Department store chain El Corte Inglés is calling for a European online shopping platform to be set up in order to compete with US giant Amazon and China’s Alibaba, involving several major retailers working together.
Chairman Dimas Gimeno also reiterated the need for legislation to be amended so that the same rules apply to all shopping sites operating on the continent.
Building up alliances between conventional and online distributors would allow them all to ‘build and grow together’, even though they are competitors, Gimeno said at a recent conference organised by the Spanish Directors’ and Executives’ Confederation (CECE).
A European-style Amazon site encompassing retailers from all over Europe would ‘allow local trade to go global’ and present ‘new business opportunities beyond our immediate borders’.
Companies which sell branded goods – and 70% of El Corte Inglés’ wares are branded – would ‘have a lot to gain’, Gimeno believes, especially when negotiating online sales contracts.
“Instead of companies spending extortionate amounts of money to set up their own online marketplaces, why don’t they all band together and set up a blanket one?” Gimeno questioned, although he admitted it would be ‘a challenge with a capital C’ requiring ‘a great deal of energy’.
El Corte Inglés is reportedly already starting talks with the aim of setting up an Amazon-style retail platform in the future.
Gimeno stressed he was not criticising Amazon – “It’s a spectacular company with an absolutely unbeatable model which forces all other distributors to pull their fingers out and from which the rest of us can only learn,” he argues – but says the ‘problem’ is that ‘the digital transformation’ is moving at such speed that laws governing this type of trade cannot keep up.
“Online operators are not, at present, subject to opening hours or location restrictions and, even more aggravatingly, enjoy an extremely advantageous tax situation,” Gimeno explains.
“We need laws that allow all such distributors to compete on an equal playing field; at the very least, we need a European directive that makes us all equal in taxation terms.
“I’m not calling for any type of out-of-date protectionism; just the same rules for everyone so that free competition conditions are not breached.”
Gimeno admits, however, that El Corte Inglés has a great competitive advantage over purely online retailers since it has a network of over 90 huge stores in ‘excellent locations’ which offer ‘immediate access’ for customers.