A shipment moves on a conveyor belt at an Amazon Fulfillment Centre on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, in this September 18 2018. Picture: REUTERS/ABHISHEK CHINNAPPA
A shipment moves on a conveyor belt at an Amazon Fulfillment Centre on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, in this September 18 2018. Picture: REUTERS/ABHISHEK CHINNAPPA

Amazon.com is the undisputed winner of Europe’s pandemic-driven boom in e-commerce — except in France. 

The company missed an internal target for package shipments in the eurozone’s second-biggest economy in 2020, 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 euros in French soccer broadcast rights to boost demand for its Prime subscriptions. 

An Amazon spokesperson 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 2020, 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 spokesperson. 

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

In the latest move to rein in the company, French legislators 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 euro cent.

Losing share

Many French shoppers have been reluctant to buy on Amazon, allowing room for local competitors like Cdiscount or Fnac Darty. Amazon is France’s biggest e-commerce player but its share of the local market fell to 19% in 2020 from 22% in 2019, said a study by Kantar published in March. 

Its French sales failed to keep pace with a 24% surge in e-commerce in the country in 2020, rising 7% to €8.3bn, according to Kantar. 

That compares with Amazon sales in Germany of $29.6bn in 2020 and $26.5bn in the UK, Amazon filings show. It does not disclose its sales in France. 

The e-commerce giant aims to bounce back in 2021 with plans to ship 451-million packages from its French fulfilment centres, according to the Progexa report dated October 5. 

The company is still pouring investment into the country and aims to open a major fulfilment centre every year, adding to its eight giant warehouses in the country. Its latest 185,000m² site was inaugurated in Augny near the border with Luxembourg two months ago. The company is also opening about 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 a month since August.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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