The UK is no longer the destination of choice for retailers looking to break into new markets in Europe, according to research from Cushman & Wakefield Healey & Baker.
Germany - with a population of 83 million making it Europe's biggest market - is now the main focus for international expansion. According to C&W/H&B, there are almost 190 cross-border retailers expected to enter the German market for the first time over the next five years, against 150 targeting the UK.
Yet, historically, the UK has been the most fertile ground for international retailers, with 517 international brands trading, against 372 in Germany.
Spain has also overtaken the UK, with 163 new fascias expected to move into the market over the coming five years.
If the Irish referendum on EU expansion does clear the way for new member countries from Central and Eastern Europe, it could have a far-reaching impact on the European retail map. Retailers are already queuing up to enter the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, while those already there are looking to grow further. Initially, retailers focus on the capital cities, but now they are starting to look at secondary cities, and Poland alone has six regional cities with more than 400,000 inhabitants - Lodz, Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Gdansk and Szczecin.
Claire Barber, associate in Cushman & Wakefield Healey & Baker's European Research Group, said: 'For many retailers looking to expand outside their home markets, Central Europe is the focus. They are attracted by economic stability, consumers with more money, and new shopping centres.'