STAFF at a rapidly growing rival to Amazon Marketplace have been gifted share options worth a total of £1million as a Christmas surprise.

The offer will allow more than 100 workers at the Poole-based online platform OnBuy to own a stake in the business as it expands.

Staff and new joiners are being given share options valued at a quarter of their annual salary.

OnBuy, set up as an alternative to Amazon Marketplace, has seen revenue grow by 200 per cent this year. It says it is on course to become a “unicorn” – a privately held start-up worth more than a billion US dollars.

Sales over the Black Friday weekend were up 25 per cent on the previous year, even though the retail sector overall saw a decline.

Staff will be able to turn their options into shares at the current value during any “liquidity event”, such as the initial public offering of shares which is expected in the next two years. The company expects their value to grow as it expands internationally.

Chief executive Cas Paton, who founded the business in 2016, said: “At OnBuy, we do the right thing by our retailers and customers, so it’s natural that we would do the right thing by our staff too – and we don’t believe any employee should have to be in the boardroom to benefit from company growth.

“E-commerce is a fast-paced 24 hour business and many firms have been in the spotlight recently for poor working practices and in some cases, downright abuse of staff. Frankly this is unacceptable and at OnBuy, we are committed to creating a fair and transparent working environment for all.

“We want to show that working for an e-commerce giant can be a hugely positive experience and our team is absolutely vital to our future success. We want to reward hard work financially, showing employees that they aren’t just a cog in the machine.”

OnBuy offers 36million listings and says it is committed to being a fair partner to retailers by not creating its own product lines to compete with them.

It was recently recognized in Deloitte’s Fast 50 as the fastest-growing company in the South West and Wales. Mr Paton won the Regional Scale-Up Entrepreneur award at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards in November.

Mr Paton added: “The business community has been recognising us with awards left, right, and centre with the Deloitte Fast 50, and the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, and that’s all thanks to the monumental staff we have here at OnBuy.

"You only have to read the news to see what happens when tech giants undervalue their workforce. The awards we win and success we have are directly because of the people in the team and it’s high time big players stopped treating humans like robots."