EuroCommerce, which represents the retail and wholesale sector in Europe, has called on the European Commission to use both its 'energy toolbox' and state aid rules to provide support for businesses facing skyrocketing energy costs.
The group has urged policy makers to classify the retail and wholesale sector as 'high energy', thereby enabling them to access state aid support.
It added that the sector currently operates on the basis of high turnover and low margins, making individual firms 'particularly vulnerable' given continued energy price rises.
'If left to weather this storm without help, these costs will feed through to customers already struggling with energy price rises and inflation across the board,' EuroCommerce said.
As well as calling for access to support measures, in the short term EuroCommerce has urged both EU and national policy makers to reduce taxes on energy products; alter current energy price mechanisms to contain the level of those prices; suspend planned tax or new limits to CO2 emissions to avoid further pressure on energy prices; and reduce and eliminate additional levies and taxes on energy, for the duration of the current inflationary period.
Beyond that, in the medium term, it has called for greater support for investment aimed at reducing energy use in the sector, such as improving the energy efficiency of buildings, as well as supporting investment in accelerating the sector's use of and contribution to the production of alternative sustainable fuels, such as solar panels.
'Retail and wholesale are an essential eco-system serving consumers and supporting many other sectors and the wider economy,' EuroCommerce said. 'It is the largest European private-sector employer and makes an important contribution to the continued life of local communities. To continue to do so, the sector needs support to invest in the current digital, sustainability and skills transformation and, urgently today, in the energy transition.'