A gulf is developing in the global retail industry between retailers headquartered in Western Europe, North America and Australia and those in Asia, South America, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East - with western European retailers more pessimistic about market conditions than their counterparts.

The state of the global retail sector is outlined today (26 September) in a report by the World Retail Congress, following an international survey of 100 retailers with an annual turnover of more than $1bn.

When it comes to retailers' perception of domestic consumer confidence, those in Asia are most optimistic, while those in Australia are most pessimistic. By sector, confidence is greatest in the leisure and grocery markets, whilst convenience retailers and financial services are most pessimistic.

Across the sample, the total proportion of retail sales coming from China is expected to double in the next three years from 2% currently to 4%. In keeping with this trend, China was also the country identified by the most retailers to have the biggest growth opportunities.

Meanwhile, Western Europe is expected to account for a significantly lower proportion of company retail sales by 2014, and to tumble from 33% currently to 28%.

Total international retail sales are expected to rise by 10.2% in the next three years. Retailers in North America see the greatest growth potential from international retail sales, followed by those in Asia, western Europe, South America, Australia and the Middle East.

And despite the volatility of the financial markets, retailers are largely positive about the sector's medium to long term prospects. Generally, retailers in Asia and South America are most positive, expecting strong growth across the board throughout the short, medium and long term.

Despite the rise in e-commerce, most retailers still expect traditional bricks and mortar to account for the greatest levels of sales growth in the next three years.

The global picture does, however, mask significant regional variations. Locally, retailers from western Europe expect greatest growth to come from online; North American retailers expect an even split between store-based activities and online; Asian businesses anticipate a third of growth will come from stores, a third from online and a third from other sources.

In South America, domestic growth is expected to be driven entirely from store-based business, whilst in the Middle East it is expected to account for 71%. In Australia, it is believed that 50% of growth will be driven by online sales.

For retailers in the Middle East, Asia and Australia, a similar pattern of growth is expected internationally. However, in South America, 50% of growth is anticipated to come from online as opposed to 0% domestically whilst, in North America, it is expected to account for a far lower proportion internationally than at home.

The importance of store presence is reflected by retailers in all regions expecting their store portfolio to grow substantially by 2015. Globally, 67% expect to have substantially more stores.

Retailers in all regions also appear to concur on the anticipated levels of growth from online sales by 2015, with around 10% expected across the board.

A further common theme across the regions is the emphasis on the development of online presence and improving the store portfolio as the greatest priority for business growth. Only in Asia have retailers focused on a different priority, the recruitment and training of personnel.