The Internet effect on the number of stores is overestimated

There are currently almost 17.000 empty stores in the Netherlands. According to the experts, this is due to Internet sales. But is it really so? What is the influence of Internet on the number of square meters of retail surface in our country?  

Locatus has made an estimation of the sensitivity to Internet for all 235 sectors in our database, both retail and non-retail sales. The sectors are divided into four categories. There are also some examples of shops per sector.

  • No effect (baker, butcher, gas station, car wash)
  • Limited effect (garden centers, furniture, bicycles, pharmacy)
  • Intermediate effect (fashion, shoes, brokerage, insurance)
  • Strong effect (books, electronics, domestic appliances, travel agency)

This study looks at the influence of Internet on the outlets/locations, not at the consequences for the entire business activity.

The study method

The Internet has had no impact on the number of locations, but has had an impact on the booking process. The hotel is still in the same location, but online booking has probably taken one or more phone operator jobs. Therefore, the hotel industry is in the category No Effect.

However, booking had a significant impact on the number of travel agencies. Therefore, are listed in the category Strong Effect.

Locatus estimates the total impact on the number of sales points in the Netherlands as follows:

Effect Number of sales points Percentage
No effect 121.180 59,00%
Limited effect 46.171 22,00%
Intermediate effect 28.165 14,00%
Strong effect 10.669 5,00%
Total 206.185 100%

We then zoom in on the future of retail. This means shops, and not service providers such as travel agencies, real estate agencies, and the hospitality business.

For retail, we’ve made an estimate by category for the negative impact on turnover (expected impact on turnover for the next five years). Assuming that this will have a proportional effect on the required number of square meters, we calculated an estimate of the effect on retail surface. We obtained the following result:

Effect Current
store surface
Expected impact
on turnover – 5y
Future impact
on store surface
No effect 7.224.198 0,00% 0
Limited effect 16.415.304 2,50% -410.383
Average effect 3.445.000 10,00% -344.500
Strong effect 851.354 20,00% -170.271
Total in meters -925.153
Total in % -3,31%

The largest retail surfaces are found in categories in which the impact is the lowest. As a result, the expected drop in retail space due to Internet sales remains below 5% over five years time. In short, the expected impact on Internet retail locations will be a lot less than many now imagine.

This blog by Peter Nieland has already been published on https://www.rabobank.nl/bedrijven/kennis/cijfers_en_trends/detailhandel_non_food/publicaties/