retail trade

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Systematic distribution channels

Under retail (in Switzerland , the Netherlands and formerly in Germany: Retail ) are enterprises of trade (sometimes also their trading activity) understood the goods of various manufacturers procure , to a range together and to non-commercial customers , ie consumers or . Ultimate user, sell. In contrast, wholesalers sell to commercial customers, i.e. resellers and so-called bulk buyers ( canteens , canteens and similar). The delimitation criterion is not the quantity of goods sold, but the exclusive or predominant group of customers of the trading company .


The retail trade is the intermediate sales stage between manufacturers, wholesalers and consumers . From the consumer's point of view, it increases the price of goods because it adds its own trading margin to the wholesale price - just like wholesale in relation to the factory price . The retail trade is typically very inventory-intensive , so that high storage risks and capital commitment are associated with it.


Advertising in retail: Addressing specific target groups in front of a butcher shop in Marburg

The retail trade (EH) is extremely diverse, including with regard to

  • Industry sectors
  • range
    • Full-range suppliers carry the full range of an industry.
    • Specialist shops carry a specialized range of products in one branch, usually more deeply sorted than specialty shops .
    • Discount stores usually have a limited range (“fast-moving items”), especially in the grocery store.
    • Concept stores carry the selective range of a few branches, often changing at irregular intervals.
    • Boutiques carry a selective range of fashion items such as clothing, jewelry or the associated accessories.
    • Mono-label stores only sell goods from one brand or manufacturer.
    • Department stores carry an extensive range of goods from a large number of product groups, department stores always also carry groceries.
  • Area intensity or types of operation , especially in the food sector
    • Vending machine sales: Goods are sold via vending machines that take up little space (from 1 m²). This form of distribution is often referred to as " vending " with its English equivalent .
    • Shop zones: shop areas in petrol stations , motorway service stations or other places open to the public where goods are offered to end consumers . These zones are usually less than 100 m².
    • Grocery service shop: A retail outlet specializing in food service with less than 200 m² sales area. This category also includes the well-known " corner shop " and the kiosk .
    • Self-service grocery store: A retail outlet specializing in self-service food with less than 200 m² sales area. This also includes the convenience shop , which is very successful in the USA , Great Britain and Japan and is expected to play a larger role in Germany in the future.
    • Self-service grocery store: Grocery store with 200 m² to 400 m² sales area, which includes a limited range of fresh goods as well as smaller non-food ranges in self-service.
    • Supermarket : Self-service grocery store with a sales area of ​​400 and <1,500 m². In addition to fresh products, it offers a more extensive range of non-food products. Self-service shops and supermarkets carry 7,000 to 11,000 items.
    • Consumer market : self-service retail business with sales areas between 1,500 m² and <5,000 m², predominantly food supply and a share of often over 25% in non-food items.
    • Hypermarket : Large-scale retail business with a sales area of ​​more than 5,000 m².
  • Place of trade
  • Number of business premises
    • One-company company
    • Multi-company (branch company)
  • Location and neighborhood / accumulation of other types of retail trade:
  • Special case direct sales :
    • Direct sales represent a special form of sales of goods to consumers and / or end users, without counting as retail. Some trading functions and the distribution of goods are taken over by the manufacturer himself. There are a variety of manifestations within direct sales, such as e-commerce , door-to-door sales, factory outlets , direct sales for agricultural products, etc.

Economic function

In economic terms, the retail trade is a market mediator between manufacturer and consumer . One speaks of trading as an intermediary . What is particularly important here is its range function , i.e. the pre-selection that it makes from an overall range of goods of one type. This makes it easier for the consumer to keep track of the market . The product range is based primarily on the (presumed) needs of the target group of customers.


