August 8, 2012, 8:30 AM

Viva la revolución del e-commerce

Internet Retailer’s Top 300 Latin America retailers put e-commerce on the map.

Mark Brohan

Research Director

Lead Photo

Latin America, which incorporates some 40 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America, boasts some of the world’s most extraordinary natural wonders. It’s home to the Amazon River, the world’s second largest, and the Andes, the world’s longest mountain range.

And now Latin America is also home to one of the world’s fastest-growing online retailing markets, according to the newly published 2012 Internet Retailer Top 300 Latin America, which, in a single volume, features rankings and analysis in English, Portuguese and Spanish

Driving that growth is the region’s relatively recession-resistant economy: Latin America grew 6.2% in 2010 and 4.5% in 2011 while the comparable figures for the U.S. were 3.0% and 1.7%, according to the International Monetary Fund. More middle-income consumers are connected to the Internet and doing more of their shopping online, and that’s resulting in the region’s still-developing e-commerce sector growing faster than those of more developed markets.

In 2011, for example, the online retailing market in the U.S. grew 16.1% to $194.3 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. And in Europe direct-to-consumer e-commerce sales among the 27 companies that make up the European Union grew 18.2% to about $260 billion in 2011, says the Centre for Retail Research.

But online retail sales in Latin America grew at about 34% to an estimated $29.70 billion in 2011 from $22.23 billion in 2010, says eMarketer, an e-commerce research firm. “Online retailing is a growing phenomenon in Latin America and it’s only going to get bigger,” says eMarketer senior analyst Jeffrey Grau. “It’s an e-commerce market that is still coming of age.”

In the U.S. and Europe e-commerce is growing, but those online retail markets also are maturing and consolidating. In contrast, online retailing in Latin America, and especially Brazil, is on a business development fast track, growing quickly and spawning a new generation of web merchants looking to be merchandising category killers or the next Amazon.com Inc. (No. 7), the dominant online retailer in the U.S.

Consider these numbers compiled from the Internet Retailer Top 300 Latin America:

-          In 2011 the combined sales of the merchants ranked in the Top 300 Latin America grew 32.2% to $11.17 billion to $8.46 billion in 2011. In comparison the retailers ranked in the Internet Retailer 2012 Top 500 Guide, which measures the top North American e-retailers, and Top 400 Europe in 2011 grew 20.4% to $180.73 billion and 18.7% to $104.4 billion, respectively.

-          The biggest online retailers in Latin America are growing faster than the biggest web merchants in North America and Europe. Last year the collective sales of the 10 largest web merchants ranked in the Top 300 Latin America—CompraFacil (Brazil); B2W Inc. (Brazil); Nova Pontocom (Brazil); Dell Inc. (U.S.); Magazine Luiza SA (Brazil); Netshoes (Brazil); Amazon.com (U.S); Fast Shop (Brazil); Carrefour Latin America (France) and Cencosud Retail SA (Chile)—grew year over year 36.4% to $4.71 billion from $3.45 billion. By comparison the 10 largest Top 500 web merchants increased sales 25.6% from $73.60 billion in 2010 to $92.50 million in 2011 and the 10 biggest Top 400 Europe retailers grew year over year about 22.7% to $46.22 billion from $37.69 billion.

-          Latin America is one region of the world Amazon.com doesn’t dominate. In North America and Europe, Amazon.com is the biggest web merchant, controlling 26.6%, or $48.08 billion, of all Top 500 sales in North America and 16.0%, or $16.71 billion, of all Top 400 Europe sales. But among all Top 300 Latin America retailers, Amazon’s Internet Retailer-estimated Latin American sales of $257.7 million only accounts for about 2.3% of Top 300 sales. In comparison CompraFacil (No. 1), the biggest overall web-only retailer, had 2011 web sales that grew 18.5% to about $930.4 million from $785.2 million in 2010. The Brazilian mass merchant generates nearly four times the annual web revenue of Amazon.com in Latin America.

-          Other big web-only retailers also are growing about as fast as, and some even faster than, Amazon.com, which grew its Internet Retailer estimated Latin sales about 31.6% to $257.7 million in 2011 from $195.8 million in 2010. B2W Inc., (No. 2) a Brazilian TV, catalog and online retailer that operates multiple consumer electronics sites such as Americanas.com, Submarino.com.br and Shoptime.com.br, grew web sales year over year 32.8% to an Internet Retailer-estimated $758.3 million from $570.8 million. And Nova Pontocom (No. 3), with consumer electronics and food sites such as CasasBahia.com.br, PontoFrio.com.br, Extra.com.br and PaodeAcucar.com.br, recorded Internet Retailer-estimated sales of $637.0 million in 2011, up 142.3% from web sales of $262.9 million in 2010.

The biggest single group of merchants was the 136 retail chains that as a group generated sales of $4.54 billion, up about 27.3% from sales of $3.57 billion. But the 123 companies classified as web-only merchants grew the fastest among the merchant types. In 2011 the collective sales of all Top 300 Latin America online-only retailers totaled $5.28 billion, an increase of about 41.9% from sales of $3.72 billion in 2010.

For the first time the Top 300 Latin America is available in three formats: print, digital and in English as part of the all-new and completely updated Top500Guide.com. Information on how to order the Top 300 Latin America Guide is available here.

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