North America – Selected Country Characteristics

United States of America, the leading global market and still growing

The United States of America is the largest retail market in the world as well as one of the most diverse and competitive. The country is home to 317 million people with a wide variety of ethnic and cultural background. The number of Internet users is exceeding 270 million.

The standard of living is one of the highest in the world with an average GDP per capita measured in Purchasing Power of over of US$ 53,000. More than one-fifth of the 120 million plus households are comprised of affluent Americans with a household income of over US$100,000.

While the majority of the population lives in urban areas, no matter where an American lives, he or she is never too far from a retailer, mall or outlet to satisfy an appetite to shop, which is part of Americans’ DNA. America enjoys a healthy economy, strong credit card penetration, solid transportation infrastructure and wide broadband adoption—making it a desirable country for European and other retailers looking to pursue cross-border omni and online retail activities.

US retail sales are forecast by IORMA to increase around 3.5% this year, looking at the results for H1 2014 as published by the US government. Online retail sales are forecast to grow around 14% in 2014. The share of online retail in total retail sales is estimated to reach 6.4% this year and grow to reach 7% next year.


Canada, an interesting market for (online) retailers

Canada has one of the highest rates of Internet penetration in the world. Statistics Canada indicates that more than 80% of Canadian households in metropolitan areas and more than 70% of Canadian households in rural areas have access to the Internet. However, experts see e-commerce in Canada still lagging behind other more mature markets in particular the US, the UK, Japan and Australia.

Cultural differences have often been cited among the factors behind the slower progress of Internet shopping in Canada, such as the fact that Canadians as shoppers prefer to feel and touch merchandise in stores.

While, for the past few years, US-based online retailers have ruled Canadian e-commerce, with Amazon leading the pack, Canadian based e-retailers are finally breaking the ranks. This is indeed high time as experts conclude as many Canadians prefer shopping on foreign (US mostly) websites, rather than Canadian ones. Recent research from the J.C. Williams Group showed that 55% of Canadian online buyers shopped at domestic sites, against 45% abroad. Close to 75% of these visited US websites for their online purchases.


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