Retail & wholesale trade industry fact sheet

This fact sheet provides an overview of the legal, operational and business issues relevant to the retail and wholesale trade industry, which includes businesses that sell or distribute goods such as:

  • electrical and electronic goods
  • floor covering
  • food and grocery
  • fuel
  • furniture and housewares
  • hardware
  • building and garden supplies
  • motor vehicles and parts
  • personal accessories
  • pharmaceutical
  • recreational goods
  • textiles
  • clothing and footwear.

The industry also covers non-store retailing and retail commission-based buying and/or selling.

As well as the information in this factsheet, you should check our general business information for additional regulations and obligations relevant to your business. For further advice and assistance, contact your accountant, solicitor or business advisor.


Industry research is an important part of planning for your business. It may uncover economic and industry trends, establish or improve your business and help you keep pace with your industry.

Key government sources for industry specific statistics on the retail & wholesale trade industry include:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

    ​The Retail topic and Retail industry sections of the ABS website provide retail trade indicators, household retail spending and retail turnover.

Key legislation & initiatives

Legislation often plays a large part in how you run your business, so it’s important to be aware of the laws that apply to your industry. Key legislation that may affect businesses in the retail & wholesale trade industry includes:

Mandatory industry codes & standards

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have recently released the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct. The new voluntary code provides a set of obligations for grocery retailers and wholesalers to abide by when dealing with suppliers.

See fair trading for more on legislation specific to your industry as well as details about product safety, labelling, warranty and refund regulations.

You can have your say on government policy and regulation affecting the future of your industry by registering on the Business consultation website.

Licences & permits

The types of licences and permits your manufacturing business needs will depend on what you produce and the materials or substances used in the production process. Licences and permits specific to the retail and wholesale trade industry are often managed by state and local governments and mainly relate to:

  • erecting/displaying signage
  • playing video/sound recordings
  • preparing and/or selling food
  • selling and distributing alcohol
  • selling tobacco products
  • disposal of waste
  • importing goods
  • zoning permits
  • restricted trading days
  • handling, storage and use of chemicals or dangerous substances.

Search the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) website to find out what licences and permits you need for your industry.

Importing of industrial chemicals or products containing industrial chemicals

If you're importing an industrial chemical or products containing industrial chemicals (e.g. soap, cosmetics, paint, glue, printing ink, and cleaning products), you will need to register your business with the Australian Government's National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) and pay the required registration fees.


If you employ staff, you need to comply with Australia’s national workplace laws and the specific requirements in your industry:

Finance & tax

There are a number of finance and tax measures relevant to the retail & wholesale trade industry, including:

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST)

    It’s important to know your GST obligations to ensure you are selling your products at the correct price and that you’re registered with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to ensure you can claim your GST credits. See the ATO Food industry page for specific details on GST for food retailers.
  • Importing goods

    For retailers importing goods, be aware that GST and duty apply on imports above $1 000. Find out more about importing.
  • Tax concessions

    Smaller retailers may also be eligible for a number of tax concessions. See the Small business entity concessions page on the ATO website for further detail.

To find more finance and tax guidance, take a look at:


There are very few grants available for the retail and wholesale trade industry, unless you are starting a business in a specific regional area or importing goods for re-export. Search Grants & Assistance to find specific grants that may be applicable to your business.

Workplace health & safety (WHS)

​As well as the general occupational health and safety regulations, there are also some state-specific WHS requirements relevant to the retail and wholesale trade industry including:

  • occupational noise management
  • standards for protective clothing and equipment
  • standards for occupational safety signage
  • national standard for manual handling
  • prevention of burns from hot liquids, surfaces or steam
  • prevention and response to workplace bullying
  • prevention of workplace violence (e.g. robbery)
  • electrical safety.

If there is a design or manufacturing fault with a product you are selling, you may need to recall your product.

Need help understanding your WHS obligations? Try these resources:


As well as compulsory insurance such as workers compensation, there are also a number of specific insurance options for businesses in the retail and wholesale trade industry.

Insurance options vary depending on your business type but can include insurance for public liability insurance, equipment & machinery, property & buildings, vehicles and business interruption. 

Find out more about general insurance options for business.

Intellectual Property (IP)

As well as trade marks, there are additional IP rights that may be relevant to the retail industry:

IP Australia is the federal government agency responsible for granting rights in patents, trade marks and designs. Visit the IP Australia website to find out more about your IP options.

Industry training

Industry training can be an important part of your business survival. New retail methods or marketing strategies can often help improve your competitiveness and grow your business. Need some help getting started?

  • Get tips on training yourself and your staff.
  • Search Events to find government events, seminars, training courses and workshops.


While retailers do not generally rely heavily on the environment, they can still have a significant impact. The main environmental concerns that businesses in the retail industry should be aware of include:

  • state based plastic bag ban
  • waste management and reduction
  • environmental labelling for electrical products
  • recycling
  • reporting
  • sustainability.

Go to environmental management for advice on how you can manage your impact on the environment.

Key government organisations & websites

The key federal government agencies and websites relevant to the retail & wholesale trade industry include:

The key state government agencies relevant to the retail & wholesale trade industry include:

Key advisors

Business advisors can be a valuable tool when establishing and developing your business in your industry. Search Advisory Services to find one near you.

Industry groups

You may also wish to consult with an industry association or group for more information and advice on your industry. 

© Commonwealth of Australia 2016. 

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