As Online Shopping Matures, Traditional German Retailers Make Inroads

Germans have a love-hate relationship with Amazon. Source: DPA
Many Germans have a love-hate relationship with Amazon.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Traditional highstreet retailers are showing that they, too, can thrive online in Germany.

  • Facts


    • Germany is Amazon’s strongest foreign market.
    • Berlin-based online fashion retailer Zalando is planning an initial public offering this fall.
    • Almost half of the top 1,000 online retailers offer optimized websites or apps with shopping functions for their mobile customers.
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Whether it’s fighting with publishers and authors over e-book prices, fending off criticism of its market power and tax avoidance, or tussling with trade unions over wages and workplace practices, Amazon has plenty of problems in Germany.

But none of it has kept the world’s largest Internet retailer from leading the rankings of the 100 top online stores in Germany again – by a huge margin.

According to the annual study by the EHI Retail Institute and the statistics portal Statista, the U.S. company made €5.8 billion ($7.5 billion) from Amazon.de in 2013, its strongest foreign market. The ranking was made based on the sale of physical products, not digital goods such as apps and streaming services or from the sale of services. “Amazon.de is and remains the undisputed number one in Germany,” said EHI’s e-commerce expert Lars Hofacker.

Second place belongs to Otto.de, the online flagship of the venerable German retailer Otto Group, which had €1.9 billion ($2.5 billion) in sales. Some other subsidiaries belonging to the Hamburg-based family business, such as Bonprix.de (€411 million, 5th place) and Mytoys.de (€274 million, 13th place) are also in the top 100.

High-profile fashion startup Zalando.de, with €702 million ($909 million) in sales, replaced last year’s third place company, laptop retailer Notebooksbilliger.de. The Berlin-based Zalando is planning an initial public offering this year, possibly as soon as October. The company wants to raise capital by floating around 10 percent of the firm to fund greater expansion. Zalando is reportedly aiming to net about €500 million ($647 million), which would value the company at €5 billion ($6.47 billion).


In total, the top 100 online stores in Germany had sales of €19.6 billion ($21.9 billion) last year. This was up 7.7 percent from the year before. “Adjusted for Amazon.de, however, it is only 2.8 percent,” said Mr. Hofacker, adding that this underlined the significance of the U.S. behemoth.

But it is also striking that growth in online retailing in Germany decreased considerably last year. In 2012, it was 12.3 percent. Mr. Hofacker said this trend will be repeated in the ranking of the top 1,000 online stores, which will be published in October.

The online stores of traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers made a strong showing in the top 100 in 2013.

“It has clearly become more difficult to exist as an online store in Germany,” said Mr. Hofacker. “The market has become more professional. Those who want to successfully jump in must do it the right way. Many experts expect heavy consolidation.”

According to the EHI, the online stores of traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers made a strong showing in the top 100 in 2013. “That is positive, because it shows that despite all of their reservations, many retailers want to sell through the Internet, and can also do it.”

These retailers also often have the necessary experience with logistics, merchandize management and IT, which gives them an advantage. “Many traditional retailers have other priorities to online retailers, which as a rule are pursuing quick growth,” the EHI said.

And mobile shopping on smartphones and tablets is playing an increasingly big role.

“The topic of mobiles was already big in 2012, but last year got a real boost,” said Mr. Hofacker.

Almost half of the top 1,000 online stores offer the option of buying goods through smartphone and tablet-optimized websites or apps with shopping functions.

“The retailers have adjusted and made investments according to the changed buying habits of the consumers,” said Mr. Hofacker.

This article was translated by Mary Beth Warner. To contact the author: ludowig@handelsblatt.com

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