eBay Revitalizing Main Street by Helping Small Businesses Thrive Locally and Sell Globally

Oct 19, 2018 8:25 AM ET
Blog

By Chris Librie

Small businesses are the biggest generator of jobs in America, making up nearly half of all private sector employment. Yet many of those small businesses have been locked into local—and sometimes depressed—markets. Nearly 75 percent of small businesses don’t have any e-commerce presence, and less than 2 percent of U.S. small businesses export.

While explosive innovation in the technology sector has sparked global growth in urban hot spots, elsewhere communities are seeing displacement of their manufacturing jobs and are feeling left behind by automation and globalization.

As a technology company, eBay believes that one of the most meaningful ways we can make an equitable impact is by investing in the revitalization of small business. Our company’s driving purpose is to create opportunity for all. Supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses in communities around the world is central to this mission.

As a technology company, eBay believes that one of the most meaningful ways we can make an equitable impact is by investing in the revitalization of small business. Our company’s driving purpose is to create opportunity for all. Supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses in communities around the world is central to this mission.

We are driven to help local retailers and small businesses use the power of technology and the global marketplace to keep their doors open, hire from their communities, live where they work, and continue to enliven their local economy.

Akron is always open on eBay

In January 2018, eBay CEO Devin Wenig announced the launch of a 12-month pilot program called Retail Revival. He was joined by the Mayor of Akron, Ohio, Dan Horrigan, local government officials, representatives from the Downtown Akron Partnership, and area small business owners. Retail Revival aims to help brick-and-mortar businesses harness the power of eBay’s global marketplace and reach new customers around the world.

Once known as the rubber capital of America, Akron has seen jobs disappear as manufacturing moved overseas. The city has been looking for ways to connect with the wider world. Horrigan’s strong vision for citywide economic development, combined with the city’s burgeoning entrepreneurial community, made Akron an ideal location to pilot the program. eBay’s only ask of Akron’s business community is an open mind. There is no cost to the businesses or the city to participate. For eBay, this is about starting a movement, and shifting a mindset: staying local, but selling global.

In March 2018, more than 100 local businesses were chosen to participate in the pilot. eBay had originally targeted 40 businesses, but due to an overwhelming response from the community, we accepted nearly three times more.

Through Retail Revival, small businesses in Akron are benefitting from exposure on eBay, gaining access to more than 175 million active buyers in 190 markets around the globe. The businesses are receiving 12-months of hands-on support and resources to get started and grow on the eBay platform.

Retail Revival expands and goes international

In the first six months of the program, the Akron sellers in the Retail Revival program have collectively sold over 7,500 items to customers in all 50 states and more than 60 countries. Forty percent of the participating businesses have sold internationally. And the program has strengthened relationships among the local business owners. The Akron Retail Revival sellers, about half of which were new to eBay—including 17 that were completely new online sellers—have hosted listing parties, shared shipping supplies, swapped tips and met with groups of other eBay sellers. They’ve learned a lot about promoting their own businesses—using social media and other tools—to buyers in Akron and around the world.

Akron is just the beginning of the Retail Revival program and it is providing an effective template to build upon. In September, eBay launched two new Retail Revival locations—one in Lansing, Michigan, and a second in the City of Wolverhampton in the U.K. And additional locations will be announced in the coming months.

Complementing and growing local retailers

eBay is uniquely positioned to drive this economic development program with small businesses. As a pure global marketplace, eBay carries no inventory of its own. We connect sellers to buyers—we do not compete with them. Our success is fully intertwined with our sellers, which is why we support sellers along each step of their business journey.

Retailers with physical stores have taken a hit in recent times, with a record 7,795 store closures in 2017 across the U.S., according to a recent study by UBS. By connecting local retailers with a global customer base, eBay is helping these small businesses grow and thrive in the challenging current retail environment, enabling them to keep jobs local and support the vibrancy of each community.

Chris Librie is Head of Impact & Giving at eBay, responsible for activating and communicating the company’s purpose to drive an inclusive economy and better commerce. In this role, Chris leads a global team that creates and oversees programs and initiatives like Retail Revival, eBay for Charity, and the work of the eBay Foundation. In addition, Chris and his team are responsible for CSR reporting, including improving the company’s environmental footprint.