London bridge

At the start of June, the European Commission has presented guidance around the sharing economy, which 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. Popular tourist destination: With its incomparable combination of history, art, architecture and good food, London has long been a dream destination for tourists. And last year was no exception, with an estimated 5.1 million people visiting the capital between April and June, and spending a total of £3.2 billion. A million tourists decided to rent beds directly from Londoners, rather than stay in hotels, through Airbnb.
  1. Unstable economy: There are currently around five million self-employed individuals in the UK, a figure that 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.
  1. Death of the 9-5: Londoners are starting to take greater control of their work-life balance, in the city where working hours are notoriously long. Nine separate boroughs 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. 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.
  1. 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’s no need to invest in expensive back-end platforms or marketing to raise the profile of your offering, as people can start renting out their spare room or car parking space with just a few taps on their mobile.

By Rich Preece, Europe VP and Managing Director, Intuit