Adidas changes its online strategy – BVOH initiative makes an impact

Public pressure has moved Germany's largest sporting goods manufacturer to change its contracts with online retailers Europe wide

Berlin, July 2, 2014 – adidas AG will remove restrictive clauses from its contracts with online retailers. The pressure has become too large: More than 14,000 merchants have signed a petition of Initiative Choice in eCommerce, the media has reported extensively, courts throughout Germany prohibited restrictions on competition and the German Federal Cartel Office is carrying out investigations. In a circular to its dealers adidas has recently declared: "As a result of this development and as part of our new strategy, we have therefore decided in the future to allow the sale of our products on the open marketplaces, (...)."

"We welcome this turnaround of the adidas management and are delighted for online traders. adidas is a major manufacturer with great products that many of our members sell on online marketplaces," says Oliver Prothmann, President of the German Federal Association Online-Trade (BVOH). With its strict clauses, adidas was a role model for the entire industry. These clauses banned or restricted the sale of adidas products on marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay or Rakuten. This led to scrutiny by the German Federal Cartel Office in Bonn, whose investigations have not yet concluded.

adidas is back on platforms

Online sports stores were especially hard hit by the restrictions. "For over 20 years we have been a sports retail customer of adidas. With the introduction of its e-commerce guidelines on 1.1.2013, adidas blocked our customer number and created huge economic difficulties for us from month to month," says Werner Treinen CEO of Sports Treinen, one of largest and longest-standing sports stores based in the region of Hunsrück-Mosel, Germany.

Goal not reached: Free competition in online trading

As one of world's leading sporting goods manufacturer, adidas’s turnaround will set an important precedent in the industry and is likely to sway other manufacturers with similar clauses. Oliver Prothmann is positive of this. "But the goal has not been reached, since there are still hundreds of manufacturers which prohibit online sales to specialist dealers. As the German Federal Association Online-Trade we intend to pursue this matter. We will inform our stakeholders and will fight for the rights of online retailers. Whether manufacturer or policy-maker in Europe – we must keep the pressure on," says Oliver Prothmann.

In particular, the BVOH-funded initiative Choice in eCommerce has significantly helped step up the pressure on manufacturers. Intensive discussions at national and EU level have sensitized politicians on this issue and constant media coverage has reached online retailers and the public. In December, more than 14,000 signatures were handed over to Olli Rehn, the EU Commission Chairman in Brussels.

"The decisive factor will be which online strategy adidas now chooses to take. If adidas decides to sell directly through Amazon in the future, this would have the same anti-competitive effect and would exclude individual sport retailers from online business," says Philipp Puttkammer, Intersport dealer and author of a book on Amazon.

"As with adidas, we call on all producers to seek direct contact with us in order to discuss an appropriate strategy for online trading. We, as the Federal Association Online-Trade are able to provide a successful strategy between retailers, manufacturers and marketplaces," says Oliver Prothmann, President of BVOH.

More freedom of competition and unrestricted online trade not only lead to a wider choice, but also more innovation. According to a survey conducted by Choice in eCommerce, ever-increasing sales restrictions in recent years are threatening to push a growing number of online retailers into insolvency.


Restrictions - What is it all about?

2012, the sales of all products and services traded online in Europe amounted to 311.6 billion euros. According to estimates, online trade in Europe accounts for up to two million jobs (Ecommerce Europe Report 2013). Unilateral sale bans by individual manufacturers threaten this success by cutting distributors from this often important sales channel and thus deprive them of the opportunity to use inexpensive and popular online platforms in a competitive market for the benefit of customers. Consumers are thus robbed of access to transparent prices and wider choice from which they benefit in online trading.


About Choice in eCommerce

Choice in eCommerce is an initiative of online retailers founded in April 2013 by Oliver Prothmann and a project of the BVOH. BVOH President Prothmann, founder of the business analysis tools chartixx ( has forged close links to the online trading community for many years, and is an expert in trading on online marketplaces. For two years Prothmann and many members of the merchant community have observed with growing concern the negative effects of platform bans that hit especially small and medium-sized retailers.


About the BVOH

The Federal Association Online-Trade (BVOH) sees itself since 2006 as representatives of entrepreneurs as well as consumers in online retailing. Another important goal of the BVOH is to increase the acceptance and security in online commerce through the introduction of uniform standards.

The BVOH is the strong voice for all parties involved in Internet trading: consumers, entrepreneurs, suppliers, equipment suppliers, platforms and online marketplaces.


Press Contact

Christoph Blase

Bundesverband Onlinehandel e.V. (BVOH) c/o. Publiplikator GmbH

Königstr. 2 | 14163 Berlin

Phone +49 30 200 898-31 | Fax +49 30 200 898-99 | Mobile +49 151-1165 3994