A newly compiled dataset allows us to trace the history of foreign direct investment in UK retailing since 1850. Our results suggest that the upsurge of cross‐border activity in the 1980s and early 1990s was exceptional in absolute terms. However, when compared to the most likely determinant of entry rates, consumer purchasing power, the recent upturn is best seen as a return, after several decades of relatively low entry rates, to the high level of FDI prevailing in the early twentieth century. Moreover, we conclude that cross‐border retailing will continue to increase, and to do so at a rate close to twice that of the growth in consumer purchasing power.
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