20 years digitec – a journey through time in numbers
Behind the scenes

20 years digitec – a journey through time in numbers

digitec first flickered across Swiss computer screens 20 years ago. Since then, the online store specialising in IT and electronics has grown into Switzerland’s market leader. To celebrate this anniversary, we’re taking an exclusive look at the financial figures since the early days.

Three young men who enjoy pulling all-nighters at techno parties, gaming until the crack of dawn and assembling gamer PCs for their friends – that was the beginning of digitec. Their company would later shake up Swiss online retail and create over 2,000 jobs along the way. Let’s go on a journey through time in numbers.

2001: a dwarf among giants

On 8 May 2001, digitec.ch went live with a range aimed primarily at PC gamers. The three founding members, Florian Teuteberg (now CEO), Oliver Herren (CIO) and Marcel Dobler (who left the company in 2012), had met at electronics retailer Computer-Express and were convinced they could do better. «Back then, gaming geeks in Switzerland had a choice between lousy and overpriced hardware,» says Oliver Herren. «We wanted to supply Switzerland with high-end products at fair prices – so we sourced the components directly from abroad.»

The plan worked. By the end of 2001, digitec was already generating sales of CHF 4 million. Six years later, sales figures had reached 100 million in one year. The period between 2017 and 2018 saw digitec overtake Media Markt, which specialises in stationary retail, and become Switzerland’s number one electronics retailer. Long since left behind were other competitors including Interdiscount, melectronics, PC-Hai, Vobis or Computer-Express.

2001: the unexpected pick-up store

With the foundation of the company, the three-man digitec crew moved into a 25-square-metre office on the ninth floor of a grey housing block on Seebahnstrasse in Zurich. As the address was stated in the imprint, customers would spontaneously drop by, ask questions or pick up their orders. «At first we were a bit annoyed by this. We wanted to be an online store and not a brick-and-mortar store after all,» recalls CEO Florian Teuteberg. «But we gradually realised how great the need was for a physical store and face-to-face contact.» Digitec Galaxus now operates eleven physical stores throughout Switzerland, two of which are in French-speaking Switzerland. On long-term average, customers pick up one in three orders in store. The rate is even higher for returns.

Working in the midst of computer cases: the digitec office in 2001
Working in the midst of computer cases: the digitec office in 2001

2003: we need more space!

With the expansion of the product range and a growing demand, the space requirement was also increasing. In early 2003, digitec moved to Pfingstweidstrasse in Zurich’s west end. At the time, the former industrial area was notorious for its night clubs such as Rohstofflager, Toni-Molkerei and Dachkantine. Spanning 400 square metres, the new floor space was four times larger than before. The new location not only served as a warehouse but also as a PC workshop, office and pick-up store. And as a place to crash after a night of partying.

The major expansion steps in logistics were yet to come. Today, Digitec Galaxus operates an overall warehouse surface of almost 70,000 square metres. This roughly corresponds to ten world championship football fields. «Whenever I ride through our warehouse in Wohlen on a scooter and see all the products and employees, it hits me how much responsibility we have,» says Florian.

With its rapid growth, Digitec Galaxus is likely to soon reach the limits of its capacity again. For this reason, another logistics centre is in planning on the site of a former paper mill in Utzenstorf in the canton of Berne. More storage space means a larger selection and faster delivery times for our customers.

2005: one million flyers

To increase brand awareness, digitec increasingly invested in advertising. In early 2005, the company unleashed one million flyers as newspaper supplements onto Swiss households. Their first TV spot followed in 2009.

Take a look at the playlist on YouTube.

2005: filters to find the right product

Since 2001, digitec’s software developers have reprogrammed the online store from scratch four times. With the first relaunch in 2005 came a filter option that allows customers to quickly find cables with a specific right length or screens with the right connection.

