Big impact corona virus on Dutch online retail

Like in many other countries, the Covid-19 or Coronavirus has big impact on the e-commerce market in the Netherlands. Some segments, like food, health and beauty and (household) electronics see unprecedented online sales growth, while others, like travel, fashion and shoes and event tickets, are facing exactly the opposite. According to a survey by ECommerce Europe, 65% of online retailers inside the EU are expecting serious reductions in sales. There is no total lockdown in the Netherlands, physical stores can decide themselves if they remain open or not.

In Holland, food/near food retail is doing extremely well in the Covid-19 crisis, both in stores and online. In the 2nd week of March, sales exceeded last year by +35%. It was reported that sales were even higher than in the week before Christmas, usually the best week in the year.
Also, online drugstores experience days where sales are between +100% and +400% higher than on regular days. Especially personal care, beauty products and self care medication (paracetamol, hand gel, thermometers) are doing extremely well.
Online retailers in household (refrigerators, freezers) and consumer elecetronics (office appliances, computers, tablets, cables, home entertainment) also see a huge rise in e-commerce sales to an extend where they have to stop selling other product categories in order to be able to handle the demand for these products.
Other product segments that experience a positive sales impact from the corona crisis are DIY, garden, sports articles, toys, games, puzzles and books.

Opposite to this, (online) travel has completely collapsed, while sales in fashion and shoes are said to have decreased by -40 to -60% since the outbreak of the virus.

The high demand in the online markets for food, health & beauty and electronics is causing constraints in delivery times, leading to complaints from online shoppers. In addition to this, necessary safety measures in the supply chain (warehousing, pick & pack, parcel delivery, returns) lead to further increasing delivery times.

Physical stores in the Netherlands are allowed to stay open, as long as they take the necessary pre-cautions to avoid physical contact. However, many stores have closed or have limited their opening hours.

Meanwhile, the e-commerce sector in Holland and its trade organization, Thuiswinkel.org, are doing what they can to cope with the extraordinary situation. Online merchants are dividing their assortments in crucial and non-crucial, in order to be able to handle demand. Also, (online) retailers intensify the use of social media and platforms like bol.com and Marktplaats as sales channels.
To take the pressure of the supply chain, Thuiswinkel.org has called on its members not to hold any sale actions until June 1, 2020, and to extend the return period for products from 14 to 30 days. They also encourage on- and offline retailers to help each other in order to enable Dutch online shoppers to keep doing their purchases.

Despite all this and the positive impact that the corona crisis has on certain online segments, the overall sentiment at this time is that the negative impact on the total e-commerce market in Holland in 2020 will be substantial. Given the fact that travel and fashion/shoes (including personal lifestyle) take the #1 and #2 position in the total Dutch e-commerce market, with € 6.2 bn (25% of the total market) resp. € 2.9 bn (11% of the total market) in sales in 2019 (total market size in 2019: € 25.8 bn), this will not come as a surprise.

The survey that Ecommerce Europe published on 19 March 2020, shows that online retailers all over Europe expect lower sales in the course of the year (65%), a decline in earnings (70%), releasing staff (65%),  financing problems (60%) and delivery delays and replenishment disruptions (55%). A minority of 35% is expecting an increase in sales due to people buying more products online than before.

So far, there is no information on Amazon’s first weeks on the online market in Holland (read my blogpost from 6 February 2020).

For more information on the subject or consultancy on cross-border e-commerce to the Netherlands, please contact Ed Hensen on hensen@ecommerceinholland.com or +31 6 22 55 55 46.


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