Led by UK shoppers, Europe has finally started clicking the "buy now" button. Total online retail spending in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy reached almost €41bn last year, up by a third in the UK and France, and somewhat less elsewhere.
The UK is by far the most internet savvy of the big European economies - shoppers did about 5 per cent of all their retail spending online last year, compared with 1.6 per cent in France and 0.5 per cent in Spain, according to Mintel.
That is largely because UK online supermarkets have enjoyed great success. Three of the top 20 European internet retailers are UK grocers, led by Tesco in fourth place.
Internet shopping is also rising because more shoppers are choosing to stay home. Visits to internet shopping sites rose 2.2 per cent year-on-year in March, while high street foot traffic fell 2.7 per cent, Experian Footfall said yesterday.
Most of Europe still lags behind the US in adopting the broadband internet services crucial for making online shopping sites function effectively. US e-retail sales totalled $137bn or 3.4 per cent of all retail spending in 2007, according to the US Census Bureau.
There are similar trends for travel purchases, where eMarketer estimates US 2007 online spending to be $94bn versus an aggregate $49bn in the big European economies.
Looking ahead, Mintel forecasts online retail spending in France and the UK will triple by 2012. Germany, where usage of both credit cards and computers is lower, is expected to grow more slowly.
High street names such as Carrefour and DSG International are coming to dominate European e-retailing as their US peers do in their domestic market. Amazon is grabbing share in Europe and is the only pure-play among the top 10 online sellers.
So the European rankings are likely to change. The German mail order specialists, such as Otto and Arcandor, Europe's top two internet sellers, will soon be displaced.
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