Date:24 July 2012
Britain’s retailers well placed to share their expertise with international marketsWith the UK’s online retail market forecast to increase by 13 per cent in 2012, John Andrews, Managing Director of IMRG, outlines why Britain’s retailers are well placed to share their expertise with international markets as the sector continues to grow from strength to strength.
As the countdown to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games gathers pace and the world’s leading athletes get ready to perform in front of billions around the world, this is undoubtedly an exciting time for showcasing the cream of sporting talent and a significant opportunity to promote one of the world’s most innovative industries – the UK retail sector.
Britain is already a global leader in the online retail market, with 30 per cent of all cross-border trade in Europe going through UK retailers. Our research shows that there were 228,000 British online retail businesses in 2011 - that’s an estimated 30 per cent more than the year before. And growth is set to continue, with the number expected to double to 1.5 million by 2015.
Britain’s burgeoning online retail sector will be one of the main topics to be discussed at the British Business Embassy at Lancaster House - the centrepiece of UK Trade & Investment’s (UKTI) international business legacy programme during the London 2012 Games. UKTI, the Government department that supports overseas companies to set up and invest in the UK, has developed an unprecedented series of dynamic international business summits, bringing together some 3,000 UK and overseas businesses to meet, debate and do business.
The British Business Embassy’s Retail, Food and Drink day (9 August), will see government ministers and some of the world’s leading CEOs from the retail and supply chain sector come together and represents the join-up and collaboration between government and industry.
Britain’s unique capabilities across the retail sector will be showcased to specialists from around the world, along with keynote speeches and seminars. It’s a place to do business, network, and build lasting relationships.
Stephen Robertson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium, Tim Cofer, President of Kraft Foods Europe, Marc Bolland, CEO of Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Paul Walsh, CEO of Diageo PLC, will be among those joining me on the day to share ideas, skills and expertise with international market counterparts.
For international firms looking to invest in the UK, there is good reason to do business here. UK retail is one of the world’s most competitive and innovative industries. The sector currently employs around 3 million people, representing the highest proportion of UK private sector employment – 10.5% of the total UK workforce. Significantly, some 450,000 shops in the UK are owned by 300,000 enterprises, accounting for more than a third of consumer spending. Additionally, UK retail sales totalled £303bn in 2011, equivalent to around 20 per cent of UK GDP.
Indeed, the UK’s reputation as a place to do business - London was once again voted Best Business City in Europe in 2011 by global property consultant Cushman & Wakefield - will be further bolstered as the Olympic Park, with its increased transport links and connectivity to central London, continues to generate a plethora of investment opportunities.
Certainly, businesses will benefit from the post-event profile environment by locating near the Olympic and Paralympic Games - a prime example being Westfield Stratford City.
Located adjacent to the Olympic Park, Westfield is the largest urban shopping centre in Europe. The £1.45bn development is home to around 300 shops and 70 food and beverage offerings as well as 1.1 million sq ft of office space, three hotels and a residential area?.
The UK has already attracted hundreds of global brands to set up flagship stores in Britain - drawing in both domestic and overseas visitors to key retail locations. The value of overseas shoppers in London alone is around £2bn annually, with many diverse brands from Harrods to Tesco and Burberry to Next .
London boasts some of the world’s most famous department stores; Harrods, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols, as well as speciality stores such as Fortnum & Mason, Hotel Chocolat, Hamleys and T.M. Lewin.
The UK is at the cutting edge of international fashion, renowned for its trendsetting, inventiveness and creativity. Many of the world’s key fashion trends, past and present, stem from the UK. Leading names include Ozwald Boateng, Julien Macdonald, Stella McCartney and Paul Smith.
And it’s not only online retail where the UK is leading the way. UK companies like M&S are well placed to share expertise with international counterparts on issues such as sustainability. M&S’ five year £200m eco-plan to make it carbon neutral, for example, has already seen it cut waste by 35 per cent, with all waste recycled and going to anaerobic digesters.
These pivotal weeks leading up to the Games offer a unique opportunity to showcase Britain at its very best - as a key provider of sporting occasions and world leader in online retail. The event is a unique forum to spearhead global growth, partnership opportunities and present the UK as the place to invest and do business. And by sharing best practice with other countries, together we can rise to global challenges such as health and wellbeing and help ensure that the role of innovation and technology meets the demands of the global consumer in the most sustainable way.