retailing on the web holds ‘keys to our economy’

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Booming internet retailing could be ‘good for business’ across the East Midlands as the region emerges from the recession, business leaders have been told.

The region’s central location in the UK could mean further growth in the East Midlands’ already healthy logistics sector, said regional economist Sadia Sheikh.

The Experian business expert made the claim at a special conference which took place last Wednesday, November 12, to discuss what the future may hold for the economy of the region.

The East Midlands State of the Economy Conference, organised by East Midlands Chamber, saw more than a hundred business bosses from both public and private sectors converge to hear lectures from economists, politicians and captains of industry.

Ms Sheikh said that significantly more warehousing would be needed to accommodate the rapidly-growing internet retail and that the East Midlands was well-placed to prosper from the trend.

The logistics sector could see significant expansion around Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire because of its central location, excellent road links and close proximity to many major British cities, she added.

“You can expect this sector to show more growth and continued improvement and we do see this as a high growth sector for the region,” she said.

The East Midlands also needs to see continued growth in retail and wholesale, professional services, manufacturing and the public sector to fully turn the corner, the conference, held near Nottingham, heard.

“Over the next 12 months, these sectors will decide the growth of the East Midlands region,” the economist said.

And it should be good news for high streets around the East Midlands, with the sector holding its own during the downturn, along with a predicted increase in average household incomes during the next year.

But Ms Sheikh said that growth was not assured within retail, as any rapid rise in interest rates - predicted from February next year - could impact on consumer confidence and have a negative impact on the region’s high streets.

Global economist Rhys Herbert told the delegation that in general terms, the UK was recovering at a similar rate as the United States, but that the state of the European (Euro Zone) economy was still causing concern.

The East Midlands has maintained an average growth with other areas of the UK, but is within the top four English regions if the London economy is taken out of the equation, the conference was told.

East Midlands Chamber president Liz Fothergill said: “In the last year, more private sector jobs were created in the East Midlands than anywhere else in the UK.

“We are the country’s manufacturing spine and fortunate to have such a balanced economy. We need to move forward now from being the trend-setter to becoming the leader.”