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Footprint leaders

How the largest 50 retailers are present in the major markets

SIZE DOES MATTER. While our analysis of the IREU Top500 looks at what they do through the prism of Performance Dimensions, reach and heft also matter. Those companies that can not only create great retail experiences, but also do it at scale, are very likely to prosper in the longer term.

So what does the geographical spread of the largest 50 retailers within the IREU Top500 tell us about the state of European retail? The first thing to notice is that clothing retailers perform well when it comes to having a substantial presence in different territories. Most notably, H&M is among the largest 50 retailers in 31 countries. This reflects the huge success of the Swedish company’s fast-fashion model.

It’s one of a number of brands that prosper in great part through an international recognition factor. The British sportswear retailer , which competes in great part on price and has more than 650 stores worldwide, is among the largest 50 retailers in 26 EEA countries. Interestingly, that list currently excludes Germany and Poland, although its strategy is to expand “into all the major EEA countries”.

However, not all of those that trade in a large number of countries compete primarily on price. The sportswear brand Nike is among the 50 largest retailers in 25 EEA countries (but not Germany). While it’s not a high-fashion brand, it jealously guards its image. Its stores are, in many respects, a way to project its values and the company’s innovative retail spaces play a part in this.

Other large retailers have less of a presence in multiple territories. Apple Store , for example, is among the largest 50 retailers in only one major territory, the UK, and two EEA countries overall. However, thanks to its sales in the UK, its landmark stores in major EEA cities and its strong online presence, it makes this list. Rather less glamorous, Screwfix is one of the largest 50 retailers in the UK only, but since people always need bits and bobs for building and DIY jobs, it’s proof that being a specialist yet selling at volume can be lucrative.

In the UK, 19 of the largest retailers are also among the largest 50 retailers. The same figures for the other major EEA territories break down as follows: Poland 17, Germany 15, Italy 14, Spain 14 and France 12. It’s intriguing that France, which has a reputation for cultural exceptionalism, appears most resistant to big international brands.

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