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‘Sooner, Faster, Now’ — the Companies Surfing the E-Commerce Wave

Online retail sales are growing at double-digit percentage rates in every western European country

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E-Commerce
People walk past a Debenhams store in Stockport, Britain, Jan. 4, 2018. VOA
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Amazon’s assault on the retail industry has brought misery to traditional retailers without a strong web presence.

Less well noticed is the patchwork of European companies that are turning the e-commerce revolution to their advantage, supplying online giants with everything from forklift trucks and storage space to cardboard boxes and automated warehouses.

Mainly bricks-and-mortar retailers such as Debenhams, H&M, and Marks & Spencer have faced a torrid few years as stretched consumers increasingly look online for bargains.

Online retail sales are growing at double-digit percentage rates in every western European country, according to consultancy the Centre for Retail Research.

ALSO READ: With third largest internet user base, India’s e-commerce still falls behind China’s e-market

E-Commerce
In Britain, a fifth of transactions is now conducted online, a five-fold increase over the last decade. Wikimedia Commons

The world’s dominant online retailer Amazon, whose shares have soared 73 percent in the last year, is outside the remit of most European investors because it is U.S. listed, so they have had to look for other ways of buying into the trend.

One is investing in companies that have benefited from the rise of e-commerce.

On February 16, warehouse owner Segro’s shares hit a decade-high after it said space-hungry clients, many in online retail and logistics, continued to buy up storage.

E-Commerce
“There is a bull market in impatience,” said Gary Paulin, head of global equities at broker Northern Trust. “Consumers want things sooner, faster, now.” Wikimedia Commons

 

He advises clients to buy shares in Kion, a German forklift truck-maker that is automating warehouses for online retailers, speeding up deliveries in the process.

He also flagged a turnaround at online supermarket Ocado. The company has long been targeted by short-sellers betting its share price will fall, but recently it has signed tie-ups with food retailers Casino and Sobeys, and its shares have more-than-doubled since November.

Martin Todd, a fund manager at Hermes Investment Management, owns shares in Kion as well as DS Smith, a cardboard-box maker which supplies Amazon as well as a number of other online retailers.

DS Smith is developing technology to custom-make boxes for Amazon that will help reduce large gaps in packages that increase freight costs.

E-Commerce
Buying some stocks exposed to online retail does not come cheap. Ocado shares are currently trading at more than 800 times forecast earnings, according to Eikon data. Wikimedia Commons

ALSO READ: E-commerce driving India’s SME growth

“You might think it is a pretty unsexy business … [but] it is getting a more high tech in what is traditionally a very low tech industry,” Todd said.

The company recently entered Britain’s blue-chip FTSE 100 index for the first time.

John Bennett, head of European equities at Janus Henderson Investors, said while traditional retailers were “absolutely dying,” stocks such as Kion were too expensive for him to own.

“It became a very popular name, and I tend to shy away [from widely-owned companies],” he said. “I am far too curmudgeonly on the multiples you pay.” (VOA)

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EU Regulators Question Online Retailer Amazon’s Data Usage

Seattle-based Amazon had no immediate comment.

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Amazon, online retailer
The Amazon warehouse in San Fernando de Henares is seen during a 3-day walkout to demand better wages and working conditions, on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain. VOA

EU regulators are quizzing merchants and others on U.S. online retailer Amazon’s use of their data to discover whether there is a need for action, Europe’s antitrust chief said on Wednesday.

The comments by European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager came as the world’s largest online retailer faces calls for more regulatory intervention and even its potential break-up because of its sheer size.

Amazon, online retailer
A member of the media takes pictures of the parabolic antennas of the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array) project at the El Llano de Chajnantor in the Atacama desert , some 1,730 km (1,074 miles) north of Santiago and 5,000 meters above sea level. VOA

Vestager said the issue was about a company hosting merchants on its site and at the same time competing with these same retailers by using their data for its own sales.

“We are gathering information on the issue and we have sent quite a number of questionnaires to market participants in order to understand this issue in full,” Vestager told a news conference.

Amazon, online retailer
The logo of Amazon, the online retailer is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, France. VOA

“These are very early days and we haven’t formally opened a case. We are trying to make sure that we get the full picture.”

Also Read: Europe Suffers From A Severe Measles Outbreak

Seattle-based Amazon had no immediate comment.

Vestager has the power to fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover for breaching EU antitrust rules. (VOA)