UK: Emerging From The Downturn - Global Powers Of Retailing 2010

Last Updated: 25 January 2010
Article by Deloitte Consumer Business Group

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu ("Deloitte"), in conjunction with STORES Media, is pleased to present the 13th annual Global Powers of Retailing. This report identifies the 250 largest retailers around the world based on publicly available data for the companies' 2008 fiscal year (encompassing fiscal years ended through June 2009).

The report also provides an outlook for the global economy; a discussion of the major challenges facing retailers; and an analysis of market capitalization in the retail industry.

Global economic outlook, October 2009

2009 has come to a close and all one can say is "good riddance." It was the worst year for economic performance in recent memory, and began on the heels of a near breakdown of the financial sector. At the start of 2009, economists found themselves opining on the probability of another Great Depression. Thankfully, the year ended on a more positive note, with economists offering their views on the potential strength of the all-but-certain recovery.

The main theme of the economic outlook for the coming year is that the global economy seems to be tracking towards a better-than expected outcome. Most of the world's major economies are now growing and some, like Japan and the Eurozone, began growing sooner than most analysts expected. The global crisis was notable for the near synchronicity of the downturn; likewise, the upturn appears to be happening everywhere at once – something that is not usually the case. The good thing about this is that strengthening global demand is self-reinforcing, especially as it boosts trade flows and export-oriented production. The mostly synchronous policy response to the crisis (fiscal and monetary expansion) probably played a key role in the global recovery, and the risks of the recovery are similar in most places. These include the lingering effects of financial market stress, as well as the possibility of future inflation.

As for the world's retailers, economic recovery will return the industry to a growth path – but the nature and geographic distribution of that growth will be quite different than the recent path. In the decade prior to the current economic crisis, there was strong retail growth in the United States and in smaller economies like the U.K., Spain, and Ireland. Such growth was funded, in part, by borrowing against the increased value of homes, itself the result of a flood of liquidity from surplus countries like China. This excessive consumer spending growth was not only the principal source of economic growth in these countries, it also fueled export-driven growth in surplus countries like China, Japan and Germany. In fact, the symbiosis between these "consuming" and "producing" groups of countries was the hallmark of the global economy in the first decade of the 21st century.

The next phase in retail growth

All of that is about to change, however. The global economic crisis of 2008-09 exposed the fault lines of the imbalanced global economy. When the inflated values of property-based assets peaked and then collapsed, global financial institutions suffered huge losses. The resulting loss of confidence caused a near shut-down in global credit markets as investors fled to the safety of short-term government securities. Moreover, indebted consumers were forced to dramatically shift gears: they increased savings, paid down debt and ceased to spend with abandon. That crisis is ending and the recovery is clearly underway, but the global pattern of consumer spending of the past decade will not return soon.

In the coming decade, the countries that borrowed heavily to finance excessive consumer spending may experience slower consumer spending growth as households struggle to de-leverage, repair tattered balance sheets and accumulate wealth for future retirement and other needs. More of the economic growth of these countries will likely be driven by exports, business investment and government spending. Conversely, those countries whose growth was fueled by exporting to borrowing countries will no longer be able to depend on such markets. Consequently, countries like China will likely shift away from export-oriented growth toward growth driven by consumer spending. The degree to which this adjustment takes place (and transitions smoothly) will depend on the policies put in place by various governments. Nevertheless, an adjustment of some sort will almost surely take place.

For global retailers and their suppliers, the next decade will bring a very different business environment. Not only will the growth of consumer spending shift geographically, but the nature of consumer spending will shift, as well. In places like the United States and the U.K., retail spending growth will not only be slower, it will be focused on the needs of a value-oriented consumer, and the recent shift in market share toward discount formats may very well be sustained during the recovery. The weakness of housing markets will have consequences, as well, because spending on discretionary items is likely to be restrained.

On the other hand, countries like China that ran large surpluses will experience faster consumer spending growth. A larger share of the growth of global retail spending will now take place in such markets – especially the large emerging markets.

Let's consider some of the major markets and the outlook for their consumers and retailers.


