Distribution in Europe: Euro-Shop ‘Til You Drop

Executive summary

This article analyzes current realities and trends in the European distribution sector. The authors describe the environment of five important markets (France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain), and three sectors in which Europe is playing a leading role globally (food, textiles and luxury goods).

Systematizing the European distribution environment is a complex task – for academics, as well as distributors themselves. However, a number of leading European companies have developed models that stand out for their success and sustainability on the continent, and in some cases, around the globe. First of all, when analyzing the European market, it should be noted that five countries (Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain) represent 75% of distribution sales in food, as well as textiles. Although they have obvious differences, these countries share common characteristics and tendencies, especially in their demographics. Nevertheless, we are still a long way from full convergence and Europe continues to be a group of nations with distinct characteristics, cultures, customs and languages. In order to simplify our analysis of distribution in Europe, we will focus our discussion on these five countries. Moreover, we will study three business lines in which Europe is contributing differentiated formats: food, textile and luxury goods. Outside of these three areas, innovative leadership is driven principally by the United States.

Despite being a very heterogeneous market, the distribution sector in Europe generally follows a pattern with three main tendencies: growing internationalization, a drastic reduction in the number of stores and falling prices.


José Luis Nueno and Carlos Mora wrote this article published in IESE Alumni Magazine, 2003

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