As of 1999, there were about 23,128 wholesale and retail companies registered in Armenia, accounting for over 54% of the total registered businesses. The main retail center is in Yerevan. A majority of retail establishments are small food and specialty item shops. Many of these work with wholesalers and sell items on a consignment basis. There are also large open markets in Yerevan and other cities offering a wide variety of food, clothing, housewares, and electronics.
Beginning in 1996, the government launched a major privatization drive. By 1999, over 80% of small businesses and over 60% of medium and large corporations were in private hands. Nearly all farmland is privately owned. Seasonal open-air food markets are also popular. Some of these markets still engage in bartering.