Since the beginning of March, the coronavirus crisis has posed an unprecedented threat to the retail industry in Western Europe.
In most countries, only retailers selling food, medicine and other necessities can sell in physical stores;
In Germany, many observers believe that the closure of offline stores caused by the outbreak is a major driving force for e-commerce.
However, according to a survey by bundesverband e-commerce and versandhandel (bevh), online sales of most goods did not increase significantly.
About 41% of online retailers say customer orders are on the decline; 58% of respondents say they expect further declines in the coming months.
About 62% of retailers said that an extended quarantine period in 2020 could force them to shrink or even close their businesses.
In Germany, online stores selling fresh food are an exception to the overall downward trend, including supermarkets that deliver fruits and vegetables, because the spread of the epidemic has been a huge business driver for them in recent weeks.
This dramatic growth is at a critical moment in the region’s offline to online evolution;
Historically, e-commerce of daily necessities or fruits and vegetables has not attracted a large number of consumers in Germany, mainly because many people go to local shops to buy fresh meat and fish, fruits, vegetables, bread and other commodities every day.
According to a survey conducted by IBI research and digital commerce research network in September 2019, more than half of Internet users aged 18-69 in Germany said they had never shopped Online
On the other hand, the groceries category is one of the fastest-growing e-commerce categories in Germany in 2019, with sales up 17.3% compared with the previous year in terms of bevh.
In Italy, the habit of consumers buying fresh food every day seems to be a miracle now, and this habit has been on the rise in the life habits of young people.
According to the data of the rossovatori digital innovation del Polytecnico di Milano and Netcomm, in 2019, the sales of food and grocery e-commerce will increase by 42% compared with that in 2018; in the rest of Western Europe, grocery e-commerce has a strong momentum last year, and the growth rate is expected to further increase.
In other words, the surge in demand in March 2020 has put enormous pressure on online food suppliers, and many consumers are facing the problem of longer delivery time for drug, grocery and take out orders.
According to the assessment of food retailers by midteldeutsche Rundfunk (MDR) project “umschau” in mid March, customers of rewe chain stores in Germany cannot arrange any delivery date before April 1; a spokesperson for rewe said that the surge in orders for longevity food, canned food, preserves and drugs was a main reason.
Karsten Schaal, managing director of food.de, a Leipzig based online grocer serving all over Germany, tells MDR a similar story:
“The number of new orders per day is 25 times that of 2019, and naturally high demand puts pressure on delivery times. In the Leipzig area, we see three days to a week; in the Dusseldorf area, we are fully booked two weeks in advance. MDR also reported that Rossman and DM, large chain drugstores, are accepting online orders, but both companies told customers that they expected delivery time of at least nine working days
In Switzerland, delivery times have also been extended. The zofinger tagblatt newspaper reported that orders placed in the online store leshop on Tuesday morning could not be delivered before Saturday morning, which also occurred in Zurich and some small towns. Migros told online customers that the number of orders meant that not all delivery dates were available. Some products are also out of stock, “due to an unexpected increase in the number of orders.”
It is not clear how many consumers will continue to use their online food suppliers when the threat of coronavirus weakens; many supermarkets do not support the online transformation.
In Denmark, coop found that its online sales were a “good expansion” of physical sales, according to an article in the der nordschleswiger on March 18, but did not plan to move any large share of its business online.
During this period, many virtual stores told different stories;
In mid March, Danish online supermarket nemlig.com announced a 50% increase in sales and plans to recruit 200 new employees.
So far, the company has hired 1100 people, more to keep the site alive and avoid virtual queues.
Like online food retailers across Asia, nemlig.com hopes that after the epidemic returns to normal, online business will not be weaker than the significant progress made at the beginning of this year.