German ecommerce sector books record year amid corona

07 January 2021 3 min. read

Despite unprecedented economic and social conditions, ecommerce has seen a record year for spending in Germany.

Since 2013, BearingPoint and IIHD have been surveying people aged 15 and over on the 20 busiest shopping streets of Germany, before analysing the results to gain insight in the latest retail trends. In 2020, amid the sustained public health crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, this has seen a dramatic 14% decline in sales for the German high street at Christmas – the worst such fall since 2012 – however, in broader terms, spending has actually boomed.

According to the researchers, having steadily been eating into the market share of traditional retailers for decades now, online retailing is expected to see record growth of 47% in volume. The obvious reason: Covid-19 is changing the buying behaviour of Germans, motivated by a desire to reduce physical contact.

Weihnachtsgeschaft 2020 stagniert

For example, asked about their Christmas shopping, around 57% of consumers confirmed that they were modifying the way they consume by buying more of their Christmas gifts online – compared to 43% of those surveyed, who stated that they did not want to change their purchasing behaviour.

BearingPoint partner Kay Manke commented that there is more to this than meets the eye, however. “The Covid-19 pandemic is acting as an accelerator, but not as the sole cause of this development. Although the massive loss of footfall in the city centres and the prescribed capacity restrictions represent a high burden for physical retailers, such retailers were already losing their relevance for cross-channel shoppers.”

“Nowadays more than ever, consumers attach far more importance to the advantages of online purchasing, for example with regard to comparing prices more effectively and enjoying a larger product range.”

Trotz schweiriger Voraussetzungen steigt dat Weihnachtsbudget der Deutschen um 10 Prozent

With Germans having more choice at their fingertips than ever before, the rise in their shopping budget seems largely to have benefitted online retailers. While a growing section of shoppers told BearingPoint they planned to spend less money on gifts in 2020, the average German Christmas budget still rose by 10% on the previous year – from €400 to €440. The leading motivation for this seems to be that after what everyone agrees was a bad year, shoppers believe they should at least be able to treat each other during the festive period.

Economic and ecologic

The increased prominence of deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday mean that many consumers are finding ways to make their budgets go further, alongside the greater importance of gifts cards and vouchers, which have increased significantly compared to the previous year.

Soziale und okologische verantwortung nimmt auch in VOVID-19 Zeiter weiter zu

At the same time, German shoppers are also continuing to push sustainability to the top of retail’s agenda. Despite a lean year for most people, more than 40% of those questioned attached greater importance to the issues of sustainability and ecology, and 30% of consumers were willing to pay a higher price for sustainable products.

Speaking on the findings, Professor Jörg Funder, Managing Director of the IIHD Institute, noted, “Sustainability and ecology seem to be gaining relevance in all age groups and are establishing themselves as important topics for consumers. We predict that this movement will continue to grow in importance in the years to come, which is why retailers should embrace the topic of responsible retail.”