Home Business Insights & Advice Which UK online businesses are thriving in 2018?

Which UK online businesses are thriving in 2018?

by Sarah Dunsby
20th Sep 18 11:09 am

You’ll see no shortage of articles out there citing the internet as the reason for the failure of many businesses. From Woolworths, to Blockbuster, and recently Toys R Us, there have been some high-profile casualties of the dot com bubble and the subsequent digital revolution.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for business. The brands that have taken their place offer a masterclass in how to deliver products and services that go above and beyond the expectations of today’s consumers. Just look at the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Spotify, which disrupted their industries with innovative technology and platforms that give people what they want, when they want.

Of course, these success stories aren’t confined to the US, or Silicon Valley. There are many successful UK-based online firms too – let’s take a look at how they’re reaping rewards in a variety of markets.

Naked Wines

Richard Branson’s former protégé Rowan Gormley set up Naked Wines in 2008 in the metropolis of… Norwich. But he wasn’t searching for a place that would appeal to customers – all he needed was a good internet connection and a few telephones.

At that time, the biggest wine company in the UK was Majestic Wine, a business started in the 1970s that had around 200 physical stores throughout the country.

Majestic’s target audience were older wine lovers – so the firm was perhaps understandably slow to adapt to the digitalisation of retail. Delivery was guaranteed within a week of ordering and was often best done over the telephone rather than the internet.

Naked Wines swooped in and provided ‘named-day’ delivery for customers who ordered online. As well as upping the convenience factor, they also encouraged customers to share wine tips and reviews – driving engagement (and repeat business) to their website. They also led the way in creating tailored crates based on how much customers were willing to pay per month.

In the end, this online wine start-up was so successful that Majestic Wine bought it in 2014 and made Gormley its CEO. The decision seems to be paying off, given that the company was profitable in all of the geographic markets it operates in during 2017.


ASOS (which stands for As Seen On Screen) was launched in 2000 by Nick Robertson as an online fashion and beauty retailer. The company provides customers with access to over 850 brands of clothing, ranging from cheaper suppliers such as Burton to expensive designer clothes such as All Saints.

As well as other brands, the company has its own branded clothing which represents its most profitable revenue stream. ASOS now has websites targeting not only the UK, but Australia, the US, France, Germany, Spain Russia and Italy.

ASOS also ships to 200 different countries across the world, making them a truly global brand and a real British success story. In 2017 the company published revenues of £1.9 billion, which was almost half a billion more than 2016.

By bringing together items from a wide range of retailers, ASOS doesn’t specifically cater for just one demographic, rather it caters for everyone. You can treat yourself to a pair of £200 jeans but also get some cheap socks on the same transaction.

Rose Slots

The UK gambling market is flourishing – and that’s thanks to online casinos, which are driving the sector by contributing over one third of all gambling revenue. Online gambling profits grew an impressive 10% last year, making the sector an attractive option for investors.

For gamers, 2018 is something of a heyday, with so many immersive playing options – from live casinos that link players up with real-life dealers via video streams, to engaging card games that can be played from the comfort of your own home.

Traditional betting companies tend to target men with a passion for sports betting and poker. However, there is one online prominent gambling operator that’s bucked this trend: Rose Slots, which caters for women with a love for slot games. Many feel women have traditionally been forgotten about by betting companies – research tells us that women start gambling much later in life than men do – and Rose Slots is filling this void.

Rose Slots stands out from the flashy, often dazzling websites of other online gambling brands, with its softer branding and focus on female players giving it all-important stand-out in an increasingly competitive market.

It also focuses exclusively on slot games, meaning it’s become known for providing one specific niche of gambling effectively, rather than spreading itself too thin by offering a range of casino games. Take a look at its UK slots and you might be surprised to see just how differently it looks and feels from the more male-biased mainstream providers.


There’s a lot of money in football merchandise. You might be surprised to know that many avid supporters are more than willing to spend up to £50 on their club’s new shirt every season.

In the past decade or so, football shirts have begun to be a fashion statement for some fans – particularly obscure, vintage kits. For example, you can go into any hipster bar in Shoreditch and find a bearded man, supping craft ale and proudly wearing a 1973 Atletico Nacional away kit.

That’s the market that The Old Fashioned Football Shirt (TOFFS) cater for. Of all the 92 league clubs in England, TOFFS offer retro and vintage shirts for every single one as well as teams in Scotland, national teams and clubs from all across the world. In fact one of the most popular items on the site is a Dukla Prague 1960’s away shirt, proving the hipster theory right.


Online businesses are on the rise in the UK. Collectively, they contribute £243bn in turnover to the economy, accounting for £1 in every £11 of turnover. Low wages and increasing living costs are also encouraging more and more people to work from home with businesses such as blogging and drop-shipping really taking off.

Giants such as Amazon and eBay have also cashed in on this, offering small brands the option of selling products and services to their many millions of customers across the world. So instead of going down to the market to sell your goods on a Sunday, you can now do it full-time from the comfort of your own home – and make a huge success of it if you know your place in the market and you can find regular customers.

Fundamentally, that’s all the likes of Naked Wines, Rose Slots, TOFFS and ASOS have all done – with growing success.

Have you got an online business of your own and have some advice to give? Let us know in the comments below.

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