Your days are numbered, top online entrepreneur tells retailers

Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:33am EDT
 
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By Emma Thomasson

PARIS (Reuters) - The founder of Rocket Internet, the German venture capital company behind dozens of online start-ups, warned the retail industry on Thursday that e-commerce and smartphones would mean there will be little future for stores in emerging markets.

Oliver Samwer, 40, told the annual summit of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), an industry network of some 400 retailers and big brands from 70 countries, that many of them risked being left behind as the growth of e-commerce accelerates.

"You only have stores because there was no Internet, but that does not mean there is a right to have a store," Samwer said, adding that traditional retailers focused too much on older shoppers and not enough on smartphone-savvy youngsters.

"What you fear will come much faster," he warned.

Rocket Internet is bidding to create the largest internet empire outside the United States and China, seeking to replicate the success of Amazon and Alibaba [IPO-ALIB.N] in markets the U.S. and Chinese e-commerce groups have yet to dominate, such as Africa, Latin America and Russia.

After his speech, Samwer traded blows about whether stores will survive, in a panel discussion with Mark Price, managing director of British grocer Waitrose [JLPLC.UL], who introduced himself to Samwer saying: "Hi - I'm Mark, I'm a dinosaur."

Samwer founded Rocket Internet in 2007 with his brothers Marc and Alexander and it is already active in 102 countries, making revenue of $1 billion in 2013 via online fashion stores including Dafiti in Latin America and Lamoda in Russia, as well as Jumia for general merchandise in Africa.

Sources have told Reuters the company is considering a stock market listing in Frankfurt later this year which could value it at up to 5 billion euros ($6.8 billion), as buoyant capital markets have encouraged a flurry of e-commerce flotations this year, with most focus on Alibaba.   Continued...

 
A parcel travels along a conveyer belt at Amazon's new distribution center in Brieselang, near Berlin November 28, 2013. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz