How international is retail in big European city centers?

Retail formats with the same symbols, the same signs and the same offering. You see them everywhere. Whether you shop in Amsterdam, Berlin, Milan or London. For my thesis, I studied at Locatus the occurrence of retail chains in European cities. What percentage of the retail format is international? And where do these formats come from?

In order to compare the cities with each other, first, we must find out which formats are currently the most common and recognizable. In other words: which formats are international? By combining Locatus’ European database and online research of over 3,000 retail formats – common in Europe – a list of 361 international retail formats appearing in A locations was compiled.


A series of international formats in different cities researched: Hunkemöller, Stuttgart; MANGO, Barcelona; McDonalds, Amsterdam; H&M, Stockholm; ZARA, Barcelona.

For my survey, I’ve used the following definitions:

A format is international and is taken into consideration for this survey when:

  • it has established at least one unique shop in at least six countries worldwide;
  • the format can be classified as retail or leisure;
  • and, for this survey, is present at least once in the A-site surveyed.

An A-site is defined here as:

  • the 200 addresses in these cities with the highest pedestrian traffic value.
    (source: Locatus pedestrian traffic count)

How international are the A-locations of European cities?

For the 21 European cities studied, the average percentage of international formats is 40.6% in A locations. The remaining 59.4% consist of national formats and independent shops (including vacant and under construction).



This international retail presence varies from 54,5% in London to 21% in Stockholm:



What are the origins of these international formats?

So we have established that there are 361 international formats that appear at least once on the European A-locations. These formats come from 24 countries worldwide. Most of the formats (82%) are of European origin. The remaining 18% come from Asia, North and South America and Australia. Which countries supply the majority of these international formats?

Top ten countries of origin of the 361 selected international formats

France- United States- Italy – Germany – United Kingdom – Spain – Switzerland – Denmark – Sweden – Netherlands

EU - Top_10_herkomst_internationale_formules

The ten countries above account for 92% of the formats surveyed.

What is striking is that most international formulas are from France. You wouldn’t expect this, considering the language factor, since a format has fewer barriers when the brand doesn’t have to be adapted for export. The strong positioning of French fashion brands seems to be a plausible explanation here.

Besides France, the United States provides a wide variety of formats. These formats are mainly from the Clothing & Fashion, Sport and Catering sectors.

And what about the distribution of the countries of origin, based on the number of branches?

The next step is the distribution of the counties of origin based on the number of branches of the formulas (1,780 branches of international retail chains spread across 21 cities). Because the number of branches of each format varies significantly, this results in a different top 10 classification.

A_Locations_European cities

The country where most international formats come from, France, appears to have relatively fewer branches in the A locations. Yves Rocher represents France with 18 branches most often in A-locations. From this, we can conclude that for many French chains it is less important to be located in the busiest shopping streets.

For the Spanish and Swedish international formulas, it’s just the opposite. Formats from these countries with 193 (10.8%) and 109 (6.1%) have a higher occupancy rate in the A locations. With Zara and Mango for Spain and H & M for Sweden. These fashion chains really benefit from much traffic in front of their stores.

Austria is with the Netherlands at a shared 10th place. This means that 49 physical branches (spread over five chains) originate from Austria. Swarovski, with 31 stores, accounts for most Austrian branches in A locations.

One thing I know for sure, my wardrobe is and will remain filled with clothes from all over Europe!