Blog: Dean BestTesco takes upbeat tone in Barcelona

Dean Best | 8 May 2009

Events like the World Retail Congress give business leaders the chance to look outwards, share their views on the sector and, crucially given the economic landscape, gain insight on how their peers are dealing with the downturn.

For these reasons, the benefit of such forums remain strong – even in the tumultuous economic times we find ourselves in.

That said, this year's event in Barcelona did not have the same buzz as last year's conference. Visitor numbers seemed lower, the press pack appeared smaller; in all, this year's Congress felt a bit flat. Despite the somewhat downbeat tone, there emerged signs that some in food retail are determined to stay positive about the opportunities for their business.

There may have been glass-half-full comments on the state of the Russian retail sector (the boss of Dixy Group struck a gloomy tone) and on the challenges of operating in India but, elsewhere, the Congress heard that all is not wrong with the world.

Spar International laid out its ambitious plans to be the leading retailer in China. CBD, the Brazilian food retailer, boasted it had the “best brand image” to face up to growing competition from the might of Wal-Mart and Carrefour.

And it fell to Tesco to remind us that there is potential for growth out there and that the recession has not erased the promise of the world's developing and emerging markets.

“The window of opportunity is not closing,” said Philip Clarke, Tesco's international director. “There is a hell of a lot of growth to go for.”

And, as Barcelona's football team proved on our first night in the Catalan city, being brave can be very rewarding indeed.


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