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Assessing the Productivity of the UK Retail Sector

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Several recent comparative studies have shown a labour productivity gap in respect of UK retailing when compared with other countries, notably France and the USA. This article seeks to identify, through an overview of existing data and related research, the extent to which retail productivity in the UK compares to global competitors and attempts to reach a consensus on the factors that determine retail productivity, while highlighting common performance measures for retailers and Government to use in measuring future productivity trends. Methods employed include a review of published studies; interviews with industry participants in the UK and a small number of leading retailers in the USA; and an analysis of a specially created database of the performance of over 200 US, UK and French retail companies. The authors find that it is unwise to draw definitive conclusions from aggregate international economic analyses of the sector; that a wide variety of efficiency indicators are employed by the sector in practice; and that there are significant differences in the structure, operating and regulatory environment for retailing in the UK which impose costs on retailers that are not necessarily incurred in other countries.
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Keywords: Productivity; efficiency; international; labour; regulation; retailing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Templeton College, University of Oxford, UK 2: Volterra Consulting Ltd, London, UK

Publication date: 2005-07-01

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