Ethnic minority retailers generate about £33 billion in sales every year, according to a new report.

The 68,000 small and medium-sized retail businesses also employ 12.9 per cent of the UK's retail staff.

The research - commissioned by business representative organisation ATL and undertaken by the Centre for Retail Research in Nottingham - is the largest of its kind in the UK.

The report also suggested that ethnic minority retailers were more likely to buy direct from overseas than indigenous businesses.

There was also evidence that the family, social and business networks of Asians, Chinese, Middle-Eastern and Turkish retailers meant they were rapidly developing new import/export and wholesale businesses that could compete with traditional wholesale stores.

Insan Farooqi, project manager at ATL, said the report has also underlined the lack of financial support reaching many ethnic minority retailers.

"Many of the retailers we studied showed a reluctance to apply for assistance under mainstream funds," he said.

The report follows concern about the increasing dominance of supermarket giants and the effect they are having on independent retailers.

"Specific support for black and ethnic minority retailing may provide further competition to benefit consumers," Mr Farooqi said.