Occasionally, the competition between suppliers for the favor of the customer leads to the displacement of non-competitive competitors ( predatory competition ). This can lead to a concentration on a few providers who have a dominant market position ( oligopoly ). In extreme cases, on the supplier side, there is only one supplier left who can thus dictate the prices ( monopoly ). The consequence of such a development is usually a higher price level , which burdens the end consumer, but gives the market-dominating providers higher profits. In the retail sector, for example, branch companies with individual branches can acquire quasi-monopoly positions, which, however, due to competition from other forms of business and supraregional competitors (mail order business, online trading), practically do not allow monopoly pricing, as assumed by the monopoly theory.

The retail sector tries to gain competitive advantages, for example, by lowering the price of goods, by organizing a safe, comfortable, clean and trouble-free point of sale for the customer, by granting credit or by offering additional services and entertainment. Modern retail management also has a wide range of psychotactic and strategic retail marketing tools at its disposal .

For a number of years it has been observed that end consumers, on the one hand, increasingly prefer "aggressively priced" discounters and, on the other hand, those retailers that enable additional benefits through entertainment, experiences and a special ambience, for example urban entertainment centers . This trend is described as polarization of retail or as a “loss of the middle”.

Some retail companies, which were previously assigned to stationary retail based on their business model , are trying to combine the advantages of traditional retail and electronic retailing through a multichannel strategy in order to consolidate their position on the market.

According to Wal-Mart , American agricultural products travel an average of 2,400 kilometers on their way from the field to retail.

These and other tendencies can have problematic effects in terms of urban development , employment policy and spatial planning :

  • The relocation of large-scale retail operations from the grown and planned centers to peripheral areas, which as retail locations usually cause lower economic costs, threatens to desert the centers.
  • Due to the ever advancing market penetration of individual branches by branch operations and retail chains with their largely uniform structural design, the shopping streets of the centers are becoming more and more interchangeable and are losing their individuality .
  • Employment in retail has been declining for years, as large-scale types of businesses require fewer staff per sales area.

Digitization of retail

The use of modern IT and the increasing networking in the Internet lead to far-reaching upheavals in business and everyday life. Retail is an industry where this is particularly evident. Today, consumers don't just buy stationary or online, but order cooking boxes, subscription boxes, have intelligent household appliances such as washing machines, refrigerators, water filters or rubbish bins and differentiate between necessary purchases, which can also be automated, and adventure shopping. The digitization of their business opens up new sales opportunities and markets for retailers. Networking has already changed consumer behavior in the long term. Retailers have the opportunity to meet these new demands and wishes of their target groups with innovative offers and solutions. New technologies such as smart data, artificial intelligence , robotics , smarthome , mobile payment options, 3-D printing , virtual reality , drones and many more are playing an increasingly important role and should be incorporated into modern trading processes.

Cross-industry thinking and new strategies that integrate logistics, production, telecommunications and services form the basis of successful business models.

Control in Germany

Since the 1960s and increasingly since the 1970s, there have been efforts in Germany in the area of building law and regional planning law to prevent or attenuate the effects that are problematic in terms of urban development and spatial planning. Most federal states have explained the main features of the legal regulations and recommendations in so-called retail decrees.

On the basis of building law and regional planning law, many municipalities and regions endeavor to define in so-called retail concepts according to which aspects which retail operations are to be planned and located at which locations.

The diverse efforts of urban planning and spatial planning control of the retail trade in Germany have not been very successful in many places.

In May 2018, German retailers posted the largest drop in sales in seven years.



The German retail trade is represented by the German Retail Association - The Retail Trade (HDE). The Austrian retail trade is represented by the trade association - Association of Austrian Trading Companies .

Digital association

The Bitkom eV is the digital association in Germany. Founded in 1999, the association now represents more than 2,600 companies in the digital economy, including a good 1,000 medium-sized companies, over 500 startups and almost all global players.

Purchasing association

Purchasing associations or groups are particularly widespread in retail. A purchasing community is a form of cooperation and thus a voluntary association of companies for the purpose of increasing their profitability . By bundling demand, for example in the procurement of merchandise , the individual companies receive improved conditions.

In addition to central purchasing for member companies, other central corporate areas such as marketing, human resources, financing and the legal area are addressed.

