UK e-retailers have big opportunities on the continent, consultant says

UK consumers are more likely to have broadband access and spend more online than those in Continental Europe, says Tony Stockil, CEO of Javelin Group. He says UK retailers are well positioned to win the business of web shoppers in mainland Europe.

Katie Evans

UK retail chains are ahead of their Continental counterparts in embracing e-commerce and are well positioned to compete for the online shopping loyalty of consumers in other European countries, says Tony Stockil, CEO of UK consultancy Javelin Group.

After Amazon and eBay, the e-commerce leaders in Britain are almost all retail chains, Stockil told attendees today at The Future of Retail conference in London. In Germany, catalogers are more prominent and in France, web-only players, he said. In Spain, which lags furthest behind, few retailers with stores beyond the top five have made significant investments in e-commerce.

Ownership structure could explain why Continental retailers have been slower to go online in a big way, Stockil said. In Germany, for instance, some big retailers are franchised, and a strong central web store would compete with stores owned by franchisees. In Britain, retail chains typically own their own stores, eliminating that conflict, he said.

The UK leads most major European countries in broadband penetration, at 57% of households, compared with 50% in Germany, 45% in France and 39% in Spain. However, some northern European countries have higher broadband penetration, notably Holland at 74%.

Annual online spending per broadband household will increase from €1,298 today in the UK to €2,840 by 2012. Comparable figures for Germany are €694 today and €1,222 in 2012, and for France €663 and €1,167.

Convenience is mainly driving consumers online, Stockil said. “Low price is a given,” he told the conference. “Today it’s about convenience. Consumers are placing greater value on their time.” He said 5.4% of UK retail sales occur online today, which will grow to 12.6% by 2012 and 30% by 2020. His figures exclude ticketing and travel.

The Future of Retail conference was sponsored by The Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank, and UK-based conference organizers Marketforce.


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