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Evolution of the Sector
With more than 83 million inhabitants, the German market is the largest in European Union with one of the highest income in the world. According to the latest data available provided by Destatis, household final consumption expenditure per inhabitant in Germany was a nominal (not price adjusted) 30% above the average of the European Union Member States in 2018.

In the first half of 2020, Germany recorded an increase in online and mail order sales, a clear result of the corona crisis, whilst at the same time the pandemic further aggravated the economic situation of traditional department stores. On the basis of provisional data, the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) reports that the department stores’ turnover in real terms was down by 2.4% in August 2020 compared to the previous year.

The German retail food market is characterized by consolidation, market saturation, strong competition and low prices, although there has also been a consumer preference towards smaller grocery formats, including convenience stores, small grocery retailers and independents. In this way, all major grocery retailers have been investing in modernizing their existing stores to fit with this new trend. The top five retail groups together (Edeka-Group, Rewe-Group, Schwarz-Group, Aldi-Group, Metro-Group) account for around 72 percent of the revenues.  While Germans are very price sensitive in general, many wealthy consumers are looking for premium quality products and are willing to pay a higher price.

The growth of discount stores is slowing down due to market saturation, while sales in supermarkets are increasing. In 2019 supermarkets recorded the best performance in terms of revenue growth among all retail channels. This underlines the growing trend towards small, quick but high-quality grocery shopping in the cities. Thus, the rise of smaller grocery formats has hampered growth of hypermarket sales. Although, hypermarkets are still widespread amongst consumers in rural or suburban areas due to their convenience and attractive prices. Online grocery shopping is still a niche market in Germany, but it really picked up when Amazon Fresh started in Berlin and Munich in 2017.

Market share
According to Euromonitor, the German distribution structure is characterised by:

  • the high level of consolidation of the market
  • the large number of small independent shops
  • the sector's low level of concentration (as compared with the main European markets such as France, the United Kingdom and Belgium)
  • the predominance of distribution in city centers and urban areas
  • small number of "hypermarket" style stores, mainly in the suburban and rural areas

According to the German Retail Business Federation, discount stores recorded the highest net turnover, 74.5 billion euros. Supermarkets recorded 51.2 billion euros, followed by department stores with 18.5 billion euros and hypermarkets with 17 billion euros.
According to the US Food Export Association, the five leading German distribution groups are Edeka, Rewe, Schwarz Group, Aldi and Metro, which together held 72% of value sales in 2018 (latest data available). The rise of discounters such as Lidl or Aldi has forced distributors to wage a price war. As a result, narrow profit margins may slow down the modernisation of sales outlets and the development of new distribution concepts. Other online food retailers in Germany are Amazon, getnow and Picnic.

Retail Sector Organisations
German Retail Business Federation (German only)
Foreign Trade Association of German Retailers

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Actualitzacions: May 2022

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