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Four years on from first compiling our unique performance-based index of European retailers, there is a temptation to see the RXEU Top500 as revealing a picture of a sector that changes only incrementally. And certainly, there is evidence that many of the gains being made by retailers within individual Performance Dimensions are small, perhaps because there is a growing recognition of what constitutes best practice.

Look at little more deeply at the research, however, and it reveals a sector still in the midst of profound change. To take just one facet of the research, Top500 retailers are reining in the number of delivery and returns options they offer, probably because they have found the costs involved to be too great.

It’s outside the remit of this research but we would argue this development in turn suggests a sector that will be further considering the role of stores – already a big issue for many retailers – in the years ahead. That’s because the early logic of multichannel retail suggested bricks-and-mortar locations could give a competitive advantage, despite their costs in offering a choice of channels to consumers.

Yet what if there is no commercial argument to, for example, offering premium-level collection and returns in expensive city-centre locations? The idea of stores as a competitive advantage, already weakened by the problems encountered by long-established retailers in the UK that invested heavily in cross-channel offerings, weakens further. For this and many other reasons, we think that more reshaping of our town centres and city centres lies ahead.

This is just one of the areas that we will continue to monitor in the coming years, confident that our qualitative and quantitative research into European retailers early reveals underlying truths about where the sector is heading, in addition to offering a snapshot of which retailers are reaching the highest standards in the here and now.

In the next year, we’ll continue to broaden our explorations of retail practice, notably with the addition of the Ecommerce Country and Region Reports to our offering. As always, we’re interested in how we can extend our research and improve the quality of our findings. Please do get in touch with your ideas and potential datasets via

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