Retail and wholesale services account for 11.1% of the EU's GDP and provide around 33 million jobs (almost 15% of total employment in the EU). In retail alone, there are about 3.6 million active companies representing 4.5% of value added and accounting for almost 9% of EU jobs. They 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.
In April 2018, the Commission published the 'Guide for revitalising and modernising the small retail sector'. The guide identifies positive examples throughout the EU of strategies to attract people, and small and large retailers back to city centres. These can serve as inspiration to authorities pursuing their urban development objectives.
The retail sector is undergoing a dramatic transformation due to the rapid development of e-commerce. However, in many EU countries the regulatory framework was put in place decades ago and has not been adapted to the digital age. In the 2015 Single Market Strategy the Commission announced it would look at restrictions in the retail sector and identify best practices for facilitating retail establishment and reducing operational restrictions. With this set of best practices, adopted on 19 April 2018, the EU provides guidance for EU countries’ efforts to create a more open, integrated and competitive retail market.
The Commission has also developed and published in the Communication the 'Retail Restrictiveness Indicator' (RRI) to provide a useful snapshot of the state of play in EU countries. The indicator is a dynamic monitoring tool to measure authorities' efforts to reduce retail restrictions in EU countries, and the impact of such reforms on market performance. A statistical assessment of the indicator's framework has been carried out by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) Competence Centre on Composite Indicators and Scoreboards (COIN).
The Commission followed up the Communication with a high-level conference, 'a European retail sector fit for the 21st century' on 19 June 2018, and is organising 4 workshops in 2019 in Brussels, Madrid, Vienna and Bucharest to promote the 'Guide for revitalising and modernising the small retail sector' (see below).
A series of external analyses contracted by the Commission provided information on retail in EU countries.
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:
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.
To improve the position of small and medium sized businesses and farmers in the food supply chain, on 12 April 2018 the Commission proposed new legislation on UTPs.
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:
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:
For more information:
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.
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.