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IRUK Top500 Which retailers made the top echelons of UK ecommerce and multichannel retailing in 2019 – and why

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It’s now more than half a decade since the first IRUK Top500 index was produced and since the UK’s ecommerce and multichannel traders were first grouped into categories, led by the Elite and Leading retailers of the year. These retailers won their places for both the size of their ecommerce and multichannel businesses, and for their performance across InternetRetailing Performance Dimensions.

Just one retailer has appeared in the cutting-edge Elite group every year. So far, 12 retailers have won the title of Elite and 45 have appeared in the list of Leading retailers, exemplifying the standard of what we term ‘RetailCraft’. Here we take a look at how these groups have been made up.


Elite retailers

Amazon retains its place in the Elite of the IRUK Top500 2019 for the fifth consecutive time. The mammoth US merchant is the only retailer operating in the UK to win this distinction. In 2019, it is joined by Argos, H&M, John Lewis, New Look and Sainsbury’s. Argos and John Lewis both feature in the listing for their fourth year, but H&M, New Look and Sainsbury’s all win the top ranking for the first time. And while New Look (four times) and Sainsbury’s (three times) have both previously been repeatedly ranked in the Leading group, H&M has moved straight to the Elite. Last year it was ranked as a Top50 retailer.

It’s worth noting here that what it means to be Elite changes every year, most notably because the metrics measured in the Strategy & Innovation Performance Dimension vary. Argos and Sainsbury’s are part of the same group and both benefit in this year’s research from their ability to use each other’s stores to enable their customers to pick up online orders. This may ultimately prove to be a temporary effect.

Three of this year’s Elite, Amazon, John Lewis and Argos, can be classed as ‘department’ retailers, selling products from several different categories. Sainsbury’s is predominantly a grocer, and Amazon can also be classed as one following its own expansion into grocery delivery, a fact that underlines the virtuosity of this retailer. New Look and H&M are firmly in the fashion and footwear categories.

The Elite group has consistently featured four department stores since 2016. Prior to that, five department stores featured. This year the number has fallen to three, perhaps as fashion retailers – selling their own-brand goods – have successfully challenged for a place for the first time.


Leading retailers

To date, 45 retailers have appeared in the Leading group of the IRUK Top500. Retailers that have not yet fallen below Leading in the index include Debenhams, Halfords and House of Fraser, which has overcome administration and temporary website closure to retain its place in the Leading group this year. New-for-the-first-time entrants to this year’s Leading group include American Golf, JD Williams, JD Sports, Ann Summers and Evans Cycles.

“How we assess the IRUK Top500 retailers, and therefore judge which are the Elite and Leading companies, changes from year to year as we drop metrics that are no longer relevant, and recognise the importance of new features, functionality and strategic priorities through new metrics,” said Martin Shaw, head of research at RetailX. “Despite this, it’s notable that the membership of the top groups has remained consistent over the years. It’s likely that reflects the consistent performance of the retailers themselves, as they adapt and improve in order to meet the new challenges of the market. Those who were always innovative have mostly remained so, while others are raising their game to win inclusion in the higher reaches of the ranking for the first time.”

This feature first appeared in the IRUK Top500 2019 annual report. To explore the report further click here. To explore InternetRetailing’s series of research reports click here.  

Image courtesy of Amazon

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