The Services Sector
In 1991 wholesale and retail trade accounted for about 12 percent of GDP and provided employment for 435,000 persons, or 14.5 percent of the work force. Even in the early 1990s, retail trade was dominated by small shops, largely because of the many small towns and communities outside Vienna. In all, there were about 17,000 wholesale concerns throughout Austria and about 33,000 retail concerns.
Despite the very large number of small firms in the sector, several retail and wholesale firms are among the twenty largest Austrian companies. Two of these are the grocery store chains Billa and Spar Österreich. Another is Metro SB-Grosshandel, a wholesaler.
The country's largest retailer is the cooperative Konsum Österreich (KÖ), formed in 1978 from a number of smaller cooperative retailers. The company is the latest stage in the Austrian cooperative movement that dates from the mid-1800s. In addition to having hundreds of stores throughout Austria, some of them quite large and selling many varieties of goods, KÖ is involved in manufacturing some of the products it sells. By the late 1980s, the company employed about 20,000 persons, and more than 800,000 families were KÖ members. They received dividends each year and voted on KÖ's overall policies. In addition to KÖ, there are many other cooperatives involved in wholesale trade and in purchasing and marketing. In all, Austrians can shop at more than 1,000 cooperative retail stores.
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