Retail and wholesale plays an essential role in the lives of everyone and the European economy. Over a billion times a day, it provides an essential service and serves as the link between manufacturers and 450 million consumers across Europe. It is a dynamic, highly competitive and customer-focused sector.

  • It is the largest private-sector employer in Europe: 26 million Europeans work in retail and wholesale – 1 in 7 of the working population.
  • It generates 10% of the EU’s GDP. One in three European companies is in retail and wholesale.
  • Over 99% of the 5 million retail and wholesale companiesin Europe are SMEs (small & medium-sized enterprises).
  • It supports millions of jobs in its supply chains, ranging from small suppliers to major international companies. It is a lynchpin of local communities, playing a key role in the life and attractiveness of cities, smaller towns and villages

The sector is changing significantly in response to new consumer behaviour, technological developments, competitive pressure, as well the need to address the sustainability imperative, It also being proactive in attracting new talents to support the sector transformation. Change is affecting both large players and the millions of very small companies active in retail and wholesale. Low margins in our sector means that investing for the long term is more difficult than in other sectors.


Retail is the sale of goods to the public in relatively small quantities for final use or consumption to end consumers rather than for resale.

Retail is a highly competitive and dynamic sector, always adapting to new consumer behaviour, mega trends and technology. Through many store formats and channels, including online and omnichannel sales, retailers operate with multiple business models such as large integrated chains of listed or private companies, groups of small independent retailers or franchisees, and consumer cooperatives.

The word retail comes from the old French word “tailler” which means “to cut off, clip, pare, divide”. Retailers usually buy their products in larger quantities from manufacturers or wholesalers and sell them in smaller quantities to their customers.


Wholesale, the sale of merchandise to retailers or other professional businesses, is a major player in the economy. It plays a pivotal role as an interface between producers, importers, manufacturers, craft, retail and catering, ensuring the supply of goods along the entire value chain. Wholesalers provide integrated services to their business customers on national and international markets, as well as attractive financing solutions. The sector is rapidly changing with the emergence of digital players and the need to address the sustainability imperative.

Wholesalers’ activities centre on the procurement and distribution of raw materials, intermediary and finished products in all sectors of the economy (consumer goods, electrical equipment, healthcare, construction materials, spare parts). For some products, for example, foodstuffs or flowers, wholesalers and their customers come together at specific wholesale markets.


A few facts on Retail in Europe

3.5 million companies
employs 20 million people
1/5 of European GDP



A few facts on Wholesale in Europe

1,5 million companies
5% of EU employment
660 billion euros value-added


To find out more about our sector today, read now the publications below: