E-commerce growth ‘driving retail remodelling’

Rapid e-commerce growth in Western Europe is forcing retailers to reconfigure their physical store footprint as footfall continues to decline, new research from Forrester has suggested.

The company’s Online Retail Forecast predicted that online retail sales will grow at an average of 11.9 per cent over the next five years in Western Europe, with Italy and Spain expected to see the fastest growth. Furthermore, the report forecasted that 21 per cent of non-grocery retail sales will be online by 2022, while e-commerce will account for 4.5 per cent of grocery sales.

In the Netherlands, online grocery sales grew to €1 billion in 2017, with five per cent of supermarket sales now online. In France, Ocado and supermarket chain Groupe Casino have developed a strategic alliance to further accelerate online sales, while Carrefour plans to triple its online sales by 2020 through a new digital strategy, Forrester noted.

Retail e-commerce growth was particularly strong in Italy, Spain and Ireland last year. Online sales in Italy and Spain grew 24 per cent and 19 per cent respectively, while Irish e-commerce grew six times faster than bricks and mortar sales.

The report also found that in-store collection of online goods has only a modest effect on store traffic. Three in 10 online orders from John Lewis are now collected in-store, while Ceconomy – Europe’s largest consumer electronics retailer – was more successful at driving online shoppers to its stores, with 40 per cent of orders picked up.

In addition, the study found that digital-influenced sales will account for 38 per cent of total retail sales in the EU by 2021, while 55 per cent of total European sales (€1 trillion) will involve digital touchpoints by 2021.

Michael O’Grady, author of the report, said: “Consumer confidence in the Eurozone is at an eight-year high. Consumers are more optimistic about employment and savings and more confident about the economy. Despite this optimism, retail sales growth and economic activity growth vary considerably across Europe.

“Online sales grew 10 times faster than the retail market in 2017,” he added. “Nine retail categories that are less likely to be sold online, like grocery, jewellery, DIY and beauty, will see the fastest online retail sales growth over the next five years.”

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