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US hardest place to set up shop: UK retailers

By Margaret Canning

Nearly half of British retailers say the USA is the toughest market to crack, states new research.

Barclays Bank asked retailers about their plans to expand online, open stores or embark on joint ventures.

They found that the US is the number one destination – but it is also the most challenging market to break into, with 46% of retailers surveyed having problems setting up in the US, despite the common values ostensibly shared by the US and the UK.

Around one-third of those quizzed for the research said they experienced troubles establishing themselves in China, while 19% had difficulties accessing the wider Asian market.

Graeme MacLaughlin, relationship director of Barclays Northern Ireland, said: "On the surface the USA would appear to be an easy market in which to secure a foothold but its sheer scale means achieving commercial success across the whole country is an incredible feat. As for China, nothing is impossible but everything is difficult."

UK retailers who have successfully brought their business to the US include Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green, whose flagship Topshop in New York opened to a frenzy from shoppers in 2009.

Retail spending in overseas markets is expected to significantly outstrip that of the UK over the next few years.

While retail spend in the UK is expected to increase by 11.5% to £345.6bn by 2016, Chinese spend is forecast to grow by 85% to £3.6trn by 2016.

Africa was viewed as "one of the final frontiers" in retail.

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