Alliance Boots executive chairman Stefano Pessina praised the UK retail sector’s unique openness to innovation in a presentation at the Government’s Business Summit for Retail, Food and Drink at Lancaster House today.

The Italian part-owner of Aliiance Boots said: “I’m absolutely convinced that I would never have been able to achieve what I have achieved in any other country in Europe. No other country [in Europe] is as open to innovation and I’m sure that appetite for innovation will continue.”

Business secretary Vince Cable also spoke at the event. He called the retail industry “extremely important” to the UK economy and praised its leadership in ecommerce.

Cable said the Summit was an “excellent way to showcase what we do well in Britain”.

He said: “We regard this country as open for business.”

Retailers including M&S and Asos were also speaking at the event, designed to present the best of British industry to international businesses over the Olympics. Retail Week revealed in June that the retail summit was being planned.

Marks & Spencer director of Plan A, CSR and sustainability Richard Gillies was speaking on sustainability and insisted there is a business case for it.

He said the UK retailer sector has shown “leadership” in sustainability. “Vigorous competition has driven us to build more efficient businesses,” he said.

Westfield managing director Michael Gutman was also speaking at the event. He identified London and the UK as key to the Australian property developer’s expansion. It has opened two giant shopping centres in the last four years in London, in White City and Stratford City, located adjacent to the Olympic Stadium.

Gutman said described footfall in Stratford City as “sensational” throughout the Games. He said it had seen three times as many people as normal come through its doors, and he expects 6 million visitors.