses can make to capture more global sales. If you set a border around your business, you are simply putting a limit on your sales.”

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