Tunisia flag Tunisia: Buying and Selling

The distribution network in Tunisia

Evolution of the Sector
The Tunisian retail sector has enjoyed steady growth of over 10% in recent years, a trend expected to continue. Modern retail food sales reached around USD 2 billion in 2020. Modern distribution accounts for a fifith of total retail sales (USDA).

Although the traditional distribution network, based on over 250,000 neighbourhood grocery shops scattered throughout the country, continues to dominate the Tunisian market, modern distribution channels have been growing rapidly in the last decade, also thanks to joint ventures with foreign investors (mostly French). Recent years have seen expansion in the numbers of hypermarkets and supermarkets in the country as well as the opening of new shopping centres, with the number of large surface outlets increasing from 200 in 2010 to 655 in 2020 (USDA). However, especially in the centre of the country and outside urban areas, modern retail distribution is not well developed, thus grocery shops remain the backbone of Tunisia’s food retailing, together with the local out-door markets known as "souks".

Tunisian law does not allow wholesale or retail marketing by foreign businesses, as the local government restricts domestic market distribution to Tunisian nationals. Every joint venture with a foreign investor is considered an exception subject to a license dependent on the advantages of the project to the Tunisian economy. This process allowed the opening of several hyper/supermarkets, set up under joint ventures, with France's Carrefour and Casino groups (Géant and Monoprix). Legislation designed to protect smaller businesses from such competition limits the number of hypermarkets authorised in a specific area.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, malls and hypermarkets were temporarily closed, thus the modern retail sector lost market share to boutique retail and mom-and-pop grocery stores.
Finally, while also still quite low, e-commerce has experienced steady growth in recent years, fostered by widening access to banking services and the internet.

Market share
While there has been a gradual rise in the number of retail properties in greater Tunis, the sector itself remains concentrated in terms of activity, with the market divided between three primary operators. The main players in the Tunisian modern grocery retail sector in 2021 were:

-    Ulysse Hyper Distribution remains the leader in modern grocery retailers in value terms via its three chains: Carrefour Market (supermarkets), Carrefour Express (superettes) and Carrefour (hypermarkets), for a total of 94 outlets
-    Groupe Mabrouk, operating two brands of French origin: Monoprix in supermarkets (with 87 outlets) and Géant in hypermarkets (3 outlets in Tunis, Azur City and Bourgo Mall)
-    Groupe Magasin Général with Mg Maxi, with around 4,000 employees and more than 90 outlets. Established in 1920, Magasin Général is the longest standing operator in the retail sector.

Retail Sector Organisations
Ministry of Trade (in French)

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Latest Update: November 2022

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