Sector covered in the first phase 2002/03:
Retail trade is characterised by a complex structure with on one hand very small enterprises and on the other hand large enterprises. The sector is increasingly shaped essentially by a few very large groups or chains exploiting economies of scale, mixed with many small shops serving a local market. The increasingly important role of large enterprises in EU retail trade can be seen from their share in total turnover (about 50%) and employment (about 35%). The e-Business W@tch analysis focuses on the retail activity achieved by large enterprises for food items (55.11), non-food items (55.12) and 52.4.
European food retailing continues to grow as well as the size of its largest players. Most of the biggest European food retailers figure amongst the 50 largest business groups in Europe. Non food retail trade through stores is a much more mature industry. The main activities in the non-food retail industry in stores concern the retail sale of goods like clothes, footwear, home accessories, electrical goods, medical and cosmetic goods, furniture in non-specialised (52.12) and specialised stores (52.4).
Retail trade is one of the industries where e-commerce presents an evident opportunity to develop a completely new trading form with lower transaction costs. E-business directly modifies the trading activity because of the following factors: independence from opening hours, frequent updates of prices and promotion, smaller shops and show-rooms, better stock control, on-line automatic support and after-sales service. As a consequence, logistics, store management, customer retention are all functions likely to be strongly impacted by e-business.