With its strong connections to the UK, and indeed the rest of the English-speaking world, it’s tempting for outsiders to imagine the Australian ecommerce and multichannel market will be likely to follow a kind of hybrid European-American model. Yet, as we have seen throughout this Footprint Report, this would be misleading.
It’s important to realise we are not just saying that Australia is unique because Amazon [IRDZ RAMZ] only recently launched an Australian-specific general merchandise site. It’s not even that the myriad logistics difficulties of serving a continent-sized country set Australia apart. Rather, it’s in the framing of Australia as first and foremost part of the so-called Anglosphere.
Here, it’s instructive to consider one of the many ironies of the Brexiters’ fond wish for trade deals with Commonwealth countries once the break with the European Union is finalised. A little history may help: Australian trade with the UK was hit hard by the UK’s decision to join the Common Market in 1973. Australia turned its attention towards its nearer neighbours to make up for lost trade. The result is an economy that, yes, has strong connections to the English-speaking world, but also to China and southeast Asia. As we explore in our feature on marketplaces, this is shaping the Australian retail sector in ways that make it very different to Europe or the US.
This will surely continue in the future and it’s certainly one of the themes that we expect to draw out in our full research, when it’s published later this year. Moreover, it’s not a theme we will look at merely from an Australian perspective. This year, we will also publish the inaugural RetailX ASEAN Top500 Footprint.
This will be our first foray into the southeast Asian market and in part we will be looking to see how the influence of Australia – and such major economies as China, Japan and South Korea – shapes the retail sector of the 10 countries that make up this block (Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam). Conversely, how does the influence of this trading bloc affect Australian retailers?
These questions are in themselves a reminder that retail these days is an international business, albeit one where local factors will always be important, as anyone who has braved haggling with, say, a Singaporean salesperson will testify. Which brings us to our final point. As we expand the scope of our research to be truly global, we expect the research to reveal hitherto under-researched cultural and economic links within retail.
We hope you will join us by following our work and adding your own insights.