The great and good of the retail world yesterday (9 April) descended on the Spanish city of Barcelona for the World Retail Congress 2008, where the leading lights of the sector will spend three days discussing the key issues affecting the sector.

As we head into day two of the conference, here is a round-up of the key quotes from yesterday’s session –

On the global economy:

“We are in a period of revulsion and financial collapse – which we are only part-way through” – Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times.

“Never before has the retail industry faced such significant challenges at the same time” – Jose Luis Duran, CEO, Carrefour

“The downturn of the economy is an opportunity not to be missed. You can rally around your cost-effectiveness and it becomes more easy to focus on the right things” – Anders Dahlvi, president and CEO, Ikea Group

On the US market:

“Too many US retailers have been hanging on for a long time and in the current consumer environment, there is simply no place to hide,” Paul Charron, chairman emeritus, Liz Claiborne

“It is the end of the period when the US could act as the borrower and spender of the last resort in the economic system” – Wolf

On private equity in retail:

“We are likely to see much less activity by traditional by private equity firms in retail for the foreseeable future. They will be finding a lot of other places to put their money to work with a lot less risk. Investments in the short term will be from specialists, looking through some of the carnage that we will see over the next two to three years” – Henry Jackson, managing partner and chief executive, Merchant Equity Partners.

On private label:

“We are serving some of the most demanding customers, particularly in the UK [and] we recognise the importance of keeping costs low. TLC isn’t Tender Loving Care for us. It is Total Lowest Cost” – David Simons, director, Greencore

“It should be your own brand, not private label. You should think like a brand, it should be part of your DNA” – Christine Cross, industry analyst