A retail marketer is a non-utility entity that sells electric supply, natural gas supply, and other energy services directly to end-use customers. Retail marketers are active in regions where markets have been deregulated allowing competitive sales of electric or gas supply to end users. They typically are only lightly regulated since it is assumed their services are subject to competition.
Retail marketers purchase wholesale gas or electric supply from producers, generators, or other wholesale market participants and then resell it to end users. Successful marketers add value by saving gas producers, electric generators, and customers the trouble of finding each other by arranging for transmission, storage, and electric ancillary services, and sometimes assuming price or other marketplace risks. Retail marketers may be affiliates of large electric generation or gas production companies whose role is to sell the output of those companies. Or they may be independent and purchase commodity from smaller generators and producers or from the market in general.
Margins in the retail marketing business tend to be small since most customers are focused on low prices. So, retail marketers typically must sell to many customers to gain the scale necessary to keep costs down. Key skills include mass sales, customer service, product development, billing, credit and collections, and brand development. Since retail marketers buy in wholesale markets and sell in retail markets, risk management associated with being both a buyer and seller is also critical.
In various parts of the world, retail marketers are also known as energy service providers or electric service providers (ESPs), alternative retail eectric suppliers (ARES), energy providers, energy-only providers, or retail Eenergy suppliers. In some locations they are called energy services companies (ESCOs), although in many locations this term is reserved for companies that only provide services other than electric or gas supply.