4 reasons London has become the centre of the European sharing economy

Rich Preece, managing director of accounting software firm Intuit, explains

The sharing or on-demand economy is making waves both in our professional and personal lives. It hasn’t taken long for digital disruptors like Uber, Airbnb and Etsy to become household names. And London has emerged as its European centre.  

According to research published last Autumn, around one in twelve of the world’s 865 sharing economy businesses is now based in the UK capital. Fewer than in San Francisco or New York, but well ahead of rival European cities such as Madrid, Berlin and Paris. Residents are certainly taking advantage of their services, both in terms of consuming them and using them to supplement their own income. Our own research reveals the face of the typical sharing economy user in the UK: a 25-34-year-old male Londoner.

Let’s take a look at the factors contributing to the success of the movement in the UK’s capital city…

1.      Still the most popular city for tourists: With its incomparable combination of history, art, architecture and good food, London has long been a dream destination for global travellers. The city has topped MasterCard’s Global Destinations Cities Index for five of the seven years it’s been published. And last year was no exception, the ONS calculated that the city welcomed a record 5.1 million international visitors between April and June, who spent a total of £3.2 billion. A million of whom decided to rent beds directly from Londoners, rather than stay in hotels, through Airbnb.

2.      Unstable economy: According to the ONS, there are currently around five million self-employed individuals in the UK. This number has ballooned in the past few years as a direct result of the financial crash, which saw crowds of people moving from traditional job roles to self-employment. And, for the new wave of independent professionals looking to boost their earnings, embracing sharing economy services is really paying off. One in five of those already supplementing or creating income with these services are earning up to £1,500 a week, with 3% bringing in over £250,000 a year. Two in five (39%) use profits made to save for the future, a quarter (26%) spend cash made on luxuries or entertainment, while 14% say they use it to pay bills.

3.      The tide is turning against the 9-5: People are now wanting to take even greater control of their work-life balance - particularly in London where working hours are notoriously long. Ten separate boroughs of the city snagged the spots for the ten unhappiest places to live in the UK last year. Figures indicate that a third (32%) of people feel the single best thing about the sharing economy is getting to work the hours they choose. For some, this still means working remotely, but for others it’s about creating more than one source of income, whether taking on two different jobs or supplementing a core job with money made from selling different services. Full-time 9-to-5s with a benefits package in tow are becoming increasingly rare. In fact, just 13% of Brits expect to be working in a traditional role in a decade.

4.      Technology: Thanks to the proliferation of mobile, the low barriers to entry are giving Londoners wanting to make an income from the sharing economy immediate access to huge customer bases, all within their pocket. There is no need to invest in expensive, complicated back-end platforms or marketing to raise the profile of or run your offering – people come directly through their smartphone. People can start renting out their spare room or car parking space with just a few taps on their mobile.


Rich Preece is Europe VP and managing director of Intuit. Since joining the company in 2002, Rich has played a critical role in Intuit’s expansion, bringing its products to market in different regions including the US, UK and India for both small businesses and accounting professionals. Rich currently sits on the board of the European App Developers Alliance.

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