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Online sales growth in Europe remains steady

Mail order and internet sales volumes in Europe rose again in May, according to the latest data from Eurostat.

The statistical office for the European Union indicated that its EA17 nations – those that have adopted the euro – saw multichannel sales rise by 3.4% compared to the same month one year before. When including all the countries in the European Union (EU27), excluding new addition Croatia, mail order and internet sales rose 9.1%.

Eurostat also slightly adjusted its figures for April, with year-on-year non-store sales actually rising 6.7% and 10.7% in EA17 and EU27 respectively – not 7.3% and 11.1% as stated last month. 

Analysts and industry e-tail representatives view Southern and Eastern Europe as areas of significant eCommerce growth potential in the five years ahead, although the expected continuation of cross-border strategies from the more mature eCommerce nations in Northern Europe will act as competition to local markets.

James Roper, CEO of the e-tail trade body IMRG, told Essential Retail recently that retailers from European countries "really struggle to get into the UK", partly due to the fact it is a saturated, competitive market, but also because British retailers are finding it "very easy" to trade into the rest of Europe.

"In Athens, it would cost ten times more to shift a parcel from Greece to the UK than vice versa – and that's all about the pipeline, trade agreements and volumes," he remarked.

"The current eCommerce situation is heavily biased in favour of British merchants."

In the UK, meanwhile, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has released figures showing that overall retail sales have just experienced their best July since 2006.

The hot weather proved a boon to British high streets and shopping centres, with sales values up 2.2% on a like-for-like basis compared to the same month in 2012. Online sales appeared to be negatively impacted by the sunny conditions, though, rising by a stunted 7.9%, compared to more significant 15.6% one year before.

Neil Saunders, managing director of retail research agency Conlumino, called the online sales rise "below par", when measured against recent growth patterns.

"This perhaps reflects the fact that more consumers were outdoors taking advantage of the weather and also that many seasonal items, like summer food and outdoor products, were purchased from physical stores," he explained.

Forrester Research has predicted that European online retail will follow an 11% compound annual growth rate over the next five years, with the market expected to be worth €191 billion (£165 billion) by 2017.

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