Though growing, Italy lags EU in online sales

Luminosity Italia

Though Italy lags behind other major EU economies in e-commerce, the sector showed strong growth in 2016 and will rise even more sharply this year, according a study from Milan’s Polytechnic University.

Just-released findings from EU statistical agency Eurostat say that only 8 percent of revenues for Italian companies are generated over the Internet compared to 24 percent in Germany and 17 percent in France.

Ireland and Sweden lead the 28-member EU in online sales at 29 percent and 27 percent of revenues, respectively, well above the EU average of 19 percent.

But revenues from e-commerce in Italy grew by 18 percent to €19.6 billion in 2016 and are projected to grow another 20 percent this year, said the Polytechnic University study. Its findings are supported by figures from industry publication Ecommerce News, which says online sales grew 17.1 percent last year in southern Europe.

Some €10.6 billion of total online revenues in Italy last year came through purchase of services, with the remaining €9 billion from purchase of products.

The Polytechnic study found that tourism generated the largest share of online revenues last year in Italy, some €8.65 billion, followed by clothing at €1.9 billion and insurance with €1.23 billion.

Actual online retail sales are much lower across Europe than the overall statistics, according to the UK-based Centre for Retail Research, which said that that 8.4 percent of total retail sales are made online. Online retailing in Italy accounted for just 2.5 percent of all retail sales.

According Ecommerce News, there are now about 296 million active online shoppers in Europe, each of them spending an average of €1,540 online last year.

Marlene ten Ham, secretary general at Ecommerce Europe, says just “16 percent of (small businesses) sell online and less than half of them sell online across borders”.

“The full potential of the European e-commerce market has not yet been reached,” she says.