It appears that Australia is at the back of the pack when it comes as an option for international retailers to expand their store networks and in adopting online e-store capabilities, a survey says.

The 2011 edition of ‘How Global is the Business of Retail?’ by CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) global store footprint of 323 of the world’s top retailers across 73 countries to identify trends in global retail expansion at national and local levels.

The report found that while times remain difficult for retailers, international expansion remains a key strategy globally with 40 per cent of new openings occurring outside the retailer’s home region.

However, despite the publicity around high profile new entrants such as Zara and Gap, Australia ranked a 31st out of the 73 countries, attracting just 26 per cent of all retailers.  This is down two spots in the rankings from the same survey completed in 2009.

New Zealand maintained its 54the place ranking, with 15 per cent of international retailers having a presence across the Tasman.

Sydney and Melbourne was rated equal ninth in the rankings of cities with the highest US retailer presence.

“New state-of-the-art shopping centres such as Myer Emporium in Melbourne and Westfield in Sydney have created additional opportunity for international retailers to enter the market,” Joshua Loudoun, CBRE regional director, retail services, said.

“These new developments expand the opportunity for new leases to high profile international brands,”

But, Melbourne out-ranked Sydney as the Australian city with the highest presence of global retailers. 

Loudoun said many international retailers that surveyed opportunities in Sydney found the market as too expensive, with comparative retail space in Melbourne generally available with occupancy costs up to 20 per cent lower.

“Occupancy costs in Australia are generally high by global standards and this has been a barrier for some retailers when looking at the return on investment they can achieve here relative to other markets,” he said.

The CBRE report also showed that 82 per cent of the retailers surveyed have an online catalogue that can be browsed.

But only 75 per cent of the global retailers located in Australia have a website where their catalogue can be browsed in comparison to global standards with 90 per cent of global retailers in the UK having such a facility.

Loudoun said the overriding message from the survey was that – rather than being viewed as a threat to bricks and mortar retail – online was a way for global retailers to initially enter a market at low cost to test consumer reaction to products.

“This multi-channel approach to retailing is definitely the way forward,” he said.

“Historically most retailers would have opened a physical store first with the online operation set up to later to help maximise sales. However, an increasing number of retailers are now using their online operation to enter and test new markets before committing to a physical store presence.”