LZ Retailytics ranks Europe's Top 50 retailers
Björn Weber and his team of nine renowned analysts at Frankfurt-based LZ Retailytics have also let this blog have an exclusive look at the full ranking table for the purposes of commentary. So what do the figures reveal to the critical eye?
As befits Europe's largest economy, no less than five German retailers grace the Top Ten: Schwarz Group, Aldi Group (North & South), Edeka, Rewe Group, and Metro.
Significantly, the first two are discounters, confirming the old adage: "Poor people must save, rich people like to." Schwarz Group (+6 per cent) and Aldi Group (+6.4 per cent) both grew at a cracking pace.
Schwarz Group discount subsidiary Lidl: Any resemblance to an 800-pound gorilla is purely coincidental
The lack of major change within the Top 50 also confirms just how consolidated the trade has become. Obviously there are small moves both up and down the ranking table, but these are essentially due to a demerger at Metro Group and the disappearance of Tengelmann Group.
Metro Group has split into two constituent parts (Metro for food and Cash & Carry, Ceconomy for electronics retailing), and the Haub family, owners of historic grocer Tengelmann Group, have sold their last remaining grocery interests in order to concentrate investment on online start-ups and non-food retailing.
The latter move might not quite be the writing on the wall for all the food retailers at Belshazzar's Feast, but it is certainly a sign of the times.
Disruptor-in-chief: Nonfood giant Amazon is on a long, relentless march to conquer European food retailing
Of course, the online food sales of Amazon Fresh etc. are still very small in Europe, but LZ Retailytics are surely right to include the American behemoth in their tables. Even if Amazon makes no acquisition in Europe equivalent to organic retailer Whole Foods in the US, LZ Retailytics computes that it will rank no. 8 in Europe by 2020.
Given, however, that Amazon was ready to fork out $13.7bn for Whole Foods in August, the giant data octopus could easily make an acquisition in Old Europe to fuel its relentless global growth. The Whole Foods purchase has also bequeathed the company six stores in England, and Amazon is clearly already greedily devouring its food know-how. Other telltale signs of an increasing involvement in Europe include recent cooperative ventures with Morrisons in the UK and Casino-subsidiary Monoprix in France.
So is it all doom and gloom for Europe's hypermarket, supermarket and soft discount operators? Certainly local heroes, such as Esselunga in Italy, Mercadona in Spain, or Biedronka in Poland, continue to thrive, especially when they set the tone for prices on their local markets (cf. Mercadona).
Still standing tall: Poland's local hero Biedronka
At least the big bricks & mortar guys still have a number of strategic options. They can run their own discount operations, as Edeka does with Netto in Germany, or diversify online like Tesco in the UK. But both these alternatives will obviously be increasingly challenged longer-term when the German discounters and Amazon gain real scale on foreign markets.
Finally, the big multiples can internationalise although this has proved a pretty rocky road over the last few decades. But doubtless we shall know more about this saga in due course, or when LZ Retailytics compile their next annual ranking...
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Read in German: "Mächtige Händler im Strukturwandel" (paywall) & "Deutsche Discounter mischen Europa kräftig auf" by Mike Dawson on pages 36 to 38 of Lebensmittel Zeitung, no. 16, 20.04.2018. Readers are also referred to "Europe 2017: Retail Consolidation Speeds Up" by LZ Retailytics senior analyst Gildas Aïtamer