With the Commission today holding a workshop on joint purchasing and pursuing its review of horizontal competition rules, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“We are asking that the Commission review recognises even more strongly the pro-competitive effects of alliances. Alliances, which exist in all sectors of the economy, combine the sourcing of their members facing stronger, more concentrated suppliers. Retail alliances help, on behalf of Europe’s consumers, partially to rebalance the power of multinational brand manufacturers, whose products make up a large proportion of most consumers’ shopping baskets and customers expect to see on retailers’ shelves. This gives these global manufacturers considerable leverage in negotiating the prices and conditions under which they sell to European retailers, who operate in only a limited number of markets. Alliances also help to mitigate large manufacturers’ fragmentation of the single market and other practices aimed at increasing their already significant margins”.
Retail alliances ensure consumer benefits in terms of prices, choice and innovation, in a concentrated supplier market of large global suppliers. Numerous studies demonstrate that alliances’ activities, which typically involve negotiation of sourcing conditions and services, or the actual purchase of products, lead to a 5-7% reduction in consumer prices. The Commission has over the years explicitly underlined this positive impact of alliances, with Commissioner Breton pointing to this in the context of vaccines, and Executive Vice-President Vestager pointing to their pro-competitive role on numerous occasions.
The undersigned EU trade associations have been closely following and proactively engaging in the legislative process of the Proposal for a Regulation on a Single Market for Digital Services (Digital Services Act) and amending Directive 2000/31/EC.
As representatives of the wider retail sector, we believe the Digital Services Act (DSA) is of utmost importance for retailers in Europe to be able to increasingly operate cross-border, profit from a well-functioning Single Market and be supported by a harmonised and futureproof legislative framework. In particular due to the digital transformation of the industry, further accelerated by the outbreak of COVID-19, we believe that European policymakers should prioritise digitalisation and facilitate the continued uptake of digital solutions in the retail sector.
In that context, the undersigned would like to provide the perspective of the retail sector on the ongoing discussions on targeted advertisement. Following the publication of the DSA proposal with its new transparency obligations on online advertising, concerns have been raised about targeted advertising. As the negotiations are advancing in the European Parliament, the discussion on targeted advertisement has become a prominent element of the debate. Several Members of the European Parliament have advocated for the introduction of a ban or very strong restrictions on targeted advertising.
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As MEPs discuss the European Parliament’s report on the Farm-to-Fork strategy, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Retailers and wholesalers have a strong interest in working to meet consumer demand for sustainably produced food. As responsible actors playing a central role in the supply chain, we seek to cooperate with all our suppliers to deliver on our shared commitment to sustainability. We therefore support the Farm-to-Fork strategy’s overall objectives and will work to make our contribution to sustainable food systems which benefit consumers and the rest of the supply chain.”
EuroCommerce and many of its members signed up to the Farm-to-Fork Code of Conduct, confirming our commitment to work on responsible food business and marketing practices. Our members already have in place a wide range of initiatives promoting more sustainable options, including guaranteed orders for farmers during the transition to organic. By providing the possibility of selling larger volumes, our sector is helping to reward farmers adopting sustainable practices and allowing a wider range of consumers access to more sustainable food at affordable prices.
Our sector wants Farm-to-Fork to achieve its ambitious objectives, and in a way in which all players can benefit, from farmers to the final consumer. No one part of the supply chain can do so on its own, and we will be asking the Commission to collaborate with all parties to build cooperative and effective dialogue, but also to adopt practical approaches which are transparent about the impact of the policies and ensure that they work with the grain of the market and consumer interests.
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Juan Manuel Morales, President of EuroCommerce and Managing Director of IFA, a leading retail group in Spain, Portugal and Italy, today announced the appointment of Christel Delberghe as the new Director-General of EuroCommerce. Christel will take over from Christian Verschueren from 15 November. Mr Morales said:
“Christel’s appointment is the culmination of a thorough and competitive recruitment process in which Christel came out as the very strongest candidate. This was endorsed unanimously by the EuroCommerce Board. Both they and I have been impressed by Christel’s knowledge of and passion for the retail and wholesale sector, which she has served in various roles over the last 20 years in EuroCommerce. She has shown energy and commitment in pursuing a wide range of projects covering some of the most important issues confronting our sector. As the first woman to head EuroCommerce, Christel will be a very worthy successor to Christian, to whom I pay tribute now for his dedication to our sector, his leadership over the last 10 years, and the solid foundation he is leaving behind.”
