Retail and wholesale services are highly important to the EU economy. 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, which is also competitive and innovative.
Territorial supply constraints in the EU
In November 2020 we published the results of a study on territorial supply constraints (TSCs) in EU retail. The conclusions of the December 2020 workshop we held on possible ways forward are available.
Revitalising retail guide and workshops
The 'Revitalising retail guide' can inspire initiatives to support SME retailers. You can also read more about the Revitalising Retail 2020 workshops, their conclusions and some stakeholder views.
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 organised 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 Commission has engaged in discussions with the stakeholders directly concerned, including retailers, retail associations, representatives of civil society and EU countries. In addition to the public consultation on retail regulations in a multi-channel environment that ran in 2017, the Commission organised workshops on retail establishment restrictions in July and December 2014 and on operational restrictions in July 2016 and May 2017. EU countries were also consulted through meetings of the Services Directive Expert Group.
As the number of vacant shops is growing, keeping city centres vibrant is a legitimate concern for national, regional or local authorities. In it's 2018 'Guide for revitalising and modernising the small retail sector' the Commission identifies positive examples throughout the EU of strategies going beyond retail 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 publication of this guide is the result of a 2017 study that looked at developing solutions and producing a practical guide for local authorities.
In October 2020, the Commission hosted two virtual workshops that examined what needs to be addressed for the the retail sector (and in particular small retailers), what may have been learned during the COVID-19 crisis, and what is needed in the short and long term to recover and build resilience. Read more about the Revitalising Retail 2020 workshops, their conclusions and some stakeholder views.
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.
This 2014 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.