Market analysis of the UK’s consumer retail social enterprises

Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) has conducted a brief market analysis of UK social enterprises that sell retail products to consumers (consumer retail social enterprises). This analysis explores the size and growth potential of this sector, its social and environmental impact and barriers to growth.

The research has been developed in partnership with the eBay for Change programme. ‘eBay for Change’ developed in partnership with Social Enterprise UK and The World Fair Trade Organization is a programme designed to support the growth of the social enterprise sector. Through an in-depth package of support, including zero fees, one to one digital skills and training and marketing support, the programme is helping social enterprises to set up and scale on To enable eBay for Change to continue to grow and scale we need to understand more about the consumer retail social enterprise sector: this report provides important data to support this.

The research finds that:

  • There are around 36,000 – 43,000 consumer retail social enterprises: this is over a third of social enterprises operating in the UK.
  • About 360 new social enterprises planning to sell retail products to consumers are being set up each month in the UK.
  • Three-quarters expect their consumer retail business to grow in the next 12 months, and of these, almost a third expect substantial growth
  • There is an optimistic and rapidly growing start-up segment which further indicates growth potential in retail social enterprises, with the right support. 40% of those established in the last year expect to ‘grow a lot’.
  • Retail sales are often not the social enterprise’s primary income source. Most consumer retail social enterprises also generate revenue from other means, and many work across non-retail sectors. This indicates further potential growth if these businesses can increase retail sales as a proportion of their trading income.
  • Social enterprises that sell retail products have diverse leadership and social and environmental missions, making their work inclusive and impactful.