Business secretary Vince Cable outlined the importance of the retail sector this week, stating “retail is critical to the country’s recovery and something I greatly value”.

Speaking at the British Retail Consortium Annual Parliamentary Reception on Tuesday, Cable said retail was “very much at the centre of the UK economy”.

He acknowledged that January’s VAT rise would hurt store groups.

“I put my hands up and acknowledge that it will impact you [retailers],” he said, adding: “It was not very popular but we had to do some taxation, and VAT was the obvious way to do it.”

THE BRC All-Party Parliamentary Retail Group this year comprises more than 40 MPs - a record for the BRC, signifying that retail is creeping back up the political agenda. Its co-chairs are Ann Coffey MP and Jane Ellison MP.

At the event the BRC launched Retail in Society: Britain’s Favourite Job, which promotes the role retailers play in employment.