Wholesale in the age of change – where can the EU help? Wholesalers are essential players in the value chain of many sectors. With technological developments, in particular digital, and other external factors, B2B traders and service companies have had to re-examine their role and business models. Digital technology is transforming wholesale as it does other sectors of the economy, and new skills are needed to meet this challenge to contribute to a competitive EU economy.
MEP Brando Benifei, speaking at the 5th annual Wholesale Day organised by EuroCommerce, said: “The European Parliament is committed to boosting the skills required to reply to the needs of a transformed economy through digitisation of the European industries and services sectors. Wholesalers have to take up this challenge of our age and have already proven successfully to do so in many e-commerce B2B activities. Promoting digital skills will help workers and businesses to adapt to new technologies. The EU New Skills Agenda therefore has a digital focus and will help increase the productivity and competitiveness of Europe’s workforce.”
Wholesale in Europe represents almost 2 million companies, EUR 6 trillion in turnover, and 10 million jobs. As the principal EU association for wholesale and retail, EuroCommerce called for policymakers to recognise the contribution of B2B trade to growth, jobs and wealth in Europe, and set policies that help the sector to contribute to the European economy in an efficient and productive way.
Though not always visible to the general public, wholesale is a major job engine at the centre of Europe’s economy. It plays a pivotal role as an interface between producers, importers, manufacturers, retail and service providers. More than 7% of the EU’s non-financial business economy workforce is in the B2B sector. As wholesale offers high-quality skilled jobs, its labour productivity is above average. Most of the jobs in wholesale are generated by SMEs. Companies in many sectors benefit greatly from the know-how and the product diversity offered daily by wholesalers across the EU.
Kenneth Bengtsson, President of EuroCommerce underlined the need for EU policy to support this transformation: “Wholesale is crucial for Europe´s growth and employment. Wholesale companies are at the heart of trade in goods and services worldwide, providing consumers with products from all corners of the world. We need the EU to help in dismantling barriers to market access and to make is easier for wholesalers to import and export goods and services.”
Focusing on the importance of partnerships between wholesalers and schools, Bengtsson added: “We also need stronger partnerships between education providers and wholesale companies to provide the right skills for the sector and to make it easier for young people to make the transition into rewarding careers. The sector is already doing its bit in providing a wide range of apprenticeships including training in skills in designing and using new technology.”