The last store relaunch back in 2014 turned digitec and its sister shop Galaxus into shopping communities. At this point in time, both portals became an all-in-one online shop, discussion forum and magazine with articles written by an in-house editorial team. Take a look at the company’s online presence of yesteryear by stepping into the Wayback Machine courtesy of the non-profit organisation Internet Archive.

2011: the year digitec went big

According to the Federal Statistical Office, there are just under 600,000 small and medium-sized businesses (page in German) with up to 250 employees in Switzerland. In 2011, Digitec Galaxus joined the circle of around 1,700 large companies with over 250 employees. In the wake of the pandemic, the workforce has grown more than ever before in the company's history. By the end of 2020, Digitec Galaxus employed almost 2,800 people (including temporary staff in the run up to Christmas). That’s around 1,250 or 8 per cent more than at the end of 2019.

2012: Galaxus sets sail

In 2012, the founding fathers of digitec launched the sister shop Galaxus. On this new platform, they gradually expanded their product portfolio by adding «pretty much everything» to their core IT and electronics range. «Toothbrushes, diapers and garden chairs would have diluted the digitec brand and potentially meant losing credibility with our regulars,» Florian says about the entrepreneurial decision. «That's why we needed a second brand.»

2012: Migros on board

Shortly afterwards, retailer Migros acquired a minority stake of 30 per cent in Digitec Galaxus. Since 2015, Migros has been the majority shareholder with 70 per cent. Today, the online retailer accounts for around six per cent of the Migros Group’s sales and numbers are rising. «We’ve been watching digitec since it was founded. Joining forces with Migros was a smart move for both parties,» says Fabrice Zumbrunnen, president of the Migros Group, about the acquisition. «The founders were able to combine their know-how in e-commerce with Migros’ financial power and experience in retail. We’re proud that the company and its employees is part of the group and that it’s managed to keep its pioneering role until today.»

2016: Galaxus turns marketplace

In the summer of 2016, the Galaxus merchant programme was launched. The goal? To increase the range for customers without becoming a junk bazaar. The first merchant «click & care» brought the new product sector «Health + Beauty» to Galaxus. Meanwhile, there are 300 active marketplace merchants on Galaxus. The range spans anything from hiking boots by Bergzeit to comic books by ExLibris to earrings by Helen Kirchhofer. Around 85 per cent of all products available from Digitec Galaxus are offered by marketplace merchants. It’s expected that this year will see Galaxus.de open up as a marketplace.

2018: one million products

The marketplace merchants added momentum to the product range of Digitec Galaxus. Within the space of one and a half years, the range of products available skyrocketed from under 300,000 to around one million. Today, the two online shops have over three million products to choose from.

2018: expanding to Germany

In November 2018, Digitec Galaxus ventured across the border with the Galaxus brand. The online shop was launched in Germany with around 50,000 quality products; including IT, consumer electronics and telecommunications. By the end of 2020, there were already 600,00 products available. In the meantime, just under 500,000 Germany-based customers have shopped at Galaxus. «We’re so pleased with the development that we’ve set our sights on further markets,» says Florian. «Soon we’ll be expanding to Austria.»

2020: climate-neutral shopping

More recently, digitec and Galaxus introduced an option for customers to offset the footprint left by their online purchases. Any CO₂, methane, nitrous oxide, etc. caused by their orders can now be compensated by making a voluntary contribution. A good ten per cent of all purchases have since been offset.

2021: low-key anniversary celebrations

As coronavirus has made any real anniversary party impossible, Digitec Galaxus employees raised glasses via SpatialChat at the end of April. «We’ll make up for that party we missed,» add Florian and Oliver. After all, they haven’t forgotten how to party. Even after 20 years of running digitec.

Graphics: made with Flourish.

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Alex Hämmerli
Senior Public Relations Manager
alex.haemmerli@digitecgalaxus.ch

At Digitec and Galaxus, I’m in charge of communication with journalists and bloggers. Good stories are my passion – I am always up to date.


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