Retail services

Retail services

Retail and wholesale services are key for the EU economy. They account for 11.1% of the EU's GDP and provide around 33 million jobs (almost 15% of total employment in the EU). Over 6 million companies in the retail sector act as intermediaries between thousands of product suppliers and millions of consumers. E-commerce has increased the potential market for retailers and the scope of products available to consumers. The European Commission aims to ensure that EU wholesalers, retailers and consumers enjoy an integrated retail market.

European Retail Action Plan

The European Retail Action Plan addresses the key obstacles to the smooth functioning of the EU retail sector. Adopted in January 2013, the Plan identifies actions to realise the single market in retail, to enhance the sector's performance and to ensure it fully contributes to the Europe 2020 strategy.

For more information on the European Retail Action Plan:

High Level Group on Retail Competitiveness

The Commission set up a High Level Group on Retail Competitiveness to advise it on retail policy. The summary reports of the meetings can be accessed on the High Level Group's page. In July 2015, the Group published its recommendations.

Additional information

Unfair trading practices (UTPs)

Commission report on unfair trading practices in the food supply chain

The Commission adopted on 29 January 2016 a Report to the European Parliament and the Council on unfair business-to-business trading practices in the food supply chain. The report is a follow-up to the Communication of July 2014 (see below). It has two main elements:

  • an assessment of the existing regulatory frameworks tackling UTPs in Member States
  • an assessment of the voluntary Supply Chain Initiative, identifying concrete areas for potential improvement.

Communication on unfair trading practices in the business-to-business food supply chain

To improve the protection of small food producers and retailers against the potentially unfair practices of their sometimes much stronger trading partners, the Commission adopted a Communication in July 2014. The main pillars of the Communication are:

  1. Support of voluntary initiatives such as the Supply Chain Initiative
  2. EU-wide standards for good practice principles
  3. Effective enforcement at national level

For more information:

Green Paper on unfair trading practices (UTPs) in Europe

The Communication on UTPs was preceded by a Green Paper. A public consultation on the Green Paper was open from January 2013 to April 2013. It aimed to identify the main problems and to propose next steps in addressing UTPs.

Establishment of Retail Outlets

Restrictions on the establishment of retail outlets are a serious obstacle to a more competitive retail sector. Selecting the right location for retail development and the timely start of operations are decisive for business success. This also depends on the existence of retail establishment regulatory frameworks which do not inappropriately restrict the opening of retail outlets. EU countries may apply restrictions on retail establishment (relating to the location and size of retail outlets for example) to protect the environment, to protect consumers, or for town and country planning purposes. Such restrictions need to be appropriate and proportionate to the objectives pursued.

In 2014 and 2015, EU countries and the Commission discussed national retail establishment frameworks to identify best practices in retail establishment ('peer review'). In the context of this discussion, the European Commission hosted two workshops to allow stakeholders to express their views and discuss the issue:

In parallel, the law firm Holland van Giizen Advocaten (HvG) carried out a legal study on retail establishment through the 28 Member States.

Feasibility study on setting up a database containing EU and national food labelling rules

This study presents a detailed analysis on the overall feasibility of a database containing all EU and domestic food labelling rules. It analyses how the establishment of a database could help stakeholders and lists the opportunities, costs and benefits that its creation may provide.

Supporting documents