Christel Delberghe added:
“I am proud and grateful for the confidence that EuroCommerce’s members have shown in appointing me as their Director-General. Retail and wholesale is very diverse and faces immense challenges over the coming years. Digital and sustainability are transforming our sector. I look forward to working with our members and EU decision-makers to achieve a regulatory and policy framework that supports the transformation and the significant investment needed to remain competitive and serve customers every day.”
EuroCommerce Narrative on Retail and Wholesale in a changing world…
The world is changing rapidly. Retailers and wholesalers have repeatedly shown how resilient and adaptive they are, and are moving ahead with embracing this change, providing value to customers, suppliers, and society at large. This great story is worth telling – both to the sector and to the wider world. And the story needs to say clearly what we want from the EU and from national governments to make our sector sustainably competitive.
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Joint Press Release with Ecommerce Europe
Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce today jointly launched an awareness campaign on the importance of a Single VAT ID Registration.
On 1 July 2021, new VAT rules for e-commerce sales to consumers entered into application, extending the VAT One Stop Shop system to e-commerce distance selling and introducing an Import One-Stop Shop (IOSS). Both Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce warmly welcomed the introduction of these simplification measures. However, one of the flaws of the new rules is that they do not address the issue of VAT registration for sellers holding stock in multiple Member States in order to be as close as possible to the consumers. In practice, e-merchants still have to maintain their foreign VAT registrations in every EU country where they are sending or holding stock. To address this issue, Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce recommend policymakers to extend the existing VAT OSS to all shipments of merchandise where the seller of record is not located in the EU country of taxation, and in particular to:
1. cross-border movement of own inventory across the EU,
2. domestic sales from distribution hubs by a seller that is not established in that EU country.
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Marking the first annual EU Organic Day, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said today:
“We have seen consumers increasingly choosing organic foods over the past 20 years and this trend continues, with a double digit annual growth in the sales of organic products. Retailers and wholesalers have been active in promoting organic, both in fresh produce and in their own brands. They have worked to forge close long-term supply relationships with farmers, including helping them to make the transition to organic. They have also helped make this economically attractive by providing a market for increased volumes.
We see this as an important element in building sustainable food systems. We are therefore pleased to see Commissioner Wojciechowski’s initiative in launching the EU Organic Day today as the UN general assembly discusses sustainable food. The EU Organic Day will, we hope, each year help the growth of successful organic production in Europe, and underline the other prerequisite for success in doing so: further building consumer demand for and appreciation of the benefits of, organically produced food.”
EuroCommerce and its members have shown their commitment to sustainable food, being both closely involved in the drafting of the EU Code of Conduct and one of its first signatories when it was launched in July. We have also shown how our sector has been proactive in adopting best practice in sustainability and promoting healthy lifestyles in our dedicated website #sustainablecommerce.
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Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce today jointly published the 2021 European E-commerce Report. In 2020, total European e-commerce grew to €757 billion euros, up 10% from €690 billion euros in 2019.
2020 was an exceptional year, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent important role of e-commerce for both society and economy. This is also reflected in the growth figures, which remained significant (10%), but dropped slightly compared to 2019 (14%). COVID-19 gave a significant boost to e-commerce sales, but the sharp decline of online sales in the tourism and services sector (events, tickets, etc.) contributed to holding back overall growth.
The pandemic had a massive impact on developments in the retail sector. The lockdown accelerated the existing trend towards the digital and green transition of stores. Their investments in digital and omnichannel, which were originally planned over several years, were carried out in just a few months. E-commerce was a lifeline for consumers, as government restrictions such as forced shop closures, prevented them from buying what they needed in stores. While e-commerce has not fully compensated the losses that many brick-and-mortar SMEs experienced, it has absorbed a large part of the economic shock. However, further work is needed to ensure the wider retail sector can optimally benefit from the solutions offered by the digital transformation.
