A new report published today by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shows a "digital divide" exists in the UK retail sector, with small businesses generally lagging behind their larger counterparts in their take up and use of e-commerce.

The report, 'E-Commerce Impact Study: Retail Overview', shows more than three quarters of retailers are adopting e-business technologies, and that larger companies are examples of global leaders in the application of e-commerce.

However, the research commissioned by the DTI and carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers also reveals that nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of retailers surveyed, and more than half (56 per cent) of micro firms have not thought about the benefits that e-commerce has to offer.

The report established that 77 per cent of companies are adopting e-commerce technologies; 71 per cent of businesses use external e-mail; and 53 per cent of firms have a website.

Business-to-business relations have also been improved, and this has been particularly successful in the management of the supply chain. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and web based technologies have created more opportunities for collaborative forecasting, planning and replenishment, and operational efficiencies that has enabled products to get to market faster and led to cost savings. E-commerce is also helping to improve the tracking and delivery of products, creating a better after sales service.

Some of the larger firms surveyed for this report are e-commerce global leaders, having developed e-strategies that are central to their business practice. The report identifies that these integrated business models can be a key to success in adopting e- commerce and used as examples for others to follow.

To help other retailers learn from these experiences a benchmarking tool is under development, which will enable businesses to evaluate their position in the market in terms of technology uptake, and will be available in the autumn.