By Nathan Rigby, VP Sales and Marketing at One Click Retail

For Amazon, Business, Industrial and Scientific Supplies (BISS) is still an emerging category. Amazon has always focused on consumer goods and continues to appeal mostly to consumers rather than to business customers; in categories such as Home Improvement and Office Supplies, professional buyers still tend to rely on brick-and-mortar-based retailers, while Amazon’s growing market share continues to be driven by consumers. But that is beginning to change.

As a category that almost exclusively includes products designed for business and professional use, BISS gives us a unique insight into Amazon’s emerging role as a B2B supplier. Though Amazon’s market share remains small, sales estimates in Europe exceeded €100M for the first time in 2017, more than doubling in size year-over-year, with many brands finding success by appealing to both professional and personal buyers.

Amazon has proven time and time again that no product category is beyond their reach – it’s only a matter of time before it becomes one of the key retailers in this space, so there is no better moment for brands to invest in the platform.

Business, Industrial and Scientific Supplies in Europe: The Amazon Effect

Occupational Health & Safety

Across all markets, Occupational Health & Safety is the leading category in Amazon’s BISS product group, as well as one of the fastest growers. Last year in Europe, this category earned more than €30M in estimated sales and was the fastest-growing category by volume, making it very unlikely that another category will outrank this one anytime soon.

Occupational Health & Safety is led by personal protective equipment. The top brands in this space –3M and Honeywell – both specialize in hearing protection. In Germany, 3M was responsible for half of the top 10 BISS items of last year, led by their Peltor Ear Defenders. In the UK, Honeywell was the category leader with the Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic Earmuff, which was also the #8 bestselling BISS item of the year. Both of these items were also top sellers in France (#1 and #7 respectively).

This category is particularly successful on Amazon because of its broad appeal. All the top items, including earplugs, safety goggles and first aid kits, are items used in both professional and personal settings. On the consumer side, this category is driven by the DIY trend, as many of the bestsellers are important accessories for anyone working with power tools. As craftsmanship-based hobbies grow in popularity among ecommerce shoppers, Amazon is establishing itself as a key sales channel for the emerging “pro-sumer” market.

Business, Industrial and Scientific Supplies in Europe: The Amazon Effect


Food Service

In the UK, Food Service is very rapidly expanding. After experience negligible sales in 2016, during 2017 it grew enormously to become the 3rd largest BISS category. This sudden growth makes it challenging to predict the future growth trajectory, but it’s entirely possible that Food Service could become the top ranking category in the UK by the end of 2018.

Last year, about 90% of category sales were split evenly between Professional Catering Equipment and Commercial Kitchen Equipment. The former was responsible for the top ranking item, the4X Olympia Milan Chafing Set, while the bestseller in the later was an ice maker from Polar. This growth reveals that many businesses are finding Amazon to be a cost-effective supplier for many of their day-to-day necessities. The Food Service industry is very large industry with a lot of small, independently-run sole proprietorships, and some of these young entrepreneurs view Amazon as a better alternative to traditional restaurant supply chains.

These subcategory growth spurts rarely occur in isolation, so we fully expect that the explosion of Food Service sales on is going to be replicated in the near future across Amazon’s other markets – so brands would be wise to get in on the ground floor now.

Business, Industrial and Scientific Supplies in Europe: The Amazon Effect


Professional Medical

The #2 category in the UK and #6 in both France and Germany, Professional Medical is one of the most stable BISS categories across all markets, due in part to the presence of well-established brands such as 3M and Philips. The growth is driven by Medical Supplies, with many of the leading products appealing to both consumers and professionals. For example, the #3 item in the UK is the Philips HeartStart HS1 Semi-Automatic Defibrillator, marketed as a “Home Defibrillator” that consumers may purchase for self-care and peace of mind in case of emergency.

Overall, this category is driven by consumables, such as Clinell Universal Wipes (#1) and St. John Ambulance Vinyl Gloves (#9). Consumable BISS products are proving very successful on Amazon. Unlike some specialized business needs – such as delicate scientific instruments or maintenance parts which need to be delivered immediately to keep a company’s doors open – consumables can be easily be stocked up on ahead of time, making Amazon is the perfect retailer for thing like gloves and hand towels because of their low prices and free shipping.

Business customers are rapidly discovering Amazon to be a reliable and cost-effective alternative to traditional suppliers, and as more professional buyers start buying day-to-day items from Amazon, they’ll follow suit with more of their purchasing. At the same time, consumers are more educated and selective than ever and prefer professional-quality products when possible. Brands that can appeal to both professional and personal buyers are well placed to find success in Amazon’s emerging BISS category.


One Click Retail is the industry’s most accurate source of sales data for the world’s top eCommerce marketplaces. Using a combination of website indexing, machine learning and proprietary software, OCR estimates weekly online sales figures with market leading accuracy in order to deliver the best insights, analytics and strategies to their brand manufacturer clients. To catch a glimpse of how OCR gives brands critical edge on online platforms with our unique data and expertise, subscribe to our weekly eCommerce insights blog, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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