Economic downturn: e-commerce sales fall by double digits for the first time

Fatih-Kağan Taşkoparan

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  • Sales in e-commerce have bottomed out, as the German E-Commerce and Mail Order Association (BEVH) announced for the past year.
  • Sales of goods slumped by almost twelve percent.
  • "Preloved goods are very popular in Germany.

A tense economic situation and uncertain future expectations of many households were once again challenging for German e-commerce. This was clearly reflected in lower overall sales: gross sales of goods fell by a double-digit 11.8% to €79.7 billion for the first time in 2023, compared to €90.4 billion in the previous year, according to the German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association (bevh) on Thursday. announced.

For the breadth of retailers, 2023 will be remembered as a landmark year: Marketplaces (- 8.5%) and online retailers (- 14.7%) also remained significantly below the previous year's result in 2023. The decline in sales was most pronounced in multichannel retail (-18.1%). This was due to the fact that customers were increasingly using brick-and-mortar outlets again. D2C distributors (manufacturer-distributor) were able to maintain their growth most steadily in the long term: Their sales are currently 62% higher than before the outbreak of the pandemic in 2019.

"We expect German e-commerce to bottom out over the course of the year. With a decline of 7.1%, the fourth quarter of 2023 was the first quarter with a single-digit decline since early summer 2022 and points to a stabilization of sales in the future, comments Gero Furchheim, President of bevh. Last year, German consumers saved particularly heavily in online retail segments that actually generate high sales, such as clothing and entertainment products. However, online retail continues to be anchored in all age groups, continues to enjoy excellent customer ratings and remains true to its role as an innovator, according to Furchheim.

 Second-hand market increasingly popular

More and more consumers have resorted to buying and using used, repaired or borrowed goods. Among 19 to 29-year-olds, 18.4% of respondents stated that they order used products online "more often" and 31.9% "occasionally". The 30 to 39-year-olds show a similar level of acceptance, with 11.7% and 40.1% of respondents respectively stating this. This means that preloved goods are currently becoming increasingly popular in Germany. Skepticism towards cheaper foreign suppliers is also decreasing: When asked whether customers (of all age groups) are willing to store at foreign stores, 61.0% of consumers would currently "somewhat" or "completely" prefer a foreign supplier if shopping there is cheaper.