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E-CTC calls for better online trade support for small businesses
Tue, 5th Dec 2023

The E-Commerce Trade Commission (E-CTC), a group comprised of leading eCommerce platforms and globally renowned experts, has underlined the urgent necessity for better online trade support catered towards small businesses. The commission highlights this crucial need in anticipation of Small Business Saturday.

The E-CTC assures that online exports could offer small retailers the chance to rake in supplementary revenue ranging from 100,000 to 950,000 annually. This much-needed boost, however, is often hindered by a lack of sufficient support and inadequate resources available for navigating online exporting. And, according to Marco Forgione, Director General at the Institute of Export & International Trade and Chair of the E-CTC, this lack of support is a significant barrier for growth among small businesses.

In its first evidence session last month, numerous small businesses communicated their fear that the resources currently available are woefully inadequate for fostering growth via online exports. Pointed issues raised by these businesses included a struggle to access real people for help and advice, as well as difficulty in locating vital information, such as how to obtain an Import One Stop Shop number, needed to demonstrate that all VAT has been paid on products being sold into the EU.

The E-CTC, established in June 2023, aims to stimulate online export activity among 70,000 more small businesses in the UK by 2025, a move it believes could provide a generous financial injection of 9.3bn into the economy. It also intends to support the government with policy suggestions aimed at addressing the obstacles these businesses currently face.

Marco Forgione, speaking on behalf of the small business community, stressed the desperate need for clear, accessible support. Forgione noted, "Small business owners in the UK have told us that they are struggling to find the support they need. These are businesses which want to grow by expanding into new markets, and who want to take advantage of the new free trade deals the UK has been securing. Clear information and ease of access to educational support – both online and in-person– are crucial yet simple steps we can take to help our small businesses thrive."

Forgione also emphasised the potential benefits of eCommerce for small retailers, suggesting that it could boost annual income by hundreds of thousands of pounds. "Britain’s small shops are the backbone of our high streets up and down the country and eCommerce can now help them unleash their international growth potential. I’m excited by the prospect of platforms and policymakers coming together to help our small firms achieve this," he said.