May 14, 2013, 1:01 PM

Web-only merchants are most welcoming to European shoppers among the Top 500

42% of Top 500 merchants fulfill orders to at least some European countries.

Lead Photo

Europe remains a top international shipping destination for many Top 500 retailers, but it’s web-only retailers that ship the most to European countries compared with other types of merchants.

Of all retailers ranked in the 2013 edition of the Top 500 Guide 42%—210—process and ship orders to some or all of the 18 biggest European online retail markets, including the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Of those 157 ship to all 18 European countries, including 65 web-only merchants process orders for all 18 countries compared with 61 chain retailers, 19 catalogers and 12 consumer brand manufacturers.  

Some ship European orders directly from the U.S. using their own fulfillment centers, while others utilize the services of a commercial provider such as Borderfree, formerly FiftyOne Global Ecommerce, or ship from e-commerce distribution centers in Europe,

84 Top 500 web-only merchants ship to Europe’s three biggest online retail markets— the United Kingdom, France and Germany—compared with 75 retail chains, 22 catalogers and 17 manufacturers. Those three countries generated estimated web sales of $215.14 billion in 2012, up 15.8% from an estimated $185.71 billion in 2011 according to the Centre for Retail Research.

Web-only retailers also lead in shipping to the U.K., Europe’s single biggest online retail market with estimated web sales of $87.88 billion in 2012, up 14% from estimated sales of $77.09 billion in 2011. 81 online-only retailers ship to the U.K. compared with 78 chain retailers, 24 catalogers and 18 manufacturers.

Europe remains a top e-commerce market for Top 500 merchants such as Inc. (No. 1), Gap Inc. (No. 19) and Vistaprint NV (No. 87).  In 2012, Amazon’s Germany sales grew 20.7% to $8.73 billion from $7.23 billion in 2011, while its U.K. sales grew year over year 21.2% to $6.47 billion from $5.34 billion.

In comparison Gap’s European web-only sales grew year over year 31.6% to $50 million from $38 million while Vistaprint generated web sales of $415.2 million in Europe in fiscal 2012, up 29.1% from $321.7 million in 2011.

Amazon and Vistaprint continue to invest in their European fulfillment infrastructure. In 2012 Amazon opened two new distribution centers in Europe, bringing its total number of distribution centers to nearly two dozen. Amazon opened two new fulfillment hubs in Germany totaling about 2 million square feet, a 430,000-square foot facility in Spain and another new 301,000-square-foot hub in France. Vistaprint continues to add more custom print ordering and customer service capacity to its facility in the Netherlands.

But whether it’s shipping directly to more European countries from the U.S. or opening more warehouses in key European regions, Top 500 merchants will need do an to even better job of shipping to European consumers if they are to keep up with the enhanced fulfillment services of local retailers, says Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre for Retail Research.

In recent years major Europe-based chain retailers, such as Tesco Stores, Asda, a division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and others have launched programs European retailers refer to as “click and collect,”which enable consumers to shop online, pay for their purchases and have the items ready for pick-up at an arranged time at a store or other location, such as a convenience store.

“The major European chains take the American online retailers seriously because they’ve seen first-hand what Amazon can do,” Bamfield says. “The European chains have been investing heavily to make their own fulfillment choices better for their local customers, and unless the Americans are here that makes it tougher to compete by shipping from a continent away.”

To read previous Top 500 Insider stories, click here.

More on these and other metrics and analysis is contained in The 2013 Top 500 Guide.

The 2013 Top 500 Guide is available in three formats: print, digital and as part of the all-new and completely updated Information on how to order the brand-new 2013 Top 500 Guide is available here


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