W&R in South Africa is regarded as a growth sector of the economy and a major employer. Statistically, it is a sector which is more volatile with respect to cyclical changes and global economic conditions than many other sectors. It is the fourth largest contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with a contribution of around 13.3% and employs around 19% of the total active workforce of the country.
Recent trends indicate that employment within the Wholesale and Retail Sector, as a percentage of the total workforce, has been decreasing - from a high of 27% in 2001 to 22% in 2010.
The highest densities of enterprises are found in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. Collectively, these provinces make up 70% of the workforce of the sector. About 86% of the sector is made up of small enterprises, 9.5% medium and 4.5% large enterprises.
South Africa has moved increasingly towards mall-based retailing. The amount of retail space in malls has grown faster than the number of retail stores to a point that malls can no longer guarantee that they will attract the major anchor tenants.