UK retailers keen on MidEast for expansion

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Two thirds of British retailers (66 percent) expect their overseas sales to increase over the next five years and rank the Middle East fifth highest as their preferred future destination, according to new research from Barclays.

The UAE (7.7 percent) and Egypt (2.6 percent) were listed as the most popular countries within the MENA region.

Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of retailers said Germany was their number one choice for overseas expansion in the next five years, closely followed by China and Australia.

The MENA region matched the USA's ranking as a key market for expansion, Barclays said.

The results support recent announcements by Asda and Tesco which are stepping up expansion plans for their affordable fashion lines in the Middle East, in addition to WH Smith, which has announced expansion plans across the GCC.

Rezwan Mirza, head of corporate coverage, UAE and GCC, at Barclays said: "Given the current success of large local and international retailers who have penetrated the MENA markets across the luxury fashion, and food and beverage categories, more global players, and specifically British retailers, are paying closer attention to the opportunities the region offers."

The research said more than two thirds (68 percent) of British retailers currently generate at least some of their sales from outside the UK, but the percentage of sales made abroad remains relatively small.

It added that as trading conditions in the UK continue to be tough, the number of retailers looking overseas for growth is on the rise.

More than four percent of retailers mentioned that the UAE already ranked in their top three overseas markets, in terms of sales growth.

In the MENA region, a number of established British retail brands such as Debenhams, Waitrose and M&Co have already made their presence felt with prime locations in prominent cities across the Middle East, and further plans to expand across the region.

The countries least likely to see increasing numbers of British names on their high streets are Portugal, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Latvia.

Asked about the general prospects of the British high street and consumer spending, retailers said they believed it will take at least another two years before a sustained recovery in consumer spending in the UK would be seen.

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