Wholesale and retail trade is almost entirely in state and cooperative hands. In 1946, private trade accounted for 96.5% of total business volume. By 1960, private merchants had been entirely eliminated, and 78.8% of trade was conducted by the state, 20.4% by cooperatives, and 0.8% by farmers' markets. In 2000, 90% of the economy was in the State's hands.
Wholesale distribution is administered by the state ministries and enterprises, under the general jurisdiction of the Ministry of Material Supply. Most retail shops are run by the People's Service Committee, established in 1972. There are several state-run department stores in P'yongyang, and there is at least one in each provincial capital. All-purpose stores, cooperatives, factory outlets, and special stores for the military and for railroad workers also play an important part in retailing.
Normal business hours are from 9 AM to 12 noon and 1 to 6 PM , Monday–Friday. Saturday is a "study" day.
Since the mid-1990s, the domestic economy has remained stifled as the government refuses to give up state control of industry. Though agriculture accounted for 30% of the GDP and 36% of the workforce in 2001, there were frequent food shortages. Improvements in industry and infrastructure have been slow, as the government continued to dedicate a large portion of funds to military, rather than social or domestic, concerns. With the decay of the formal economy, black market activity has rapidly grown throughout the country, with the underground economy replacing formal domestic trade throughout much of the DPRK.