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Defining Retail

What Constitutes a Retailer?

THE MULTICHANNEL LANDSCAPE is more complex than merely ‘having a website’ or ‘operating a store’. In choosing which companies to include in the Top500, we have considered companies’ intent, capabilities and activities around the recruitment and monetisation of customers.

The definition of a ‘retailer’ for inclusion in our research is:

DESTINATION: the retailer has created a destination that, in the minds of customers, is a source of product, service or experience. Whether this destination is a shop, a site, a place, a time or an event, it’s the sense of ‘locus’ that counts here.

FASCIA-FOCUSED: the assessment focuses on individual trading names, rather than a parent company that may operate more than one brand. Since the group structure is invisible to customers, it does not have a bearing on the position of brands owned by a group. The challenge is to turn group capabilities into trading advantages that the customer would notice across brands.

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

MERCHANDISING: the retailer actively sells and is not just a portal for taking customers’ 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. The retailer owns the transaction as the merchant of record.

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

EXCEPTIONS: in every good list there’s an exception, where we may include a certain business due to its influence upon retailers and retailers’ customers. Some of these companies will be included within the Top500 and others are tracked for information on their impact on retailers.


MARKETPLACES: where a candidate retailer is simply a marketplace, the company is not featured. Where a marketplace undertakes customer acquisition, manages payment, customises offers and recommendations and offers recourse on purchases, then the company will be eligible for inclusion.

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 to supply energy. Travel companies are not included in the Top500. We have also excluded media-streaming services.

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 solely 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 have therefore included certain B2B businesses and direct-selling brands.

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