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eBay biz millionaires proliferate as high street suffers

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The number of eBay UK millionaires could rise to over 150 this year, while high street shops battle increasing retail gloom.

The online tat bazaar said million-pound businesses were set to rise by 25 per cent in 2011, with most of them (98 per cent) boosting their sales through exports.

"New figures project that 11 of this year's millionaire businesses will see over £500,000 of revenue generated through exports, with two online SMEs projected to achieve over £1m of sales in exports alone," the site said.

The top markets buying up the goods were the US, Australia, Germany, Ireland and France.

Yesterday, the Confederation for Business Industry (CBI) said that retail sales on the high street fell at the fastest pace for a year in August, and retailers were the most negative they had been about business since February 2009, according to its survey.

"As expected, August was a tough month on the high street. Sales volumes fell at a pace not seen in over a year, as consumers have continued to see their real incomes squeezed by a combination of inflation and weak wage growth," said Judith McKenna, chair of the CBI Distributive Trades Panel and Asda COO.

High street stores have been hit hard by the reduced spending power of UK families struggling with rising food and energy prices. Household names including Thorntons, Comet and Carpetright have closed swathes of outlets, while others have fallen into administration. Just yesterday, flooring chain Floors-2-Go joined their number.

One eBay store, PF Jones, which has grown into one of the site's top businesses, also has bricks-and-mortar premises.

"I launched our eBay shop, which now employs five members of staff, to increase our customer base and profits," said owner Danny Barenga. "Exports are playing an increasingly prominent role in our business model as we continue to increase our overseas sales, in particular to Europe and Australia."

Angus McCarey, retail director for eBay UK, said small and medium British businesses had really benefit from being able to reach international customers online.

"We've seen a surge of businesses starting up on eBay since the recession, which shows the vital role online businesses play in supporting the fragile UK economy," he added. ®

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