Close this search box.

Strategic Overview: Cross-border, cross-channel

Brexit may have wider effects on the European retail sector beyond the initial disruption it causes

Brexit may have wider effects on the European retail sector beyond the initial disruption it causes

Leading retailers are enabling shoppers to buy the items they want, wherever and whenever they want, writes Chloe Rigby.

It can never have been easier for shoppers to buy across European borders than it is right now. Leading retailers, as we see throughout this report, are making it ever easier for their customers across the European Economic Area and Switzerland to buy and take possession of the products these shoppers want in ways that are convenient for them. Traders are offering more payment methods and more ways for shoppers to get in touch.

Traders are also localising websites to more languages and markets, so that it’s now more likely that shoppers will be able to find and buy the item they want, in the language they want to use. Such moves by traders are bringing stores and digital commerce offerings closer together, enabling shoppers to order online from the store as well as from their smartphones, and to return unwanted items ordered online to stores.

That said, across the Top500, retailers also seem to be adjusting the service levels that they offer – perhaps as they optimise their business models in the light of customer demand and profitability. The proportion of retailers offering click-and-collect services has actually fallen since 2018, as has the proportion of retailers offering faster collection services.

Businesses no longer integrate social media with the same zeal that they did last year, perhaps as they’ve had time to examine what works and doesn’t work for them. It’s an ever-evolving picture, which is only to be expected in a world where retail continues to evolve quickly.

Who are Europe’s leading retailers?

This year’s RXEU Elite retailers are Carrefour, H&M, IKEA, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Zara. The continent’s largest supermarkets sit alongside European fashion and homewares retailers. Both H&M and Zara have been listed as Elite in all four years that the Top500 has appeared, thanks to their online and in-store presence in markets across Europe, and an approach to localisation that means shoppers across the EEA can browse and buy using their own languages and payment methods. IKEA appears in the list for the third time and Tesco for the second, while it’s the first time that Carrefour and Marks & Spencer have appeared in this Elite group.

Meanwhile, Amazon is the only retailer to have appeared in the Leading category for a fourth year. Although the retailer dominates markets that it sells in, such as the UK, it does not sell across the EU, where it focuses on key European markets – the UK, Germany, France and Italy.

Across the Top500, fashion retailers make up the largest group, with 193 Top500 retailers selling fashion clothing, 175 selling fashion accessories and 158 fashion footwear. Some 155 retailers sell homewares and 123 sell consumer electronics. Some 95 sell home and industrial appliances, while 88 sell sports and leisure clothing, and 87 sports and leisure footwear. Cosmetics are sold by 82 Top500 retailers, jewellery by 80, children’s toys and accessories by 80. There are 38 book retailers and 38 grocers in the Top500, while 36 sell stationery and craft, 16 sell ready-made food and 14 sell utilities.

Fashion retailers also dominate the Top100, which includes 16 selling fashion clothing, 10 selling fashion footwear, and 13 selling fashion accessories. Ten of the Top100 sell homewares, and eight sell consumer electronics. Some 115 of the Top500 are brands, selling goods that they design, manufacture and sell directly themselves as well as through third-party retailers. Here again, fashion remains a key theme.

Of those 115 brands, 72 sell fashion clothing, 58 fashion footwear and 64 fashion accessories. Jewellery is sold by 31 and cosmetics by 17. The homewares category is less present among brands, accounting for 11 of the retail brands in the listing, while nine make and sell consumer electronics, four produce software and three produce children’s toys and accessories.

Looking ahead

Cross-border trading may be the easiest it’s ever been at the time of writing, but it will be interesting to revisit our findings in a year’s time. By then, it’s likely that we’ll know whether the UK has left the EU following the 2016 Brexit referendum and if so, on what terms. If no deal was reached, it’s likely that buying and selling to our closest neighbours may well be more difficult and more expensive than it is right now. There’s also a threat of recession attached to Brexit that, if it happens, may mean changes to our Top500 listing of leading retailers in the future.

All this said, we’ll also be interested to find out how Top500 retailers develop their European and cross-border businesses over the coming months. Will they add more markets, more payment methods and more choice around logistics, or will they focus ever more sharply on the channels and the territories that are most profitable for them? RetailX researchers will continue to track the market and we will report back in 2020.

Read More

Register for Newsletter

Group 4 Copy 3Created with Sketch.

Receive 3 newsletters per week

Group 3Created with Sketch.

Gain access to all Top500 research

Group 4Created with Sketch.

Personalise your experience on