Retail for regeneration: the power of retail to boost economic growth

10 min read

The retail sector is vital for economies across the globe. In the UK, it has accounted for a steadily increasing proportion of total economic output over the last 20 years. Now with around 300,000 businesses within it, the UK’s retail sector accounted for over £94 billion of output and 5.7% of the economy in 2015. It employs close to three million people. As a sector, it is the largest employer of private sector employees in the UK.

Retail is also a fast moving sector. With technological innovation, huge growth in internet sales and rapidly evolving consumer expectations and behaviour, the sector is undergoing significant changes. As a result, the face of high streets, stores and outlets are shifting constantly and with more changes set to come, there are real challenges for the future.

But there are also opportunities. With the growth of the global consumer, new markets to serve and rising middle classes in many East Asian countries, there is a huge opportunity for a thriving retail sector to be the lynchpin of a vibrant and growing economy.

That means that, as the UK takes its first steps into a post EU referendum world, plans for the future of the economy, trade and industrial strategy, it is a sector that cannot be ignored.

The question is how does business keep pace in a fast changing world and how can local and national governments support them to make the most of the opportunities to become world beaters on a global stage? 

With many high streets struggling to retain the traders that are vital to a thriving retail sector, our report argues that government should create ‘retail enterprise zones’ with preferential business rates and planning to help support growth in the sector.

Find out more about our recommendations in the full report.

This report features in our Northern Powerhouse section.

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