Purpose – The research presented here builds a picture of the direction of international expansion and the merging of retail structures. The research aims to consider European cross border expansion by considering the flow of investment as represented by the operation of retail outlets.
Design/methodology/approach – The data used in this research relates to the international activity of retailers in 23 Western European countries. Data were drawn from industry sources which included national and international trade associations, retail company news releases, government departments, trade magazines, and direct contact with individual companies. This data were then used to plot the cross-border operations of European retailers.
Findings – The patterns established from the data set suggest that retail internationalisation within Europe is occurring on a significant scale and that there is an emerging pan-European retail structure. The findings presented here also show that there is strong evidence of intra-regional linkages within Europe. That is there is a particularly strong flow of retail activity between markets that are geographically and culturally proximate.
Originality/value – By looking at retail outlet numbers rather than the number of retail operations or fascias owned by international retailers in different markets, the paper adds a new dimension to understanding the development of pan-European retail structures.