CSO to capture retail sales data from ecommerce giants
Irish-based etailers such as Amazon, Ebay and Etsy may have to share data on sales
A worker prepares packages for delivery at an Amazon warehouse. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
The Central Statistics Office is set to collect retail sales information on ecommerce giants based in Ireland for the first time next year, as it looks to broaden the online shopping data it captures.
At present the statistics office includes only online shopping data from retailers with a physical presence in Ireland, so shops such as Brown Thomas, Tesco and Eason, for example. The CSO also includes information on sales from Irish retailers delivered overseas. However, this means purchases from Irish consumers from companies based abroad, as well as those purchases from ecommerce retailers with Irish legal entities, are not included in monthly retail sales.
Now the CSO is looking to enhance the information it collects by capturing data on that last category: companies that are legally based in the State but don’t have a physical shop here. While the CSO does not disclose which retailers this would cover, it is likely to include firms such as Amazon, Ebay, Etsy and Zalando – all of which have legal presences, and in some cases physical operations – but not actual shops here. Given the differences in the data collected, it’s possible that the CSO may run the data as a separate series to its monthly retail sales publication.
The Republic has become an increasingly popular location for ecommerce operations in recent years. For example, Marks & Spencer uses an Irish company, M&S Ireland Ltd, to act as host of its European website, as does Zara, through ITX Fashion, while US ecommerce giant Zulily has an Irish-registered business, Zulily Ireland Ltd.
Amazon used to book its European sales through Luxembourg, but stopped doing this in 2015. The country’s retail sales figures plunged thereafter
It’s understood that the CSO will be able to compel such companies to provide information on their retail sales by way of a statutory instrument,as the legislative basis for the collection of current retail sales data is the Statistics (Retail Sales Inquiry) Order 2016.
The move by the CSO is part of a European-wide movement to capture better data on the growth of online shopping. The movement of multinational retailers can cause significant changes in the flow of retail sales in a country. For example, Amazon used to book its European sales through Luxembourg, but stopped doing this in 2015. The country’s retail sales figures plunged thereafter.
The development still means however that one cohort of retail sales – ie Irish people purchasing from retailers with no legal or physical presence in Ireland – still won’t be accounted for. This means sales from UK-based retailers, such as gap.eu, or asos.com, would be unlikely to be included in a retail series, at least in the short to medium term.