Shopping and Retail in the UK

Whether you look at world class shopping destinations like Oxford Street or the influence of London Fashion week, the United Kingdom's position as a leading shopping and retail market is undeniable. In addition to France, Japan and the United States, the UK among the leading fashion and retail markets in the world. The United Kingdom is in fact one of the largest retail destinations in the world, placing second globally. There is also more global retail brands listed on the London Stock Exchange than any other exchange in the world. This position as a leading shopping destination and market has helped make the retail sector one of the most important segments of the UK economy.

The retail sector contributes approximately five per cent to the UK's gross domestic product (GDP) according to the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). There are a number of reasons that make the UK an attractive destination for retailers, including the sheer size of the market with 60 million consumers making some 320 million transactions each and every week according to the British Retail Council (BRC). The UK also has a world class logistics and infrastructure network to support the retail sector, including meeting the distribution and warehousing needs of retailers. Universities and centres of excellence also provide research, training and talent for players in the retail sector. The UK is also the home of a well-established e-commerce market, with consumers spending more online per head than anywhere else in the world. In 2013, consumers in the UK spent about £91 billion online. This figure is predicted to grow by 17 percent year on year according to research by IMRG Cap-Gemini.

The retail sector is supported by thousands of shopping destinations in city centres, leisure parks and convenience hubs across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are more than 17,000 shopping locations in the UK, according to UKTI. This includes more than 460 shopping centres that attract millions of shoppers each year. Major shopping centres include Trafford Centre in Manchester and Westfield Stratford City and Westfield London in the capital. Other top shopping destinations include the MetroCentre in Gateshead, Liverpool One, St. David's in Cardiff, and the Bullring in Birmingham. Some of the most popular and profitable city centre shopping destinations include London's Oxford Street, which is Europe's longest shopping street and boasts revenue of approximately £1.4 billion per year according to UKTI. Despite the proliferation of shopping centres and the growth of online shopping, high streets across the UK still generate over 40 per cent of total retail expenditure according to UKTI. The UK also hosts some of the world's most famous fashion events, such as London Fashion Week.

With a strong retail sector and world famous shopping destinations, it is little wonder that a significant number of workers in the UK are employed in the sector. The retail sector is the UK's largest private sector employer. It employs approximately three million people, according to the BRC. Many retail workers are part-time, and a majority of these works enjoy the flexibility that retail employment opportunities provide. The UK's labour productivity in the retail continues to grow, and at a significantly higher rate than elsewhere in Europe. For example, the sector rose by over 40 per cent between 1995 and 2007 according to the BRC. This compares to growth of less than 10 percent in France and Germany.

In addition to being the home of outlets for leading international fashion brands and retailers, the UK has also produced some of the world's most recognisable labels including Burberry, Paul Smith and Ted Baker. It is also home to major retailers such as Next, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, and others. Whether you look at visitor statistics at top shopping centres in London and Manchester or the size of the retail workforce, the UK's retail sector is a significant economic driver.