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Boom in UK IPOs led by ‘bricks and clicks’


The U.K.'s largest pet products retailer, Pets at Home, has become the latest home-grown company to come to the market, in what is set be the biggest year for IPOs in the U.K. retail sector in a decade.

New research shows seven U.K.-based retail and consumer companies are expected to list this year, with many more rumored to be in the pipeline. This would make this year the best in IPO volumes since 2004, providing all the firms price, according to financial data firm Dealogic.

(Read more: UK scientists launch IPO for latest 'wonder material')

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Pets at Home is valued at about £1.5 billion ($2.5 billion) and follows discount retailer Poundland's plans of a £750 million pound flotation on the London Stock Exchange in March this year.

It is the U.K. retailers such as House of Fraser and Fat Face, which have both a strong online strategy and a physical presence on the high street — or "bricks and clicks" — have led the march to the market, said GLG's Henry Dixon.

"In aggregate every IPO season has an element of bandwagon about it," said U.K. equities portfolio manager, Dixon.

"It can be very healthy — if you have got good companies coming at a discount to existing companies, it increases choice and it is a positive, so I don't want to be too dismissive. But let's be absolutely clear; you would not be able to do 5 retail IPOs in March 2009, it would have been simply impossible," he said.

But bandwagon effect aside, the industry is generally welcoming the latest IPOs as a symptom of a firm recovery in the U.K. economy. This is because companies are using equity markets for capital expansion rather than a "changing of the guard", said Dixon.

(Read more: UK companies end 2013 on 2-year high)

"The likes of Merlin, the private-equity backed owner of Madame Tussauds, were mulling a flotation in 2010 and then decided to go ahead with it late last year," said head of equities at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown, Richard Hunter.

"It may well be that a couple of companies have decided that now the time is right and are riding the wave of really improved sentiment," he said.

(Read more: UK unemployment unexpectedly rises to 7.2%)

By CNBC's Jenny Cosgrave: Follow her on Twitter @jenny_cosgrave