September 6, 2021

Where do E-commerce workers live & work in the UK?

Dr Peter Mowforth

How will this study be useful?

Ecommerce has become the main driver for most forms of trade. This is true for both local and international trade as well as all aspects of both retail and wholesale/supply chain trade. According to the ONS it is already larger than oil, gas, food and drink trade (all combined) and continues to grow rapidly. Any city, region or nation that has an interest in its economic success will want to know how it compares to its neighbours. Such knowledge is necessary to best provide assistance around skills, support, infrastructure or supply chain systems. This information can also be used to help plan inward investment as well as the needs of further/higher education.

This study uses linkedin to identify and approximately geolocate where people that use the term ‘e-commerce’ are based.

We ran an initial study using the term ‘ecommerce’ and found that it produced the same pattern of results but with lower overall numbers.

Population figures for cities and towns in England and Wales are based on the 2017 population estimates by the Office for National Statistics, while Scotland’s figures are from the ONS’s 2016 estimates and the figures for Northern Ireland are from the 2011 census. These are the latest official figures.

The Linkedin results are far from perfect. They are, however, the most up-to-date and comprehensive dataset available. Just because somebody has included the word ‘e-commerce’ does not necessarily mean that they work directly in the area. They could, for example, be involved in recruitment or teaching. It’s also likely that linkedin will miss out people who describe their job, for example, as a Magento programmer, or small package logistics specialist. Several of those picked up in the results show that they studied in the city. This is likely to skew results in favour of cities with large Universities. The key point is that these errors will be roughly similar for most city areas so the overall shape of the study will still reflect a relatively fair indicative statistic.

The final column ((e-commerce people * 100)/city population) shows the percentage of people in a city area that on their linkedin page include the word ‘e-commerce’ in describing what they do and what they are involved with in their job or background.

Here follows results for the UK’s 30 largest cities/towns in terms of population:


We have ordered the data from high to low so that the final column shows the % of ‘e-commerce’ people in each of the 30 cities/towns.

Three city areas required special treatment; Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Kingston-upon-Hull and Stoke-on-Trent. This was because people who lived around these cities often used different names e.g. just ‘Newcastle’. In these situations various custom searches were made and then results combined to gain final tallies.

‘Reading’ was also an exception because of its alternative meaning. Again special searches were created including terms such as ‘Reading area’ which were then combined to provide final results.

Observations

It was no great surprise that Manchester has by far the highest density of professionals working in ‘e-commerce’ at 5.77%. This tallies with our expectations for the study. Just one company, THG, has announced that it is aiming to eventually recruit 10,000 e-commerce people to work in their new headquarters adjacent to Manchester Airport.

E-commerce hotspots can be very localised. For example, Bolton (24th on the list) is only 12 miles from Manchester (1st on the list). A possible explanation might be that e-commerce professionals are well paid and this is reflected in terms of where they choose to live. Manchester has an average house price of £286,559 while Bolton has an average house price of only £192,152.

What was a surprise was that London was only 9th on the list. The observation of there being lots of jobs in London does not fully factor in the massive population size of the city compared to everywhere else. For example, the entire population of Scotland is only 61% the population of London.

Edinburgh came fifth while Glasgow came a disappointing twenty second. Possible explanations that may need further research could be that Glaswegians are more likely to use the term ‘ecommerce’ or that Edinburghers may use e-commerce as a synonym for fintech. It might also reflect associations with a University that turned-out people that were more likely to end up in e-commerce.

Brighton has a surprisingly high density of e-commerce-related workers. Possible explanations could include a strong focus by the University in combination with there being a high density of local e-commerce supply companies.

Perhaps the most important statistic from this study is the wide range of results itself. From Manchester to Luton we see a density spread of almost x10 in the number of ecommerce-related professionals. It’s likely that these figures will correlate with the economic performance or productivity figures across different parts of the UK.

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