Amazon misses target in France as European e-commerce booms

Company encountered setbacks on everything from Covid-19 measures to ad cookies

Amazon’s local unit Amazon France Logistique shipped 258 million packages, up from 229 million in 2019 but below a previous target of 416 million. Photograph: iStock

Amazon’s local unit Amazon France Logistique shipped 258 million packages, up from 229 million in 2019 but below a previous target of 416 million. Photograph: iStock

 

Amazon is the undisputed winner of Europe’s pandemic-driven boom in ecommerce – except in France.

The company missed an internal target for package shipments in the euro zone’s second-biggest economy last year, according to a confidential report seen by Bloomberg, after setbacks on everything from Covid-19 containment measures to advertising cookies.

Amazon’s local unit Amazon France Logistique shipped 258 million packages, up from 229 million in 2019 but below a previous target of 416 million, said the report from accounting firm Progexa that was commissioned by Amazon’s French labour unions.

The findings underscore the challenges faced by Amazon since it entered the country more than two decades ago, and help explain why it’s investing hundreds of millions of euro in French soccer broadcast rights to boost demand for its Prime subscriptions.

A spokeswoman for Amazon said the report covers only the activity of its French warehouses, not French orders that were fulfilled by Amazon facilities in other countries. A Progexa representative declined to comment, citing the need for commercial confidentiality.

France’s government and industry regulators have always monitored Amazon’s activities closely. In April last year, it suspended its French operations for five weeks after a local court ruled it had failed to protect workers effectively from the coronavirus.

The shutdown was followed by only a gradual return to normal operations as the company restocked its warehouses, according to the Amazon spokeswoman.

Then in December, French data protection agency CNIL fined it €35 million for placing advertising cookies with visitors to its French website without their consent.

In the latest move to rein in the company, French lawmakers adopted a Bill two weeks ago that would set a minimum price for book delivery to protect traditional booksellers. Amazon has recently been shipping books for as little as 1 cent.

Losing Share

Many French shoppers have been reluctant to buy on Amazon, allowing room for local competitors

such as Cdiscount or Fnac Darty. Amazon is France’s biggest ecommerce player but its share of the local market fell to 19 per cent last year from 22 per cent in 2019, said a study by Kantar published in March.

Its French sales failed to keep pace with a 24 per cent surge in ecommerce in the country last year, rising 7 per cent to €8.3 billion, according to Kantar.

That compares with Amazon sales in Germany of $29.6 billion last year and $26.5 billion in the UK, Amazon filings show. It does not disclose its sales in France.

The ecommerce giant aims to bounce back this year with plans to ship 451 million packages from its French fulfillment centres, according to the Progexa report dated October 5th.

The company is still pouring investment into the country and aims to open a major fulfilment center every year, adding to its eight giant warehouses in the country. Its latest 185,000 square-metre site was inaugurated in Augny near the border with Luxembourg two months ago. The company is also opening around a dozen smaller delivery hubs every year.

Amazon has been attempting to improve its image in France and boost the number of Prime subscribers. Its Prime Video service has been offering Ligue 1 soccer for an extra fee of €12.99 per month since August. – Bloomberg