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Retailers set sights on international success

David J Smith

Go shopping in any centre or mall across the world and you’d struggle to know if you were in New York or New Delhi, such is the retail homogeneity we’ve achieved.

Go shopping in any centre or mall across the world and you’d struggle to know if you were in New York or New Delhi, such is the retail homogeneity we’ve achieved.

Online retailers are seizing the opportunities offered by cross-border trade. Ted Baker is one of an increasing number of fashion retailers to regionalise its website. Asos has had great success internationally and has been shortlisted in the Cross Border e-Retail category of our e-Commerce Awards for Excellence. It’s not just UK retailers looking internationally - Zara and H&M are just two that have started to sell online into the UK.

IMRG’s annual Delivery Workshop heard recently that one third of EU citizens will buy online from abroad if it means they get what they want and at a cheaper price. Online sales across Europe grew 20% last year to €172bn, with Germany, France, Scandinavia and the Netherlands the most valuable markets outside the UK.

International success may involve a change for UK retailers in terms of multi-currency and duty/tax hurdles as well as delivery. One of our members, who is having great success selling to Germany, says customers are happy to wait about four days for their goods.

Would this scenario be quite so straightforward if he was selling trend-led fashion to a US consumer where language is no barrier, but distance certainly is? Conversely, retailers selling into Europe are well-advised to translate their website into the local language. Payment is also a huge challenge - mainland European consumers don’t seem to share our love of credit cards.

So, while consumers see online as one enormous global shopping mall, retailers need to think about what goes on behind the scenes. Payments, deliveries, website design and taxes all need consideration. Rarely has the phrase ‘think global, act local’ had so much relevance.

David Smith is managing director of etail trade body IMRG

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