Economy of Reading, Berkshire

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Reading is an important commercial centre in Southern England and is often referred to as the commercial capital of the Thames Valley. The town hosts the headquarters of British companies and the UK offices of foreign multinationals, as well as being a major retail centre.[1]

Whilst located close enough to London to be sometimes regarded as part of the London commuter belt, Reading is a net inward destination for commuters. During the morning peak period, there are some 30,000 inward arrivals in the town, compared to 24,000 departures.[2]


The Oracle Corporation campus in Thames Valley Business Park

Reading has a significant historical involvement in the information technology industry, largely as a result of the early presence in the town of sites of International Computers Limited and Digital. Whilst both these companies have been swallowed by other groups, their respective descendants in Fujitsu and Hewlett-Packard both still have local operations. More recently Microsoft and Oracle have established multi-building campuses in the town. Procter & Gamble also has an innovation centre in the town, which is active in the production of Gillette razors, and is the second largest in the world of its kind.

Other technology companies with a significant presence in the town include Huawei Technologies, Access IS, Agilent Technologies, Audio & Design (Recording) Ltd, Bang & Olufsen, Cisco, Ericsson, Harris Corporation, Intel, Nvidia, Sage, Sagem Orga, SGI, Symantec, Symbol Technologies, Verizon Business, Virgin Media, Websense, Xansa (now Steria), and Xerox.

One Reading Central, Yell HQ[3]

The financial company ING Direct had its headquarters in Reading, as does the directories company Yell Group and the natural gas major BG Group. The insurance company Prudential has an administration centre in the town, whilst PepsiCo and Holiday Inn have offices. Like most major cities, Reading has offices of the Big Four accounting firms Deloitte,[4] PwC,[5] Ernst & Young[6] and KPMG.[7]

These companies are distributed around Reading, including in business parks just inside or outside the borough boundary. Prudential and Yell, together with most of the accountancy companies, have their offices in central Reading. Thames Valley Business Park is home to the Microsoft and Oracle campuses, as well as BG Group and ING Direct. Green Park Business Park is home to Huawei Technologies, Symantec, Logica and Cisco, whilst the nearby Reading International Business Park is home to Verizon Business. Winnersh Triangle Business Park is home to technology companies, whilst Arlington Business Park is home to KPMG, Nvidia and PepsiCo.[8]

Examples of long-standing industrial companies originating in Reading include Kee Klamp.[9][10]


The upper level of The Oracle

Reading town centre is a major shopping centre. The primary catchment area for the town centre (the area for which the centre attracts the largest single flow of generated expenditure) for non-bulky comparison goods extends as far as Goring-on-Thames, Henley-on-Thames, Pangbourne and Wokingham. The secondary catchment area (the area where the centre attracts 10% or more of generated expenditure) also includes Ascot, Bracknell, Sandhurst, Camberley, Didcot, Farnborough, Fleet, High Wycombe, Maidenhead, Newbury, Slough, Tadley, Thatcham, Wallingford and Windsor. In 2007 an independent poll placed Reading as one of the top ten retail destinations in the UK.[11][12]

The principal town centre shopping area is around Broad Street, which was pedestrianised in 1995.[13] Broad Street is anchored at its east and west ends respectively by The Oracle and Broad Street Mall enclosed shopping centres. In 2007 14.4 million people visited the covered part of the Oracle shopping centre.[14]

Broad Street looking east

There are two major department stores in Reading: John Lewis & Partners (formerly known as Heelas),[15] and House of Fraser. There are also branches of chain stores, including Virgin Media, Boots, fcuk, H&M, Marks and Spencers, Next, Primark and W H Smith. The booksellers Waterstone's have two branches in Reading.[16]

Besides the two major shopping malls, Reading has three smaller shopping arcades, the Bristol and West Arcade, Harris Arcade and The Walk, which contain smaller specialist stores. An older form of retail facility is represented by Union Street, popularly known as Smelly Alley,[17][18] due to the former presence of many open-fronted fishmongers and butchers. The occupancy has shifted towards major retail chains, although a few of independent shops, including a fishmonger and butcher remain.[19]

Unlike many cities, Reading has no indoor market, but there is a street market at Hosier Street in the town centre, open from Wednesday to Saturday, with 60 stalls selling a mixture of food, flowers and plants, cultural goods, and household goods. A farmers' market operates on two Saturdays a month at the cattle market.[20][21]


  1. ^ "Vision for Reading Chamber of Commerce". Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on 24 March 2008. Retrieved 11 June 2008.
  2. ^ "A Sustainable Community Strategy for Reading" (PDF). Reading Borough Council. p. 17. Retrieved 13 July 2011.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Head office". Yell Group. Archived from the original on 11 January 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
  4. ^ "Deloitte Office Locator". Deloitte. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  5. ^ "PcW in the South East". PwC. Archived from the original on 17 April 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  6. ^ "Reading office" (PDF). Ernst & Young. Retrieved 21 June 2011.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "KPMG in Reading". KPMG. Archived from the original on 18 August 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  8. ^ "Arlington Business Park Occupiers". Archived from the original on 22 March 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  9. ^ "Company History". Kee Safety website. KIG Holdings. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  10. ^ "Leaflet for Kee Klamp cattle control system. TR GRL/P2/A44 mid 1950s". Museum of English Rural Life: Gascoignes (Reading) Ltd. The National Archives. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  11. ^ "Retail & Leisure Study of Reading – Volume 1 – Chapters 1 to 3" (PDF). Reading Borough Council. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 June 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
  12. ^ "Battle to stay top of shops". Reading Evening Post. 28 September 2007. Archived from the original on 23 April 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2008.
  13. ^ "Regional Focus on Reading". Career Planner. BCL Legal. Archived from the original on 10 April 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  14. ^ "Response on behalf of Oracle Limited Partnership and John Lewis plc" (PDF). Reading Transport Commission. Reading Borough Council. 31 January 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2010. [dead link]
  15. ^ "The history of John Lewis Reading". Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2009.
  16. ^ "Bookshops in the UK and Europe | Waterstones".
  17. ^ Sowan, Adam (January 2004). Abattoirs Road to Zinzan Street. Two Rivers Press. ISBN 978-1-901677-36-2. Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
  18. ^ "Holland & Barrett Smelly Alley – Reading". Thames Valley Vegans And Vegetarians. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
  19. ^ "Reading Planning Document" (PDF). Reading Borough Council. p. 13. Retrieved 19 April 2009.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "Reading Market". Town & Country Markets. Archived from the original on 1 May 2009. Retrieved 29 April 2009.
  21. ^ "Farmers' Market". Reading Borough Council. Archived from the original on 27 May 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2009.

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