Blog: Dean BestAre you a glass half-full or glass half-empty kind of person?

Dean Best | 9 April 2008

The speakers on day one of the World Retail Congress in Barcelona seem split between the two camps.
The vibrant oranges and yellows of the Congress that adorn this auditorium in Spain's second city initially hint at a sense of optimism - although that is swept aside by a pessimistic assessment of the global economy by Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times.
"We are in a period of revulsion and financial collapse - which we are only part-way through," Wolf said, as he walked his audience through the impact of the global credit crunch, the downturn in the US and soaring commodity prices.
Carrefour CEO Jose Luis Duran was next up and attempted to talk of the "opportunities" that are available for growth for the world's retailers. Nonetheless, even he was forced to admit that there are "significant challenges" faced by the industry.

For Duran, though, focusing on building a robust brand, policies around sustainability and product innvoation are among the strategies that will be key to navigating through the stormy waters of a global economic downturn.
Nevertheless, Duran admitted that there are clouds on the horizon of even the most promising of emerging markets, namely China, which is suffering from food price inflation at almost 25%.
Wolf warned that the world's emerging markets, which will continue to provide lucrative growth opportunities in this time of economic turbulence, will see their growth rates slow - although with Russia and China showing signs of over-heating maybe that isn't so bad.
Building blocks of cardboard boxes flank either side of the main foyer, pointing delegates to seminar rooms and the main auditorium. An approporiate analogy in these times of economic headwinds. Will business be blown over or, will some, through some careful construction, build businesses to withstand the strongest gusts?


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