SINGAPORE: Retail chains from Japan and Australia including 7-Eleven and Woolworths remain by far the biggest in Asia Pacific, but China has now become its most "influential" market, a study has argued.

Euromonitor International, the insights provider, and Retail Asia, the trade title, reported that the region's 500 biggest retailers generated sales of $959bn in 2011, an 11% increase on an annual basis.

Overall, 7-Eleven, the Japanese convenience store network owned by Seven & I Holdings, topped the charts with revenues of $37bn from 13,650 outlets.

Woolworths, the Australian firm, collected $29.5bn from its eponymous and Thomas Dux banners. Aeon, also from Japan, posted $29.2bn in sales from its namesake chain as well as Justco, Saty and Posful.

Completing the top five were Coles and Bi-Lo, the Australian supermarkets operated by Westfarmers, on a joint $27.4bn, and Lawson, another Japanese convenience store group, on $24.1bn.

The first company from outside Japan or Australia to appear in the rankings was Gome, the electronics expert, in tenth position, with its eponymous, Dazhon, Sanlian and Yongle fascias bringing in $12.3bn.

A total of 138 organisations from China featured on the list, supplying 28% of sales. This marked the first time that the world's most populous nation headed the table on this measure.

As a result, Japan slipped to second place having previously been the number one on this metric. It supplied 129 members of the top 500, together yielding 26% of sales.

"China was one of the fastest growing retail markets in value terms in 2011," said Geok Leng Loo, head of research at Euromonitor International Asia Pacific.

"However, Chinese consumers were not only spending in their own market, and a number of retailers around the world highlighted the benefits of these consumers on their sales performance. Hong Kong and Japan are two examples of countries that benefited from the high number of Chinese visitors."

Currently, convenience stores are the most successful format in Asia Pacific, generating $9,929 of sales per square metre, and set to prosper further as urbanisation rates rise.

Looking forward, the study predicted internet retailing would be the "next frontier" for companies as online penetration and digital literacy levels both increase throughout the region.

Data sourced from Euromonitor International; additional content by Warc staff