The five most profitable sectors in the UK

By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

7 April 2017

Statistics from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have revealed the top UK business sectors with the largest turnover.

Using data from the decade between 2006 and 2015, the 'Business sectors: indicators of concentration and churn' report examines the profitability of the biggest enterprises in the UK's key business sectors.

Wholesale trade organisations reported the highest turnovers with a profit of £837bn in 2015 alone. Manufacturing and retail also had impressive results, possibly due to the wide range of businesses that fall within the sectors.

However, figures from the first quarter of 2017 have indicated the possibility of a decline in retail.

Commenting on the Office of National Statistics retail sales figures for February, Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG, said: "Despite the strong month-on-month pickup, over the three months to February, retailers witnessed the biggest slide in quantity sold since 2010. Store prices were also up an average of 2.8% across the board over the last 12 months, with fuel prices, in particular, increasing significantly due to the weakened sterling.

"While the February figures are encouraging, price increases coupled with other inflationary pressures mean we may well start to see consumers’ disposable income squeezed sooner rather than later.”

The professional services and banking sectors had a combined turnover of £853bn, earning both a place in the top five. Other financial services areas also proved themselves to be highly lucrative. For example, businesses in the insurance sector generated £114bn in combined revenues in 2015.

At the other end of the scale, forestry and fishing were shown to have the least turnover at a combined total of just £3bn for the same time period.

The most profitable UK business sectors 2006-2015

1. Wholesale

Turnover in 2015: £837bn

Includes: All wholesale trade, excepting motor vehicles and motorcycles.

2. Manufacturing

Turnover in 2015: £585bn

Includes: Manufacture and processing of products e.g. foodstuffs, textiles, building materials and luxury goods.

3. Banking

Turnover in 2015: £579bn

Includes: Banks and building societies.

4. Retail

Turnover in 2015: £386bn

Includes: All retail trade, excepting motor vehicles and motorcycles.

5. Professional Services

Turnover in 2015: £274bn

Includes: Specialised service professions e.g. legal and accounting activities, consultancy and advertising.


  • Business

Previous Page