TechnologyFewer small UK firms trade online

Fewer small UK firms trade online

The number of small and medium-sized companies trading online has fallen since last year, despite government targets to get one million organisations with fewer than 250 staff using the web by 2002.

According to government figures, the number of small businesses using the internet to pay for and order goods online has decreased by 6000 since last year to just 30,000. The number of medium-sized organisations doing so has fallen by 1000 to 6000.

But the government claims it is well on the way to meeting its target if ‘micro organisations’, those with up to nine employees, are included in the small to medium-sized bracket. Micro organisations have shown the greatest increase in online trading, from 410,000 last year to 505,000 in 2001.

According to the UK Online for Business International Benchmarking Study 2001, the number of smaller companies in the UK has increased by 20% over the last year to 540,000. The number of large companies has remained static at 2000 over the last two years, however.

The results were announced at last week’s E-Connect 2001 conference by ecommerce minister Douglas Alexander, who said that ‘progress is being made’ owards achieving the Government’s goal of making the UK the best place in the world for ebusiness by 2004.

‘here is still much more to be done. Ecommerce is essential to the future competitiveness and growth of the UK economy. We have a clear commitment to advance the ecommerce agenda in the years to come,’ said Alexander.

Andy Ross, director of ecommerce and the internet at Royal Bank of Scotland, told conference delegates that the banking community has a key role to play in encouraging businesses to trade online.

He explained that, although RBS has seen 175% growth in online sales year-on-year, banks need to take the upper hand in supporting new technologies. ‘There is a need for the banking industry to come up with support for the use of small payments over the internet,’ he said.

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