Retail sales and wage developments

Real retail sales in Germany 1970–2011
Real net wages and salaries in Germany 1970–2011

The economic variables “retail sales” and “ real wages ” correlate closely with one another. The table compares the real , inflation-adjusted retail sales in Germany in index points (2005 = 100) since 1989 (excluding trade in motor vehicles) with the real average net wages and salaries per month and employee in Germany since 1989.

year Real
(2005 = 100)
Real net wages & salaries
-wages per month
and Employees
in euros
1989 93.7 - 1412 -
1990 100.6 7.4 1472 4.2
1991 104.8 4.2 1478 0.4
1992 104.1 −0.7 1538 4.0
1993 101.7 −2.3 1552 0.9
1994 100.7 −1.0 1516 −2.3
1995 101.7 1.0 1502 −0.9
1996 101.0 −0.7 1508 0.4
1997 99.0 −2.0 1470 −2.5
1998 99.6 0.6 1475 0.4
1999 99.4 −0.2 1495 1.3
2000 100.3 0.9 1520 1.7
2001 100.5 0.2 1540 1.3
2002 97.9 −2.6 1542 0.1
2003 96.9 −1.0 1521 −1.3
2004 98.8 2.0 1535 0.9
2005 100.0 1.2 1513 −1.4
2006 100.3 0.3 1495 −1.2
2007 99.1 −1.2 1489 −0.4
2008 99.1 0.0 1483 −0.4
2009 95.9 −3.2 1475 −0.5
2010 97.3 1.5 1499 1.6
2011 98.4 1.1 1502 0.2

World's largest retail company

  1. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , USA: 476.294
  2. Costco Wholesale Corporation , USA: 105,156
  3. Carrefour SA , France: 98,688
  4. Schwarz Unternehmens Treuhand KG , Germany: 98,662
  5. Tesco PLC , United Kingdom: 98,631
  6. The Kroger Co. , USA: 98,375
  7. former Metro Group , Germany: 86,393
  8. Aldi Purchasing GmbH & Co. oHG , Germany: 81.090
  9. The Home Depot, Inc. , USA: 78,812
  10. Target Corporation , USA: 72,596

(2013 sales in million US dollars; source and notes: Deloitte report "Global Powers of Retailing")

Literature selection

  • Bruno Tietz: The future in retail , Deutscher Fachverlag, Frankfurt 1994
  • Lothar Müller-Hagedorn: The trade , Kohlhammer-Verlag, Stuttgart 1998
  • Kirsch, Johannes / Klein, Martina / Lehndorff, Steffen / Voss-Dahm, Dorothea: “May it be a little less?” Working hours and conditions of employment in the food retail sector. A European comparison , Berlin: edition sigma, 1999
  • Jungwirth Georg: Business loyalty in retail. Determinants - explanatory approaches - measurement concepts , Deutscher Universitätsverlag, 1997
  • Foscht Thomas, Jungwirth Georg, Schnedlitz Peter: Future prospects for retail management , German specialist publisher, 2000
  • Zentes, Joachim (2006): Handbook Retail: Strategies - Perspectives - International Competition . Gabler, Wiesbaden, ISBN 3-409-14298-3
  • Klaus Barth: Business Administration in Commerce , Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden 2007
  • Hans-Otto Schenk: Psychology in Commerce , 2nd edition, Oldenbourg, Munich / Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58379-3 .
  • Dorothea Voss-Dahm: On the stability of social inequality in the company: Sales work in retail , Edition sigma, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-89404-565-4 (also dissertation at the University of Duisburg-Essen ).

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Retail  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Purchasing on site, Süddeutsche Zeitung, July 2, 2008, p. 23
  2. ^ Julia Miosga: Digital trade. June 29, 2018, accessed January 21, 2019 .
  3. The retail sector is on the decline , WirtschaftsWoche, June 29, 2018. 
  4. Real retail sales in Germany , Deutsche Bundesbank
  5. Real net wages and salaries in Germany , Federal Statistical Office
  6. Top 10 Global Retailers . Press release Deloitte Germany, September 26, 2014