II. Project Results

The results of the report „Social Supermarkets in Europe – Investigations from a retailing perspective in selected European countries” (Holweg & Lienbacher, 2016) show that SSMs have achieved a remarkable size within the European retail sector with a total of about 1,000 SSMs investigated across the six countries. Following the first SSMs which were established in the late 1980s in France, Switzerland and Belgium, SSMs rapidly expanded within these countries and were followed by the launch of SSMs in Austria, Luxembourg and Romania. The strongest increase of new store openings took place in the years 2006-2009 and reflects the impact of the global financial crisis in Europe as well as the increased need of people to get access to affordable food.

An overall comparison of SSMs and their services reveals the existence of two kinds of SSMs: Most SSMs in France, Belgium and Luxembourg provide grocery products and in addition multiple social services. SSMs in Austria, Switzerland and Romania are mainly dedicated to more traditional retailing activities and focus their offer on grocery products (Holweg & Lienbacher, 2016).

The key objectives of SSMs – which vary across SSMs in their priority – can be summarized as i) support and social integration of people living in financially restricted conditions, ii) the prevention of food waste and iii) the re-integration of (long-term) unemployed people. SSMs thereby address three highly political, social and commercial issues in Europe: Poverty, food waste and (long-term) unemployment (European Commission 2015; Eurostat 2015a; Eurostat 2015b).

The investigations also revealed the dynamic nature of the SSM sector: As new stores were opening, some others had to close. The authors also discovered the existence of stores using the description of a SSM but operating under a different concept. An example are for instance the so called “Socijalni Supermarketi” in Croatia (Marić, Knežević, and Dzambo 2015). This report will therefore offer a first overview of SSMs in the before mentioned countries but cannot claim to provide a fully representative picture of SSMs in the whole of Europe.


The report „Social Supermarkets in Europe – Investigations from a retailing perspective in selected European countries (2016)” is available as hard-copy (110 pages) at the cost of €49.90 under handel.marketing@wu.ac.at.

© Holweg & Lienbacher, 2019