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Retail services

The retail and wholesale services sectors (also known as distributive trades) employ nearly 33 million people. They contributed €1,160 billion to the EU value added in 2010, which accounts for 11% of EU GDP. A part of distributive trades, the retail sector, is key for the European economy: EU retail services contribute €454 billion to the EU value added, which accounts for 4.3% of total EU value added and employ no less than 18.6 million citizens.

Retail services are a key intermediary service in the modern economy acting as the conduit between thousands of product suppliers and consumers. Most consumers in Europe benefit from the EU integrated retail market by buying goods from other Member States in their local shops.

The retail sector is also one of the biggest users of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and thus a driver of innovation. It has a major role to play in the development of a sustainable economy and also in allowing citizens to face the current economic downturn by giving them easy access to affordable and good quality consumables.

High Level Group on Retail Competitiveness

The High Level Group assists the Commission in developing policies to improve the long-term competitiveness of the EU retail sector. The Members of the High Level Group have been appointed in December 2013.

See the page of the High Level Group for more information, agendas and reports from the meetings.

European Retail Action Plan

Adoption of the European Retail Action Plan – 31.01.2013

On 31 January 2013 the Commission adopted a “Communication setting up a European Retail Action Plan”. This Communication proposes actions to achieve a single market in retail by addressing the key obstacles that hinder the smooth functioning of this sector. It will enhance the economic, environmental and social performance of the retail sector and ensure that it fully contributes to the goals of the Europe 2020 Strategy. As part of this Action Plan, the Commission also adopted a Green Paper on unfair trading practices in the business-to-business food and non-food supply chain in Europe.

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

The study presents a detailed analysis of the overall feasibility of a database containing all Union and domestic labelling rules. The study analyses how the establishment of a database could help stakeholders and lists the opportunities and benefits that its creation may provide.

Establishment of Retail Outlets

The European Retail Action Plan (ERAP) identified restrictions on establishment as an important obstacle to a more competitive retail sector. These restrictions are often introduced or maintained to try to ensure a balanced and sustainable territorial development. However the proportionality and effectiveness of the measures need also to be properly evaluated so as they do not inappropriately restrict retail establishment. As foreseen in the ERAP, the Commission is currently carrying out with the Member States a peer review of the national rules applying to retail establishment in order to identify best practices.

Workshop on the establishment of retail outlets – 3 December 2014

The European Commission asked HVG (Holland Van Gijzen) to carry out a legal study on retail establishment in the 28 Member States. Interim findings of the study were presented to the Services Directive Expert Group in June and to stakeholders at the workshop on 8 July 2014. On 3 December 2014, the European Commission is hosting a workshop on retail establishment. This workshop will draw together Member States and stakeholders.

For registration and more information please contact Registrations are closed.

Agendapdf(70 kB) Choose translations of the previous link 

Workshop – 8 July 2014

The Commission organised a workshop on 8 July to allow stakeholders (retailers, consumers, representative of local governments etc.) to express their views and discuss this key issue.

Unfair trading practices

Communication tackling unfair trading practices (UTPs) in the business-to-business food supply chain

The Communication on unfair trading practices (UTPs) in the food supply chain is addressed to stakeholders and Member States. It acknowledges the potential of voluntary frameworks, in particular the Supply Chain Initiative launched in September 2013, and encourages all market operators to join the initiative and its national platforms. The Communication also encourages Member States to examine whether their current national regulatory frameworks are appropriate to address UTPs and to assess the effectiveness and credibility of their available mechanisms for the enforcement of rules against UTPs.

Study on the legal framework covering business-to-business unfair trading practices in the retail supply chain – 11.07.2014

(The study represents solely the opinion of the authors.)

Green Paper on unfair trading practices in the business-to-business food and non-food supply chain in Europe – 31.01.2013

This Green Paper makes an initial assessment of the problems posed by unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships along the retail supply chain, including the lack of efficient enforcement of existing national rules and the resulting impact on the Single Market. The objective of the Green Paper was to launch a consultation with stakeholders on this analysis and to identify possible next steps in addressing the problem.

Related documents

Workshops: Towards an European Retail Action Plan – February-March 2012

The aim of the workshops was to bring together interested parties to discuss the future of retail services in Europe and the need for a European Retail Action Plan.

European Parliament resolution on a more efficient and fairer retail market – 05.07.2011

Report on the EBTP questionnaire on unfair business to business trading practices – 15.02.2011

Retail Market Monitoring: Report on barriers hampering more efficient and fairer retail services in Europe – 05.07.2010

The report and the accompanying Commission staff working document provide factual and comprehensive analysis of the EU retail sector so as to identify possible market malfunctioning.

A public consultation was also launched following the adoption of this report.

Communication on a better functioning food supply chain in Europe – October 2009

The sharp decline in agricultural commodity prices alongside persistently high consumer food prices has raised concerns on the efficiency of this crucial sector of the European economy. The Communication proposes concrete policy actions at Member States and EU levels to improve the functioning of the food supply chain in Europe.

Communication on Food prices in Europe – 09.12.2008

Between 2007 and summer 2008 the prices of agricultural products such as cereals and milk increased at an exceptionally high speed. This price increase was largely reflected in higher prices for food. As a result the purchasing power of the average European household declined by around 1%, with low income household being hit even harder. In light of this, the European Council asked the European Commission to investigate the causes of this surge in food prices.

In December 2008 the Commission adopted a Communication on Food Prices in Europe.


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