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Facts & figures

Facts & figures

One company out of four in Europe is active in the retail and wholesale sector. Retail and wholesale is one of the main job providers in the EU. Our sector thrives on fierce competition, keeping prices low and boosting innovation in the supply chain.

See below for some key data, or have a look at our study, "Retail & Wholesale: Key sectors for the European economy".


Key figures for trade


Structural profile
Number of entrerprises 5.4 m
Turnover in EUR 8.85 tn*
Number of employees 29.2 m*
Value added in EUR* 1.1 tn
E-commerce share of turnover 16%** (aggregated)


Companies by size-class in 1000
Micro (<10 employees) 5063 93.4%
Small 294 5.5%
Medium 37 0.7%
Large 7 0.1%
Total 5401 100.0%

Source: Eurostat 2014 (*2015)


(NACE G 47)

Retail is probably the most visible sub-sector. The word retail comes from the old French word "tailer" which means "to cut off, clip, pare, divide". It refers to the sale of goods or services from companies to individual end-consumers. Retailers usually buy their products in larger quantities from manufacturers or wholesalers and sell them in smaller quantities to their customers.

Retail trading takes place in many different locations: from small corner shops to supermarkets or large department stores or shopping centres, on markets, at consumers’ homes through direct or distant selling via mail order or, now increasingly, on the internet.

Sectoral analysis
Number of enterprises 3.62 m
Turnover in EUR  2.916 tn*
Number of persons employed  18,8 m*
Value added in EUR*  480 bn
Labour productivity  26.000 EUR/employee
Personnel costs  20.800 EUR/employee

Source: Eurostat 2014 (*2015)


(NACE G 46)

Wholesale, the sale of merchandise to retailers or other professional businesses, is a major player in the economy, though still unknown to many. It plays a pivotal role as interface between producers, importers, manufacturers, retail and catering, ensuring the supply of goods along the entire value chain.

Wholesalers’ activities centre on the procurement and distribution of raw materials, finished products and goods of all kinds (consumer goods, capital goods, construction materials). For some products, for example foodstuffs or flowers, wholesalers and their customers come together at specific wholesale markets. Many wholesalers provide integrated B2B services on national and international markets, as well as attractive financing solutions, thus providing additional support to their customers.

Sectoral analysis
Number of enterprises 1.8 m
Turnover in EUR 5.938 tn*
Number of persons employed  10.4 m*
Value added in EUR*  616 bn
Labour productivity  60.000 EUR/employee
Personnel costs  39.300 EUR/employee

Source: Eurostat 2014 (*2015)


The retail & wholesale business model

Retail and wholesale is a very complex business, often relying on global supply chains and requiring sophisticated transport and logistics solutions.

Trading goods is about much more than just purchasing goods from manufacturers, putting them on shelves and selling them to customers. Retailers and wholesalers offer a wide range of additional services for their suppliers which are essential parts of their contracts. Here are a few examples:

  • Product marketing via print media
  • Promotional campaigns in the markets
  • Multiple in-store placement of products
  • Market research
  • Logistics and warehousing
  • Handling of returned goods
  • Local, regional and international listing and distribution of products


Further information

Key data (2-pager)

Study: Retail & Wholesale: Key sectors for the European economy