Online shopping a la Española

Buying things via the internet isn't the norm in Spain, but it has divided people

ANDREW J. LINN

It's all the rage: grocery shopping on the internet. No queues at checkout, no searching for items on shelves, no stress. But national traits come into play, and while northern Europeans vote overwhelmingly in favour of online shopping, in the south we are more divided.

The giant of online shopping, Berlin-based Gorillas, fresh from raising a billion euros half a year ago, just announced it was laying off 300 employees and exiting some markets, notably Italy and Spain.

In future, Gorillas will focus on Germany, the Netherlands, UK and USA, which account for 90% of current revenue.

The $64,000 question of course is why did investors, after previous failures in this sector, believe that consumer habits would change overnight?

Indeed, why were German investors prepared to assume that southern European shoppers were ready to abandon traditional food markets and family-run shops in favour of the impersonal world of online shopping?

One little true story encapsulates the different mentalities at play. Some years ago, a British student staying as a paying guest in an Andalusian household became concerned that the elderly widowed lady of the house hauled herself off to the central market six days a week.

Anxious to make her life easier, he got her a fridge. But the daily outings continued, and the fridge stayed empty except for a few tins.

What he had not realised was that the daily trip to the market was a social event and had more to do with having a coffee with other housewives than buying food.