Tesco remains the UK retailer with the highest level of international sales, but British fashion brands and pureplays have made headway.

30 uk retailers overseas

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RankRetailer2016/17 sales (£m)
1 Tesco 11,381
2 Kingfisher 6,247
3 Primark 3,900
4 Dixons Carphone 3,817
5 Burberry 1,835
6 M&S 1,180
7 Asos 1,178
8 Clarks 1,022
9 Mothercare 763
10 JD Sports 723
11 Sports Direct 666
12 The Body Shop 599
13 Debenhams 442
14 The Hut Group 317
15 Ted Baker 305
16 Next 298
17 Arcadia 292
18 Farfetch  272
19 New Look 271
20 Game Digital 232
21 Lush 225
22 Superdry 222
23 Boden 185
24 B&M 178
25 River Island 149
26 WiggleCRC 148
27 Matchesfashion.com 148
28 Boohoo 113
29 All Saints 108
30 WHSmith 108

There has been some movement in the upper echelons of this year’s ranking, which looks at the level of international sales generated by UK-based retailers during the 2016/17 financial year.

Tesco continues to lead comfortably in first place, ahead of Kingfisher, but Dixons Carphone and Primark have traded places.

Meanwhile, Asos gained a spot after its overseas sales surpassed the £1bn mark for the first time and JD Sports entered the top 10 as it expanded into new markets.

Brexit’s silver lining

The weakening of the pound in the wake of the EU referendum has provided a welcome boost for retailers with overseas exposure, as international sales converted into sterling are now worth more.

Tesco, for instance, saw its international sales soar by 9.5% during the period under review – despite having sold its operations in Turkey – while DIY giant Kingfisher, which doesn’t exactly operate in the most dynamic sector, achieved growth of 11.8%.

There were no retailers in the top ten that saw their international business go into reverse, while the average growth of these retailers surpassed the 20% mark – although this figure is skewed somewhat by strong showings at Asos and JD Sports.

British fashion brands travel well

Fashion is one of Britain’s most successful exports and just over half of all retailers in the top 30 operate in this sector. These range from fast fashion all the way up to the luxury end of the market.

Primark leads the way in third place, with its overseas sales boosted by recent moves into Italy and the US. It has clearly struck a winning formula in Europe and it will be interesting to see if it can replicate this success in the US.

Heritage brands and retailers that emphasise their British identity are also continuing to perform well, with the likes of Burberry, Clarks and Ted Baker represented in the top 15.

Strongest growth achieved by pureplayers

The UK has the world’s most developed ecommerce market and it is therefore not surprising to see a sizeable contingent of pureplay businesses that are leveraging their capabilities into international markets.

Among all retailers in the list, the strongest growth was achieved by pureplayers. The Hut Group’s international sales increased by 89.4% year-on-year, while Boohoo achieved growth of 72.5%.

The international success of highest ranked pureplayer Asos is well-documented, but there are now a number of other etailers that also generate higher revenues abroad than they do at home, including The Hut Group and WiggleCRC.

Future prospects

For retailers that failed to crack the top 30, not all is lost.

AO.com will almost certainly make this ranking in future editions as its expansion in mainland Europe continues to gain traction.

Charles Tyrwhitt and Majestic Wine – the latter boosted by Naked Wine – are also ones to watch over the coming years.

However, it remains to be seen whether UK retailers in general will continue to be able to grow at such an accelerated pace once the devaluation of sterling works its way out of the equation.

Retailers will also be keenly monitoring the Brexit negotiations for any signs of increased red tape that could potentially put a dent in their international ambitions.

Methodology

This ranking covers British retailers whose head office – or that of its holding company – is based in the UK. Retailers are ranked by international retail sales generated during the 2016/17 financial year and the list excludes wholesale where possible.

  • Primark, The Body Shop and Boden are Prospect estimates
  • Burberry and Ted Baker are estimates of international retail sales
  • Mothercare shows reported retail value of its international sales
  • Debenhams sales are net and exclude sales through concessions
  • Dixons Carphone includes the Republic of Ireland within its UK segment
  • Arcadia, Game Digital and Lush are 2015/16 results
  • Farfetch shows gross transaction value of sales through the Farfetch website and are 2015/16 results

The analysis was based on data compiled by Retail Week Prospect, an intelligence service offering insight and analysis on the UK’s leading retailers.