The UK has retained its position as the most attractive market for international retailers to expand into as the growth in retail expansion has slowed amid the economic crisis.

The How Global is the Business of Retail? report by property agent CB Richard Ellis found that the UK attracted the most interactional retailers in 2009, with 58% of brands surveyed present here. The United Arab Emirates came second with 54%.

The US was the third most attractive market for retailers , followed by France, China, Spain, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong.

London was the most attractive city, with 56% of retailers having stores there. Dubai is “closing in” on London with 55%. Paris, New York and Hong Kong followed.

The overall growth of international expansion slowed significantly from 12% in 2008 to 4% in 2009, as the global recession stalled retailers’ store opening programmes.

CBRE’s head of cross border retail EMEA Peter Gold said:  “In spite of the tough time in 2009, the rate of global expansion continues to increase albeit at a lesser rate in recent years.”

Gold said the UK hung on to the top spot because its economic rebound had “been more positive than people expected”. He added: “The UK delivers some of the highest sales per sq ft, and is still perceived as being one of the most important markets to be in.”

He said the general slowdown was “expected” as the franchise model – a “key method by which brands move from one market to the next” – was “tested” in 2009. He added that the UAE had risen up the ranks due to its “great franchise operators” and its “huge development pipeline”. The Dubai Mall opened at the end of 2008 comprising more than 1,000 shops.

Gold said that while the “development pipeline that had been envisaged for 2011-2013 has been curtailed” he still expects the international expansion rate to continue to increase.

He predicted Italy, Brazil and India will creep up the league table in the coming years.

The report surveyed 294 retailers across 69 countries.