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Thousands of small firms flock to eBay after stores shuttered
18 May 2020

Tens of thousands of small firms have flocked to eBay to sell their products, after stores were shuttered in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK arm of the online marketplace business said it had seen a surge in customers and sellers over the past two months, as a vast proportion of retail has had to shift online.

eBay vice president UK Rob Hattrell said that he expected customer demand to remain high, even as the current lockdown restrictions unwind. Non-essential stores are expected to be re-opened in a phased process from 1 June.

“Customers have had to move online to buy the products they need, but this has largely accelerated the shift we were already seeing,” he said.

“The sort of things people have been buying have reflected the way people’s lives have changed since lockdown, with stuff needed for home offices and home fitness equipment selling fast.”

It said more than 50,000 new sellers, ranging from fashion boutiques to toy stores, joined the site last month.

The rate of new sellers joining the site each day has doubled since the pandemic, with almost a quarter of its new sellers based in London.

eBay has extended measures which it introduced in order to help small businesses trading through its platform during the lockdown.

Despite some easing of lockdown rules in the UK, eBay said that new businesses registering to its sites will pay no fees to list or sell products until the end of July, following a two-month extension.

The move, which was originally launched on 26 March, will apply to 250 product listings each month, it said.

As more customers and sellers move online, watchdogs and customer groups have raised concerns over price hikes on essential products on some online marketplaces.

On Thursday, Which? said price gouging was still taking place on the sites for high-demand products such as hand sanitiser, cleaning products and toilet roll.

Hattrell said the company clamped down on a “very small minority” of sellers who have acted against their rules by inflating prices.

He said: “We’ve doubled the size of our team who deal with this – we have always taken this issue very seriously and have continued to do so through the crisis.

“It doesn’t mean we can take our eyes off the issue though. The nation is still in lockdown and it is our job to make sure these people can’t take advantage of our customers.

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