Oxford study highlights the critical role of wholesale and retail in European economy

The wholesale and retail industries are more likely to engage in open, collaborative innovation than many other business sectors across Europe, according to a lengthy new study of both sectors from Oxford University’s Institute of Retail Management.

The report highlights that one in four businesses in the EU is a retail or wholesale operation contributing around one tenth of the EU’s GDP and have a diversity and multiplicity of formats ranging from global leaders to very small businesses. “This plurality of stores and channels responds to the wide diversity of consumer and customer preferences across Europe,” the report states.

Across Europe both retail and wholesale employ 29m people or one in seven of working Europeans. Adds the study: “In a climate of high unemployment, especially among young people (one in four retail employees is aged 15 to 24), both large and small retail and wholesale businesses offer young people a wide range of jobs to fit all skills and education.”

It also cites innovative technology systems, the development of successful private label brands, new processes and technologies related to more efficient supply chain management, product tracking and tracing, pricing devices on shelves and electronic e-commerce is central to the success of both industries.

It adds that the digital economy is also a major driving force of transformation for the sectors: “Digitalisation brings opportunities and challenges for greater efficiency, new business models and trading formats and creating new jobs with new skill requirements. Customers can take advantage of this transformation by seeing more competitive prices, greater convenience and new opportunities for cross-border purchasing.”

The full Oxford study can be downloaded via:


*The report was carried out by the Institute of Retail Management (director: Prof J. Reynolds) of the Saïd Business School of Oxford University; it was supported by a research grant from EuroCommerce, the European Retail Round Table, and Independent Retail Europe

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