Finnish online purchases of goods and services hit a record high in the first half of 2013. New research findings suggest that between January and June online purchases increased by six per cent on the previous year. The largest increase were seen in the personal finance and clothing categories. Overall, the growth is expected to continue.

According to TNS Gallup, the Finnish Commerce Federation and the Finnish Direct Marketing Association, Finnish online sales were valued at EUR 5.1 bn in the first half of this year. This figure includes taxes, postage and packing expenses. This was an increase of some six per cent on the previous year.

Close to 40 per cent of all online sales consisted of tourism and travel. Travel remains the single largest goods and service category.

In the larger product categories, grossing a total value of EUR 100 m or more in the first half of the year, the best results were seen in personal finance and clothing. The demand for instant credit, other personal loans and investment services grew by 44 per cent year on year. The value of clothes purchased online grew by 20 per cent.

"The volume of online shoppers is continuing to grow. At the moment, 75 per cent of all Finns of active age have made online purchases. Although young people tend to be the most active online shoppers, it is clear that pensioners are also seeing the benefits," explains Ville Wikström, Director of the TNS Gallup Digital unit.

The biggest growth overall was seen in adult entertainment, baby and children's products and food, which remain relatively small online sales categories.

However, not all categories saw growth in the period under review, with paid-for content registering a decline in sales. The largest decline, a total of 25 per cent, was recorded in music and film as well as photography.

Online sales in the car industry also declined. The lack of consumer confidence is on the rise and is reflected in online as well as in-store sales figures. Last year, online sales of cars recorded a dramatic decrease of 22 per cent on the previous year and sales continued to contract by 8 per cent in the first half of this year. The changes in online car sales are reflecting wider trends in Finnish car sales.

"The online environment is like an Olympic decathlon final, a tough and challenging sport against equally tough competition. To do well, you need to aim for international standards, anything less just isn't good enough," commented Finnish Direct Marketing Association Managing Director Jari Perko.

Robust growth for online retail sales

In the year to June, online retail sales** reached EUR 1.5 bn. At 9 per cent, this exceeds the total growth across all online sales.

In the first six months of the year, online retail sales comprised 7.2 per cent of all retail sales subject to VAT, representing an increase of half a percentage point on the previous year. Online sales recorded by specialist retailers exceeded this figure. Currently, online sales represent 17.5 per cent of all specialist retail sales, while in the first half of the previous year, the same figure stood at 16 per cent.

Although groceries are the single largest retail sales category, proportionately, online food and alcohol sales remain low at 2.5 per cent, amounting to just 0.8 per cent of all online sales. Growth in this category is brisk, however, with the growth in online alcohol sales prompting a 56 per cent rise in online grocery sales.

"In the online environment, Finnish retailers are in direct competition with international organisations. That is why it is crucial that there is no increase in the tax and regulatory burden on Finnish retailers. We must be able to enjoy the same operating environment as our international competitors," commented Juhani Pekkala, Managing Director of the Finnish Commerce Federation.

** The definition of retail sales in the E-Commerce Statistics differs from Standard Industrial Classification of retailers employed by Statistics Finland. For the purposes of the E-Commerce Statistics, retailers are classified by the goods and services they offer. Respondents to the survey classify their purchases by product and service category regardless of industry. The E-Commerce Statistics for retail do not include cars and fuel.

Background information
The January to June statistics are based on a consumer survey. A total of 6,206 consumers were surveyed. As part of the survey, consumers are asked to give details of their online purchases, including the value of the purchases and the language in which they were made.
The E-Commerce Statistics by TNS Gallup covers the sales of both products and services as well as services bookings. A total of 30 product categories and 70 sub-categories are included in the survey.

More information:
Ville Wikström, Director at Digital, TNS Gallup, tel: +358 (0)9 6135 0674, ville.wikstrom(at)tnsglobal.com
Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Federation of Finnish Commerce, tel: +358 (0)9 1728 5134, jaana.kurjenoja(at)kauppa.fi
Jari Perko, Managing Director, Finnish Direct Marketing Association, tel: +358 (0)40 565 9700.

The Finnish Commerce Federation represents commerce - the largest sector of economic life. Commerce employs around 300,000 persons in Finland. The Federation has around 7,000 member companies and represents both retail and wholesale commerce in industry politics and labour market lobbying. www.kauppa.fi