Grocery Retailing in Western Europe

June 2021

While Western European store-based retailing was badly hit by Coronavirus (COVID-19) in 2020, grocery retailers, which remained open throughout lockdowns, experienced a spike in sales due to the pandemic. Supermarkets, in particular, benefited from a consumer preference for one-stop shopping, minimising time spent outside the home and the number of locations visited. However, after the boost to sales in 2020, grocery retailing will generally see stagnating sales over the forecast period.

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This report comes in PPT.

Key findings

Slow growth over the historic period

Grocery retailing was posting very modest growth rates in the years immediately prior to 2020, with price competition hitting players’ margins and increasing levels of maturity being seen in many of the channels. Sales in two of the biggest markets – France and the UK – were actually stagnating in 2018 and 2019, with growth proving hard to come by. Hypermarkets were struggling in France, widely associated with wanton indulgent consumerism and seen as part of an identikit, cookie-cutter retail infrastructure. Furthermore, bulk shopping is less important for the increasing numbers of single-person and two-person households.

COVID-19 boosts 2020 sales

Unlike the rest of store-based retailing, grocery retailers benefited from the pandemic during 2020. Performances improved in all but forecourt retailers, which was hit by the restrictions placed on mobility and travel as well as people working from home. Otherwise, with consumers needing to prepare more meals at home during lockdowns, due to foodservice establishments being closed and work-from-home mandates, grocery retailing sales went up, particularly in supermarkets, convenience stores and discounters.

Back to slow annual growth over the forecast period

Following the unexpected strong growth in 2020, there will be a dip in sales in grocery retailing in 2021. This will then be followed by very modest annual growth rates in real value terms over the rest of the forecast period. Price competition will remain a factor in suppressing value growth, with discounters continuing to expand and supermarkets/hypermarkets looking to hit back via, among other things, lowering their prices. E-commerce and click-and-collect services will continue to grow in popularity, while sales of organic products should also be a key growth area for grocery retailers in 2020-2025.

Key findings
Western European growth driven by COVID-19 in 2020
Stagnating sales expected for Western Europe in the forecast period
Modern grocery retailers fare better than traditional outlets in 2020
Only the forecourt retailers channel struggles during the pandemic
Grocery retailers add new sales of almost USD100 billion in 2015-2020
COVID-19 provides a boost to grocery retailing sales in 2020
Top five generally account for at least half of retail sales
Schwarz Beteiligungs and Aldi Group continue to expand
France, UK and Germany the major revenue generators
Edeka and Rewe move up the rankings in 2020
Declining sales expected in 2021 after the highs reached during 2020…
…with modest growth then predicted for the rest of the forecast period
Austria: Market Context
Austria: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Belgium: Market Context
Belgium: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Denmark: Market Context
Denmark: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Finland: Market Context
Finland: Competitive and Retail Landscape
France: Market Context
France: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Germany: Market Context
Germany: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Greece: Market Context
Greece: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Ireland: Market Context
Ireland: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Italy: Market Context
Italy: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Netherlands: Market Context
Netherlands: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Norway: Market Context
Norway: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Portugal: Market Context
Portugal: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Spain: Market Context
Spain: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Sweden: Market Context
Sweden: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Switzerland: Market Context
Switzerland: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Turkey: Market Context
Turkey: Competitive and Retail Landscape
UK: Market Context
UK: Competitive and Retail Landscape


Retail is the sale of new and used goods to consumers from a business for personal or household consumption from retail outlets, kiosks, market stalls, vending, direct selling and e-commerce. Retail is the aggregation of Retail Offline and Retail E-Commerce. Excludes specialist retailers of motor vehicles, motorcycles, vehicle parts. Also excludes fuel sales, foodservice sales, rental transactions, and wholesale sales (e.g. Cash and Carry). Sales value excluding or including VAT/Sales Tax. Retail also excludes the informal retail sector. Informal retailing is retail trade which is not declared to the tax authorities. Informal retailing encompasses (a) sales generated by unregistered and unlicensed retailers, i.e. retailers operating illegally, and (b) any proportion of sales generated by a registered and licensed retailer that is not declared to the tax authorities. Unregistered and unlicensed retailers operate predominantly (although not exclusively) as street hawkers or operate open market stalls, as these channels are harder for the authorities to monitor than permanent outlets. Activities in the illegal market, which is usually understood to refer to trade in illegal, counterfeit or stolen merchandise, are included within our definition of informal retailing. Activities in the “grey market”, which is usually understood to refer to trade in legal merchandise that is sold through unauthorized channels – for example cigarettes bought legally in another country, legally imported, but sold at lower prices than in authorized channels – will be included as informal retailing if no tax is paid on sale by the retailer. However if the retailer pays tax – for example on cigarettes bought legally in another country but sold at a lower price than standard – the sale is included within formal retail.

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