Global pandemic leads to boom for UK online businesses

Online shopping
(Image credit: Financial Express)

Covid-19 has resulted in an explosion of new e-commerce outlets in the UK with more than 85,000 businesses launching online stores in the last four months, new research has found. 

Data from Growth Intelligence indicates that the fashion and apparel, home and garden, pharmacy and consumer goods sectors top the list of online outlets that have appeared during the pandemic.

More than 750,000 businesses have been forced to shut up shop during Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, although many have switched to digital only operations. The South West and Yorkshire are flagged as the UK regions seeing the highest proportional number of e-commerce outlets opening their digital doors.

Online outlets

The findings indicate that from 2 February to 20 June 2020 e-commerce openings were at their highest ever recorded over a four month period.

The growth of clothing and accessories outlets online is perhaps not so surprising, with 8,665 garment companies adding digital payment methods and e-commerce technology to their business models. 

But less obvious sectors are also booming with 7,129 manufacturing and 3,767 agriculture, fisheries and industrial food production businesses joining the more predictable likes of 4,156 food and drink retail outlets doing the same.

However, the pharmaceutical sector has been enjoying its own mini boom, with 9.3% of existing businesses devising new ways of selling online. The huge take-up of Zoom and other video conferencing tools is also highlighted, with the professional training marketplace seeing a 6.8% growth towards digital sales.

“It's remarkable to see the speed at which small businesses across the country have adapted," noted Tom Gatten, CEO of Growth Intelligence. "Being unable to trade in the traditional sense has been a catalyst in driving digital transformation and where one door has closed, this nation of shopkeepers has forced another to open."

"Thousands of businesses are making the most of the tremendous opportunity that growing demand for online shopping is creating. While our data shows a very slow return to what we previously considered ‘normal’, the new environment is opening new markets and this will reinvigorate the economy.”

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.