Fear of crime, lack of funds, and concerns about attracting enough customers are driving the UK's next generation of retailers away from the High Street and onto the web.
A study commissioned by e-commerce software developer Actinic claims that budding retailers are so scared of physical crime that they are turning to 'e-tailing' instead.
While the UK remains a 'nation of shopkeepers', with four out of 10 would-be entrepreneurs citing running a retail business as the most favoured new business idea, 68 per cent of them said they would sell online if they had the necessary technical support.
"Selling online eradicates the danger of physical crime because there is no shop to raid or physical stock to shoplift," said Chris Barling, chief executive officer of Actinic.
But although UK shoppers spent £8.8bn online in the 12 months to July 2003, according to figures from the Interactive Media in Retail Group, online fraud is costing retailers many millions of pounds each month.
And it's the e-tailers, not the banks or customers, that are bearing the brunt.
"You can't get mugged online or get bored standing in a virtual checkout queue, said Baring.
"Online seems more dangerous because we're less used to it, but if you go onto online discussion forums they're always talking about fraud. The advice and guidance is more available for online shopkeepers."
"A big frustration is that vigorous action isn't taken against fraudsters. One of the things that would be helpful is if there were easier ways of pursuing orders abroad. We need a low-cost way of reporting fraud so it's taken seriously across international boundaries."
The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit believes that 50 per cent of businesses do not report e-crimes because of fears about the disruption it would cause. Many also believe that the police lack the resources to deal with the crime anyway.
Sophie Yorke, senior policy advisor of the e-business group at the Confederation of British Industry, told vnunet.com: "It's fairly positive that more people are going online, but people who set up online need to make sure proper security measures are in place."
The survey of 1,000 UK citizens over the age of 25 was conducted by Ipsos.
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