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King's Award for International Trade

Online retailer making waves around the world

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Familiar faces: - Brad and Rob have met King Charles when Rarewaves won a Queen's Award in 2018

It started nearly 20 years ago with a keen record collector looking to find a market for some of his discs on eBay – then still a relatively new online auction website. Now is one of the largest online marketplace retailers in the world selling all manner of goods to all the countries around the world where deliveries can reach.

This is just one of the reasons why has clinched its second royal seal of approval for its exporting endeavours. It first picked up the Queen's Award for Enterprise for Outstanding International Growth in 2018 and it has now won again, having renewed its bid to win the King’s Award in the same category.

The first time the company applied for the recognition, it met the criteria for “steep” year-on-year growth in overseas sales for three years. This time they have demonstrated the endurance of their business model, having proved “substantial:” growth in exports over six years. The London-based company started specialising in selling records and CDs but what they sell now is vast and growing.


The business was founded in 2005 by Brad Aspess, who was recently awarded an MBE for services to international trade. Managing director Rob Evans joined the business a few years later.
Rob says: “The heartland of the business was entertainment – so music, DVDs, books, video games.

“But we have branched out into pretty much anything with a bar code.

“We sell cycling accessories and parts, office products and stationery, we sell fancy dress costumes and toys. Pretty much anything that is easily shipped worldwide and that we can catalogue and sell.”

Interestingly for a company renowned for being a tech retailer, it only launched its own website four years ago.

Instead, its growth came through becoming some of the biggest third-party sellers through giant online marketplaces such as Amazon in Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, and the US, eBay, and Fnac in France. Overall, it sells over 1.5 million products through 30 marketplaces around the world.

Nevertheless, its own brand is growing “massively”, Rob says: “It is another great outlet for our product and we sold to 80 different countries from our website alone last month.”

Its US business has offices in Florida and Chicago and Rarewaves is about to open in Germany. It also plans to set up further operations in Europe this year as well as launch into marketplaces in Turkey and Singapore.

These international operations allow it to “buy locally and sell worldwide”.


The company doesn’t operate warehouses – it stopped that part of the business in 2011 as it was a barrier to growth. Instead, it has built strong relationships with third-party warehouse and delivery service providers.

“We outsourced to a third party which allowed us to focus on what we’re good at doing, which is growing the business and selling products. And then we can grow that much faster,” says Rob.

“We’re basically a tech business masquerading as a retailer. Our job is to have robust systems that allow us to ship  vast quantities of products to a vast number of people as quickly as possible – wherever it is in the world.”

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