This paper discusses the literature on the established determinants of productivity in the retail sector. It also draws attention to some neglected strands of research which provide useful insights into strategies that could allow productivity enhancements in this area of the economy. To date, very few attempts have been made to integrate different specialisms in order to explain what drives productivity in retail. Here this paper rectifies this omission by putting together studies from economics, geography, knowledge management and employment studies. It is the authors' view that quantitative studies of retail productivity should focus on total factor productivity in retailing as the result of competition/composition effects, planning regulations, information and communications technology, the multinational operation element and workforce skills. Further, the fact that retail firms possess advantages that are transferable between locations suggests that investment in strategies enhancing the transfer of explicit and tacit knowledge between and within businesses are crucial to achieve productivity gains.