E-shopping no longer surging

Tim Harrup

In its latest report ‘E-commerce in the post-pandemic era’, real estate advisor CBRE reviews whether key European markets have experienced a lasting e-commerce growth effect as a result of COVID, and the associated implications for retail and logistics real estate. Although Belgium is not one of the six key markets, the trends identified are likely to be just as relevant here as in other markets.

CBRE begins by saying that aside from the surge observed during pandemic lockdown periods, mature e-commerce markets have not seen a notable acceleration of their pre-pandemic trend rate of growth. Emerging markets have seen a lasting effect through increased technology adoption and infrastructure improvements, but represent a much smaller proportion of spending. Further e-commerce growth is forecast, stimulating additional demand for logistics space across Europe.

However, across all markets, the majority of consumers still prefer to shop in-store, and a significant percentage view the physical and online retail channels as intertwined. For retail occupiers, a strong omni-channel offering with a seamless online and offline experience will be important in the future.

Physical shopping

Retail footfall and tenant sales plunged across Europe in early 2020, as lockdowns and associated store closures restricted consumers’ ability to shop in-store. Both of these metrics saw rapid recovery, however, as stores re-opened and consumers were able to return to physical retail shopping. Footfall recovery was initially driven by retail parks due to their essentials-focused retail offering, but 2022 saw shopping centre footfall recover to similar levels.

As of December 2022, footfall recovery is strongest in dominant regional shopping centres with a leisure component, though retail parks and inner-city shopping centres are also within 10% of their pre-pandemic footfall levels. Sales recovery is led by regional malls, although it is strong across all shopping centre categories, as well as retail parks. Inner-city shopping centres in particular have enjoyed increased spending as consumers return to the office.