Most retailers believe outsourcing has a positive effect on their business, according to new research.

In a survey by the British Retail Consortium and law firm Pinsent Masons, 88% of those outsourcing say that it has been a success, with warehousing and IT the most likely services to be bought in. Seventy per cent currently outsource some operations and more than half of the rest may take such a step.

Outsourcing works best when retailers can see clear commercial benefits and build long-term partnerships with providers.

The biggest barrier for those who have yet to try outsourcing is the need to prove a return on investment, mentioned by 56%, while others fear losing control of quality and customer service.

But outsourcing is about more than saving money, say retailers. Only 30% believe it can reduce their costs, and as many others believe that it will not.

Kevin Hawkins, BRC director general, said: "Outsourcing requires serious effort. Retailers must be clear from the outset about their aims and objectives."

Outsourcing is still in its infancy. Of the ten largest IT and business process outsourcing deals completed by retailers in the past seven years, eight were signed in the past two years.