Business Secretary Vince Cable highlighted the significant potential of online and international growth to the retail sector today as he called retail a “bellwether” of the economy.

Cable said: “We recognise how important retail is to the UK economy. The retail sector is like a bellwether of the economy as a whole.”

But the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that although the Government recognises the difficulties facing the high street – particularly with the “anxiety” around business rates – online was crucial to retail’s growth.

“There are two very different industries in retail. I often hear a tale of woe on the high street. But the more positive has been with online, which is growing very rapidly at 13% on an annualised basis. And my job is reconciling the two.”

Cable said international is growing “very quickly” and will grow to £28bn by 2020.  

He said retail’s international growth fits within the Government’s industrial strategy.

“We’re trying to build in long-term perspectives and have long-term relationships [within retail],” he added.

He said that the Government wants to help the sector think more strategically by breaking into international markets.

It comes a year after Cable announced measures to help 1,000 retailers grow overseas and boost their omnichannel offers.

He said in the past year the Government and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) helped 700 retailers including Ted Baker internationally, while it has helped children’s suitcase retailer Trunki market the firm in almost 100 countries. UKTI also helped Smiggle and J Crew launch their first stores in the UK.

Cable added that the next big area the Government is looking into is a single digital market in Europe, allowing businesses to trade across countries more easily.

But he said that the outlook for retail is brighter. “On the domestic sector were now beginning to get a recovery. The doom and gloom is beginning to dissipate we are now seeing real growth, he said. “The projections are that retail sales overall are likely to be something of the order of 3-4% a year for coming yeas. Of course, that depends on taxation but there is now significant growth taking place over the next few years.

“We do recognise the unpopularity around the business rates system and the need for something more substantial than temporary relief so the treasury are consulting on how we adapt the system.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable

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