E-commerce Growth Accelerates in Emerging European Markets, but Physical Stores are still Favoured by Consumers

- Europe’s top six e-commerce markets account for 72% of total online spend

- Developed markets have broadly returned to their pre-pandemic trend rate of growth

- Emerging e-commerce markets have grown faster, but account for a smaller share of spend

- Physical retail is still favoured by consumers across all top European markets


Emerging e-commerce markets, such as Italy and Spain, have grown above trend and have seen a lasting effect as a result of the pandemic, while developed markets have returned to trend, according to the latest research from global real estate advisor, CBRE.

The growth in emerging e-commerce markets has been driven by the rapid acceleration of technology adoption and infrastructure improvements. Between 2019 and 2022, total occupied logistics stock in Spain grew by 29%, the largest increase of the key European e-commerce markets. In addition to the expansion of distribution infrastructure, the growth of parcel lockers and collection points has made it more convenient for consumers to collect online purchases.

Alongside Italy and Spain, the top six e-commerce markets in Europe include the mature markets of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Netherlands and collectively, these markets account for 72% of total European e-commerce spend, according to the report.

However, there are vast differences in the share of total e-commerce spend among these markets. The research showed that the United Kingdom and Germany are the largest markets, accounting for almost half of total online spend between them, due to their larger populations and a high presence of e-commerce drivers.

CBRE’s Head of European Thought Leadership, Tasos Vezyridis, said: “Mature e-commerce markets have seen a reversion to their pre-pandemic trend rate of e-commerce growth. A strong acceleration in the growth rate of emerging e-commerce markets such as Spain and Italy suggests that online retailers and third-party logistics providers will continue to form a large part of future occupational demand for logistics space in these markets."

However, despite the continued e-commerce growth, the data showed that consumers still prefer to shop in-store, with 65% of consumers in Italy and Spain favouring brick-and-mortar retail. This was higher than the average across Europe (60%), and significantly above the UK and Germany, at 52% and 55% respectively.

This is reflected in footfall numbers and tenant sales across European retail assets, which have largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Footfall recovery was initially driven by retail parks due to their essentials-focused retail offering. However, dominant, regional shopping centres that have leisure components saw the strongest footfall numbers at 2022 year-end, according to CBRE’s data.

The resurgence of in-store shopping has been reflected in the logistics sector. CBRE’s research showed that the take-up of warehouse space from physical and omnichannel retailers has recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Future growth in either the online or offline channel will stimulate logistics demand.

Chris Gardener, Head of European Retail, CBRE

Physical retail has huge significance, well beyond simply being a place to shop and acts as a catalyst for ecommerce growth. For retailers, a strong omnichannel offering will be critical in achieving equilibrium across their online and offline channels, as retail continues to evolve.

Chris Gardener, Head of European Retail, CBRE