Employment in the commerce sector in Barcelona reaches pre-crisis levels

12/12/2018 - 11:08 h

Commerce Report for the fourth quarter of 2017. The number of people working in the commerce sector in Barcelona has once again reached the levels seen before the economic crisis.

The number of people working in the commerce sector in Barcelona has once again reached the levels seen before the economic crisis, according to figures from the Commerce Report for the fourth quarter of 2017. The results mark the start of a recovery following some years during which the crisis had a particularly serious impact on the local retail sector.

Consequently, the number of people employed in retail has risen by 1.6% to a total of 80,031 people registered in the Social Security system, while in the commerce sector as a whole the figure has grown by 2.1% to 126,180. All together, including the self-employed, commerce accounts for 14.4% of all jobs in the city, with a total of 151,368 people employed in this sector.

In terms of the future, the opinion expressed from within the sector is positive. 38.5% of the establishment managers interviewed believe that their business volume will increase in the coming years, while 32.7% believe it will remain the same and 15.8% think it will decrease.

Turnover in the commerce sector in Barcelona has also increased. The closing figures for 2017 show that retail sector turnover was up 1.5% on 2016 figures and for the commerce sector as a whole it grew 2.6%.


Alongside the recovery in the local retail sector, the use of e-commerce in the city is also on the up. 69% of Barcelona residents say that they have purchased online at some time. The figures for 2017 show a notable increase of 8.7% compared to figures for the December of the previous year.

The generational differences shown in the figures reveal much higher usage among younger people, where the figure stands at 89.9%, leading us to predict that online shopping will become a universal practice over the coming years. In fact, although the percentage for habitual online shopping is still low at around 7%, this figure rises with every survey while the percentage for occasional online shopping goes down.


The number of shops with a website had not yet reached 50% at the end of 2017. Only 42.2% of shops then had one and of these only 44.6% allowed consumers to buy online. Although there is still a long way to go, as indicated by the digital maturity index, between 2016 and 2018, a decisive process was set in motion whereby shops increasingly began to incorporate new technologies and services.

The digital maturity index for commerce stands at 30.43 points, which means that the city’s commerce only has a basic-level digital presence on the internet. The desirable level would be an average of over 70 points, a level that would indicate that commerce has largely undergone its digital transformation (it has an active presence on the internet, it communicates with its users and clients via social networks and it has started to make its first online sales).

The Government Measure on the Digitisation of Commerce, presented in 2018, and the advice and subsidy initiatives to help local establishments become digitised have been implemented within this framework.

The figures also reflect the fact that small businesses have greater difficulty becoming digitised and gain fewer benefits from digitisation. A greater proportion of large businesses sell products via e-commerce and they generate a higher percentage of online business.

Purchases made by non-EU tourists

One special section shows the figures obtained from tax-free data for purchases made by tourists from outside the European Union. Barcelona is a commercial city that combines large shopping hubs with local retail trade. This is one of the city’s attractions for visitors.

Tourism not only provides customers for the different types of retail establishments, but it also acts as a sounding board and a source of word-of-mouth publicity around the world, especially in terms of the information visitors share on social networks.

It is in relation to this line of action that Turisme de Barcelona has signed an agreement with Premier Tax Free to manage the service in the tourist office in Plaça de Catalunya from September 2017, which comes in addition to the service already up and running in Passatge de la Concepció.

With the slogan “Barcelona has it all”, Turisme de Barcelona has launched a campaign through the local markets to boost Barcelona’s image as a Christmas and shopping destination. The campaign has been carried out in the United Kingdom, Germany and France, the target audience for capturing quality visitors with high purchasing power.