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More and more etailers are making a profit from their online stores, according to a study from ecommerce software vendor Actinic. The trouble is, only three per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK use websites to flog goods and services.

As a result, Actinic reckons SMEs are missing out on a valuable source of revenue. "The continued growth in online shopping means there's a real risk of consumer choice being limited because of vendors' resistance to ecommerce adoption," said the company.

Its survey of 539 etailers found that seven in ten made a profit this year, compared to just half in 2003. It also found that ecommerce is most popular among entrepreneurs and small businesses, with four in ten e-businesses being online-only start-ups, while three quarters of etailers are run by companies with few than ten workers.

Said Actinic chief exec Chris Barling: "Surveys over the last year have consistently found that online spending is growing rapidly, but that's only one side of the coin. Just as importantly, our results show that ecommerce profitability is growing too - the low overheads compared to a high street outlet make selling online especially attractive to start-ups and micro-businesses.

"But what I find disappointing is that the vast majority of retail businesses are not taking advantage of this golden opportunity to increase their sales, profits and customer base."

Two weeks ago a report by research outfit Mintel found that Internet retailers are still facing an uphill struggle to convince punters that shopping online isn't just about picking up a bargain. Despite all their [etailers] efforts, it seems the single most important reason for consumers to shop online is price. ®

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