E-commerce is a key strategic focus for the Baugur group of companies as it looks to build sales across its portfolio, said executive chairman Jón sgeir Jóhannesson at the World Retail Congress this afternoon.

“We strongly believe that we will see very strong growth in internet sales across our whole group,” he said. “We are spending a lot of time and money on this issue and we are already seeing some of our brands with up to 45 per cent of sales over the internet.”

The panel all insisted that good private equity partnerships, far from stripping out investment, should promote value added activity and said Internet development was a prime example of this.

Henry Jackson, managing partner and chief executive of Merchant Equity Partners, added: “In many sectors, it has become vital to have a strong Internet offer. We are turning our attention to this with MFI – it does not make sense for the UK’s biggest kitchen retailer not to own the online kitchen space.”

Stuart Weitzman, founder of the eponymous shoe company, said: “In the US, no other channel is delivering the sort of sales growth we are seeing across the board with footwear retailing. We are seeing enormous sales growth with regular customers.”

However, Cortefiel CEO Anselm Van Den Auwelant noted: “Our belief is that the internet is the future shop window. It is where people will start their search. But I liken it to sex, nothing can replace the real thing.”