March 6, 2014, 4:59 PM

E-commerce grows an estimated 23% in Central Europe in 2013

Poland leads the pack in sales growth, the research finds, with an online sales increase estimated at 24% in 2013 compared with 2012.

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When it comes to online sales growth, Central Europe is beating the U.S., according to new research from Ecommerce Europe, an organization for European online retailers.

Online sales growth in Central Europe is projected to come in at 23% for 2013, reaching 93.3 billion euros (US $129.20 billion), according the organization. That would be up from 19% year-over-year growth in 2012, when sales totaled 75.9 billion euros (US $105.11 billion). By comparison, U.S. web sales grew 16.9% in 2013 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, to reach $262.51 billion.

The association defines Central Europe as Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland. The region accounted for 24.4% of total online sales in Europe in 2012, which amounted to 311.5 billion euros (US $431.37 billion).  58 million of Central Europe’s 165 million inhabitants are using the Internet for online purchases, Ecommerce Europe says.

Poland leads the pack in sales growth, the research finds, with an online sales increase estimated at 24% in 2013 compared with 2012. Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia posted 2013 online sales estimated at 880 million (US $1.22 billion), 330 million (US $456.98 million) and 180 million euros (US $249.26 million) respectively in 2013, for a combined average 2013 growth rate of 23%. In Germany, 2013 web sales growth is forecast to be 22%. The Czech Republic is predicted to post 2.1 billion euros (US $2.91 billion) in online sales for last year, a growth of around 19% compared to 2012. Austria and Switzerland will post the smallest growth, both with 12%.

Germany is by far the largest country in the Central European region and its 2012 online sales account of 50 billion euros (US $69.24 billion) accounted for 65.7% of the region’s total e-commerce sales. Internet penetration in Germany stands at a high 85%. And, after Russia, Germany has the largest online population in Europe with 81 million consumers.

“With a younger, Internet-savvy generation hungry for foreign trends and embracing the digital lifestyle, Germany is moving away from its long-standing retail and mail-order traditions towards being a true e-commerce growth hub,” Ecommerce Europe writes in its report.

Foreign players such as Amazon.com Inc. are already well established in the market, the group says.  However, local online retailers such as shoe and apparel retailer Zalando and Otto Group, No. 2 in the Europe 500, are also posting strong growth. Zalando, which is based in Berlin and sells more than 150,000 products from 1,500 brands, says sales in its core markets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland totaled more than 1 billion euros in 2013 (US $1.37 billion) for the first time since the retailer launched in late 2008. Sales in those regions totaled 1.05 billion euros (US $1.44 billion) in 2013 compared to 773 million euros (US $1.01 billion) a year earlier. For all its markets, which include 15 European countries, Zalando posted sales of 1.76 billion euros (US $2.42 billion) in 2013, up 53% compared to 1.15 billion euros (US $1.58 billion) a year earlier.

Central European consumers spent on average 2,617 euros (US $3,624) online in 2012 Ecommerce Europe says. This is far above the average for the 28 Europe countries that are members of the European Union, 234 euros (US $1,708), and the European average, 1,402 euros (US $1,941).

Austrians spent most online in 2012 with an average of 2,085 euros (US$2,887). Switzerland ranks second with an average spend of 1,750 euros (US $2,423). Germany ranks third in average online spending for 2012 with 1,351 euros (US $1,870), followed by Czech Republic, 581 euros (US $804), and Poland and Hungry, which are tied with 422 euros (US $584). The report did not break out average online spend by country for 2013.

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