This week, the retail spotlight shines once again on the Catalan city of Barcelona, as the sector’s top executives flock to the annual World Retail Congress.

Despite the promise of some early May Spanish sun, the mood at the conference is likely to be somewhat gloomy, given the year endured by the retail sector.

Last year’s Congress closed on a downbeat note but, after a tumultuous 12 months, there promises to be much discussion on just how retailers can withstand the deepest downturn for at least a a generation.

The retail sector has been badly affected by the global recession. Retailers have gone to the wall, consumer spending has slumped and business has found itself facing shoppers for whom price has become ever-more important.

The challenge of trading through the downturn is a key feature of this year’s Congress, which will also include discussions on the struggle to secure capital, the “new realities” of operating in markets like China and India and the trick of identifying just where the “new” emerging markets will be in years to come.

The conference spans a number of sectors and is set to attract the likes of the CEO of consumer electronics chain Best Buy International, the boss of eBay and leading executives from firms from UK department store group Debenhams, apparel retailer Mango and international bookseler Borders.

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Within the food sector, the likes of Tesco, South Africa’s Woolworths Holdings, China’s Wumart, French retailer Système-U and Brazilian grocer CBD will provide insight into how our industry has coped with the downturn – and how it could thrive in the future.

just-food is here in Barcelona and will bring you the latest news, views and analysis on the event. Be sure to check our news and blog pages – as well as the micro-blogging site Twitter – to keep you up-to-date on what is likely to be a fascinating few days.