Stores fight back as Christmas delivery delays hit e-tailers

Thu Dec 18, 2014 10:35am EST
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By Emma Thomasson and Dominique Vidalon

BERLIN/PARIS (Reuters) - The Christmas rush is exposing the limitations of internet-only retailers as surging orders cause delivery delays, allowing Europe's shops to fight back with "click and collect" services and more in-store theater.

Online retailers such as Amazon have been winning market share from store groups for years, and there are few signs that Europeans are tiring of shopping from their computers and mobile phones.

Researchers Mintel expect European online retail sales will rise 17 percent to 193 billion euros ($237 billion) this year, up from 15 percent in 2013 and far outpacing a sluggish broader industry.

However, there is mounting evidence that a greater proportion of this growth is being captured by shops offering customers the option of picking up online orders in store, rather than internet-only sellers.

Britain's biggest department store group John Lewis [JLPLC.UL], which was early to integrate its store and e-commerce operations, saw online sales leap 42 percent in the so-called "Black Friday" week of pre-Christmas offers, helping it to record its highest ever sales week in its 150-year history.

And Media-Saturn, Europe's biggest consumer electricals chain which has been losing market share to internet rivals for years, says it is now making up lost ground, with online sales surging 30 percent in the year ended September.

"We do not see the peak for online sales, but stores are back," said Alexis Lecanuet, retail specialist at consultancy Accenture. "We are seeing that the pure online experience is sometimes not the easiest or most convenient way to shop for customers, either for advice reasons, or availability reasons."


Visitors look at Christmas ornaments at a Christmas market in Vienna, December 14, 2014. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger