Retail is a strong sector for Wales. The 2011 Wales top 50 Companies list boast four retailers, compared to only two in the FTSE top 50. Plus the women’s fashion retailer Peacocks has its history and head office in Wales.

Frozen food giant

By far the biggest Welsh retailer is Iceland Food Group. Based on Deeside since 1980, the frozen food retailer has gone from strength to strength since being taken back into private ownership in 2005. Iceland Food Group now has 750 stores throughout the UK, sales of £2.5 billion and was the Sunday Times “Best Big Company to Work for in the UK” and “Most Improved Big Company in the UK” 2012.

Spar success story

In the convenience store segment, another private company, Capper and Co, operates 500 stores nationwide, primarily in the M4 corridor and the South East of England, under the Spar brand. Like the Iceland Group, Capper and Co puts a huge premium on its “putting people first” philosophy.

Building retail dominance

In “heavier” retail segments too, Wales is stronger than the UK average. Huws Gray of Llangefni is now the largest independent builders merchant in the British North West, dominating the markets in Greater Manchester and Merseyside from its base on Anglesey.

Furnishing investment

While in Q1 2012, home and furniture retailer Leeke’s outperformed the same period last year by 10%, even as the UK economy slipped back into recession. The company continues to invest in expansion, with major new stores planned in Coventry, Melksham and Llantrisant during 2012.

With retail traditionally a sector that leads economies out of recession, the unusual strength and resilience of the major Welsh retailers is not just attractive in itself, but bodes well for the whole economy.