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In the latest of the series of EuroCommerce Policy Talks, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski is speaking today on his vision for the future of European agriculture, and addressing a range of issues related to it. These include the impact of the COVID crisis on agriculture, sustainable food systems and the EU Farm-to-Fork strategy, food waste and food security, farmers’ income and regulation in the food supply chain, and the global and trade aspects of agriculture.
EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“As world leaders gather this week in New York to discuss sustainable food systems, we are very pleased to welcome Commissioner Wojciechowski to our Policy Talk on sustainable agriculture. As a vital link with consumers in the food supply chain, retailers and wholesalers have been very active in supporting the Farm-to-Fork objectives and addressing the accelerating transition to sustainability across the supply chain. They have been working with suppliers both of branded goods and our retailer brands to respond to and encourage consumer demand for sustainable food options and a healthy lifestyle, as well as reducing the environmental impact of their own business. Although retailers buy very little directly from farmers – less than 5% of what they sell – they have a shared interest in a globally competitive agriculture sector which prospers and successfully embraces this transition. This needs a regulatory regime which supports dialogue and cooperation rather than national protectionism or inappropriate legislation from which neither farmers nor consumers benefit”.
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EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren is speaking at the World Retail Congress conference in London today, and said
“COVID is a global pandemic and its impact is global, particularly for a people-facing sector such as retail. We have heard from many of our members in Europe that a worrying number of shops will not stay open once current support measures end. This is in part the result of repeated and unpredictable government lockdowns over the last 18 months, but also a symptom of the acceleration by the pandemic of the fundamental transformation of the sector to digital and online sales. Retailers small and large, suffering from historically low margins, need urgent government support to make the investment necessary for digitalisation and sustainability. This is an economic and social imperative needing decisive action not only for our sector but all the other parts of the economy and the local communities we serve.”
He is speaking to OECD G20 and G7 sherpa Nicolas Pinaud, and in a panel with Matt Shay, President and CEO of the US National Retail Federation, and Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium, on issues surrounding the measures needed to maintain the signs of positive recovery in recent months, in part due to government support.
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The European Parliament agriculture and environment committees are today finalising their joint report on the Farm to Fork strategy. EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren commented:
“Our sector has for many years driven sustainable practices, working with suppliers, for example on organic production and other quality standards, and creating a market for farmers and expanding choice for consumers. I am therefore happy to restate today our readiness to contribute to sustainable food systems under the Commission’s Farm to Fork strategy. The Covid crisis has shown that retail and wholesale is an essential sector, ensuring efficient distribution of daily essentials to consumers. We also work hard to do so in a sustainable way and in promoting healthy lifestyles. A wide range of actions already initiated by retailers and wholesalers can be seen from our website #sustainablecommerce.”
In a consumer survey as part of the joint McKinsey/EuroCommerce report on the State of Grocery Retail released earlier this year, 50% of consumers said that they planned to buy more healthy, local or environmentally-friendly foods this year, but 26% wanted both to save money on groceries and move towards sustainable lifestyles. This is a clear message to retail and wholesale to work with farmers and the whole supply chain to continue to increase the supply of sustainably-produced, affordable food.
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Commenting today on the creation of the new Epic Partners retail alliance, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“This new development demonstrates the important role retail alliances play in supporting competition and providing better prices and more choice to consumers. The efficiencies and synergies in sourcing in the EU single market can help balance the significant market power of multinational brand suppliers who operate across the globe. As we have seen recently, these large manufacturers are again piling on pressure, sometimes even collectively, for unreasonable price increases. Alliances are consumers’ best allies at a time when many families are still feeling the impact of the COVID pandemic. These alliances help address the impact of manufacturers’ active fragmentation of the single market, which is costing consumers at least €14 billion a year.”
The new alliance will negotiate contractual arrangements for complementary international services and marketing activities with the largest international brand manufacturers, with a focus on packaged processed products. Vegetables, fruits and unprocessed foods are not part of these activities, and the alliance will have no dealings with SME suppliers or farmers. The Commission has on numerous occasions recognised the pro-competitive role that retail alliances play within the strict boundaries set in competition rules, including a recent report by the European’s Joint Research Centre which underlined their positive role in increasing consumer welfare.