Since 1963

Who we are

Independent Retail Europe is the European association that acts as an umbrella organisation for groups of independent retailers in the food and non-food sectors. Our members are groups of independent retailers and associations representing groups of independent retailers, which are cooperative/associative purchasing entities of independent SME retail entrepreneurs that provide a purchasing and support service to their member retailers whilst fully respecting the independent character of each individual retailer.

Members of a group can assist each other, engage in joint purchases of goods and services to achieve economies of scale, and steer the management of the group in a cooperative manner. This way, individual retail entrepreneurs are able to grow their businesses and compete with large integrated chains and franchise structures on the market. The consumer is the ultimate beneficiary as this widens consumer choice, leading to lower prices. Independent retailers’ stores are characterised by their “local touch” and their chosen product assortment that enables them to directly respond to the specific needs of their local consumers, e.g. by integrating regional products into their range.

Independent Retail Europe represents


independent retailers

with a combined retail turnover of more than 1.385 billion euros and more than 737.000 points of sale.


groups and associations
of groups in Europe

employing over 6,39 million people and generating a combined wholesale turnover of more than 604 billion euros

This makes Independent Retail Europe an influential, experienced and respected voice in EU policy development in the heart of Europe.

Independent Retail Europe is the oldest multisector retail association in Brussels. The association was founded under its original name UGAL (Union des Groupements d’Achat de l’Alimentation) in 1963 as an association of buying groups for food products. In 1987, UGAL reformed to include also buying groups from the non-food sectors. In 2002, UGAL was further developed into “UGAL - Union of Groups of independent Retailers of Europe” which gave the organisation its current membership structure. While our core values have remained the same since, 16 October 2013 marked another turning point in our association’s history when we rebranded to Independent Retail Europe.

What we do

A large part of our work is sectoral interest representation or ‘advocacy’. Advocacy constitutes a central element of EU policy making. It refers to the way in which many interest groups interact directly with policy makers in order to ensure that legislation is efficient and effective, workable for the economic sectors, and does not impede their competitiveness or development by imposing unnecessary burdens on the them. Because of the structure of our members, our work focuses on group as well as SME issues, as the groups can only function well when their retailers can function well.

Since the EU wants to ensure that its policies and legislation do not curb the competitiveness of businesses or of the European economy as a whole, sectoral advocacy is an officially recognised and indispensable element of transparent, efficient and good policy-making at EU level.

The EU legislative process is different from any national legislative process. The EU is a one of a kind entity with its own institutional structure. Three EU Institutions are mainly involved in the legislative process: The Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. Legislation is drafted by the EU civil servants of the European Commission and amended and finally agreed jointly by the European Parliament (directly elected by the European citizens) and the Council of the EU. The latter is composed of the relevant ministers of the Member States, this means that the Council changes configuration according to the subjects to be discussed and agreed: the national Ministers for Environment sit on the Environment Council, the Ministers for Economy and Industry on the Competitiveness Council and so on. Although you may have heard national governments blame the EU for ‘bad’ legislation, actually elected European Parliamentarians and national ministers have the final say on EU legislation!

We offer our members the opportunity to directly contribute to EU policy-making in ways that benefit their business model. Our team continuously supplies our members with the latest political intelligence on relevant regulatory developments at the EU level and analyses of and opinions on complex EU legislation. We engage directly with the EU institutions to promote the business model of our members and to ensure that their competitiveness is not jeopardised by EU policy and legislation.

We facilitate networking with peers and policy-makers from across Europe. We also frequently organise meetings in Brussels for our members, in a group or individually, to meet relevant decision-makers.

Finally, we increase awareness of our groups and the important role they play in the market by frequently participating in and speaking at events on subjects of concern to our members.