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What constitutes a ‘retailer’?

In an era when many companies and individuals sell goods via the web, the question of what constitutes a retailer is surprisingly complex. It’s not enough in itself to have a website or operate a store. In arriving at our definition of a retailer, we have considered the intent, capabilities, and activities around the recruitment and monetisation of customers.

The InternetRetailing definition for companies to be included in our research is:

DESTINATION: The retailer has created a destination that in the mind of the customer is a source of products, service or experience. Whether this is a shop, a site, a place, a time or an event, it’s the sense of ‘locus’.

PURPOSE: The retailer has created goods and/or services for the purpose of selling, and for consumption by the purchasing consumer.

MERCHANDISING: The retailer sells and is not just a portal for taking money. This means the selection, promotion and tailoring of retail offers for customers.

ACQUISITION: The retailer actively markets, recruits and attracts customers with a promise or proposition to the destination.

SALE: The retailer takes the customer’s money – they own the transaction as the merchant of record.

RECOURSE: The retailer is responsible for the service, fulfilment and customer satisfaction flowing from the sale.

EXCEPTION: In every good list there’s an exception, where we may include businesses within IREU due to their influence upon retailers and retailers’ customers. However, they will not be ranked.


Where a candidate retailer is simply a marketplace, the company will not be considered within IREU. Where a marketplace undertakes customer acquisition, manages payment, customises offers and recommendations and offers recourse on purchases, then they will be eligible for IREU.

Pure transaction/tariffs

Where ecommerce is ancillary to the primary purpose of a business, we will not necessarily include them. Online payment for gas or electricity is excluded since the purpose here is energy supply. Likewise the Post Office’s postal revenues are excluded, whereas the company’s activities are within scope. High street travel companies are a grey area and are currently included due to their impact on the practices of multichannel retail.

Business to Business and direct-selling Brands

While the scope of retail is normally direct to consumer, two trends are challenging this: the move for brands and previously B2B businesses to sell direct to consumers; and the increasingly retail-like behaviour of B2B brands (in terms of acquisition, promotion, personalisation and service). We are therefore including B2B business and direct-selling brands under the same criteria as above.

We are sure we will come across other exceptions and questions as we work, so please do let us know your thoughts:

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