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International “Spare room” trade worth £32 billion a year

Press release   •   Oct 21, 2015 12:10 BST

  • One in five Brits has sold items to an online international buyer for a profit in the past year and one in ten has purchased from an overseas seller for commercial purposes
  • Online importers and exporters expect substantial increases in trade in the next 12 months
  • Most items imported from Asia, while European Union countries are our top export partner

The boom in home-based businesses is highlighted by new findings1 released today, which reveal Brits have traded over £32 billion of goods online with overseas buyers and sellers, via sites such as eBay or their own website, in the last 12 months alone.

The research1 from Post Office International Payments shows these “international spare room traders”, as it has dubbed them, are looking to ramp up the amount they import and export over the coming 12 months, with over half of exporters (55 per cent) looking to increase sales by an average of 68 per cent.

Those running spare room businesses are following a proven route to success, as approximately 70 per cent of all new businesses start off in the home, and home-based businesses contribute £300 billion to the economy2.

In the past year, nearly one in five Brits (18 per cent) has sold items profitably to an international buyer online. One in ten (nine per cent) Brits has purchased items from an overseas seller to sell on, or use for commercial purposes.

Nick Kennett, Director of Financial Services, Post Office Money said: “Starting a home based business is now easy, as you can set up a virtual store on the internet and profitably trade internationally from your spare room. However, with 45 per cent of spare room importers using a debit or credit card for their purchases, they should look at the charges they are paying for each transaction. Many will be able to save money by using an international payments service which is easy to use. People increasingly recognise they can start a low cost, high margin business that can trade internationally from a studio flat, or million pound mansion.”

Spare room importers

Of the nine per cent of adults who have bought items from an overseas seller to sell on commercially in the past year, the average amount they spent is £2,710, a collective investment of nearly £12 billion.

This is set to increase in the next year, with half (49 per cent) of spare room importers expecting their expenditure to rise by an average of 71 per cent.

Items were most commonly purchased from Asia, with 48 per cent of buyers saying they had bought from the region in the past year. This was followed by the European Union (44 per cent) and North America (29 per cent).

The most common reason for purchasing items from overseas sellers instead of UK merchants was because the items were cheaper (72 per cent), followed by the greater variety of products and services available (29 per cent). One in four (26 per cent) claimed the quality of items they wanted was better overseas, and 13 per cent said they could be produced quicker abroad.

Spare Room Exporters

Of the 18 per cent of Brits who have sold items for a profit to overseas buyers in the past year, the average amount sold per seller has been £2,194, collectively generating a turnover of over £20 billion.

Over half (55 per cent) of overseas sellers expect the amount they sell to increase in the next 12 months, by an average of 68 per cent.

Most sellers have sold to countries within the European Union (60 per cent), followed by Eastern Europe (27 per cent) and North America (23 per cent).

Spare Room International Trading Partners

Top five overseas geographies UK buyers have purchased items from in the past 12 months Top five overseas geographies UK sellers have sold items to in the past 12 months
Asia 48% European Union 60%
European Union 44% Eastern Europe 27%
North America 29% North America 23%
Eastern Europe 24% Australia / Oceania 18%
Middle East 19% Central America 17%

Source: Post Office International Payments, 2015

Post Office International Payments is an easy and secure way to transfer money from UK to overseas bank accounts. For more information please visit:


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