China is the toast of economic policymakers: No other major country in the world has performed as well as China during the global crisis. Most analysts have revised their forecasts for 2010 to economic growth of about 9 percent. This exemplary performance is a bit of a surprise given the collapse of global trade that followed the onset of the credit crunch in late 2008: Given China's significant role as an exporter, there was widespread expectation that it would suffer considerably. Yet the drop in net exports was more than offset by the strength of consumer spending, business investment and especially government investment – the latter of which alone contributed 6 percentage points to economic growth in the first half of 2009.

The massive monetary and fiscal stimulus on the part of the Chinese government not only assisted economic recovery, it also fueled increases in property prices, leading to fears of a new bubble. It also fueled excessive investment in industrial capacity and strengthened the role of state-run enterprises at a time when the private sector needs to gain market share. Hence, while the recovery is under way, the policies that have brought on recovery are laden with risks for the future.

The authorities in China have begun the process of shifting monetary policy to a tighter stance. As usual, timing is everything: By starting now, when the economy is not yet fully recovered, the authorities may be able to navigate China toward strong growth without inflation and ruinous and destabilizing asset price bubbles. Still, risks remain. China's history of credit policy is one of blunt instruments leading to volatility in asset prices. That may recur, but the policy stance of the past year has had the positive effect of moving China along the road to domestically driven growth. This is helping to lessen the negative effects of reduced export growth.

What about the Chinese consumer?

Retailing will perform well if China makes a successful adjustment away from export-oriented growth and toward growth based on consumer demand. This means undertaking measures to stimulate consumer spending, and could include liberalizing consumer finance, improving the social safety net so as to discourage saving and allowing the currency to appreciate in value – thereby suppressing import prices.

There are indications that China intends to move in this direction, but there are obstacles here, as well. First, China's government appears to be of two minds on the currency. On the one hand, it wants to encourage domestic demand so that it need not accumulate more foreign currency reserves. On the other hand, it complains about the potential capital loss on its existing reserves should the dollar fall further. During the economic crisis, China stopped allowing the currency to appreciate lest it harm export competitiveness. Once global recovery is fully extant, however, China is likely to allow further revaluation: the question is how much.

Second, China's response to the crisis was to massively stimulate investment in infrastructure and state-owned companies. The result is an economy distorted by excessive investment and insufficient consumer demand. If the consumer is to play a bigger role in the economy going forward, China will have to adjust policy accordingly. The degree to which this will take place remains uncertain.

If China and the United States both do all the right things, then adjustment in the global economy should go smoothly and the growth in global consumer spending will shift away from the United States and toward China. If policymakers fail to act, however, then the road to adjustment could be bumpy. It could, for example, entail volatility in financial markets – especially currency markets – that could have onerous consequences for economic growth.

United States

The good news is that the U.S. economy will experience a robust recovery in 2010 as the billions in monetary and fiscal stimulus slowly work their way into the economy. Housing prices have stabilized and, with heavy government incentives, sales have risen. Auto sales have soared on government subsidies aimed at improving sales and fleet mileage. Manufacturing is showing signs of renewed strength. Bank profitability has rebounded sharply. Most importantly, financial markets appear to be healing. Risk spreads are now lower than when the crisis began, and bank balance sheets are mostly far better than a year ago.

This recovery will look very different from the traditional economic rebound, however. While domestic consumers will play their part, they will not be the biggest driver of growth. Instead, government spending, foreign consumer purchases of U.S. exports and business investment will lead the U.S. economy to a stronger-than-expected recovery.

As for the consumer, there are signs of improvement. High debt levels and rising unemployment have led many analysts to write off any potential contribution to future growth from consumer spending. But the fundamentals for consumer spending have improved sharply in recent months. Real consumer purchasing power is soaring. Over the summer, real hourly wages grew at their strongest pace in more than 40 years. At the same time household net worth, which took a pounding over the past two years, has begun to rebound. Given the pent-up demand, it is likely that there will be an uptick in consumer spending in the United States in 2010, even if the consumer is unable to behave as in the recent past.

The longer term

It is not sufficient to predict that American consumers will simply decide to spend less in the future. Something will compel them to do this, and there are several factors that will likely contribute to a significant shift in U.S. consumer behavior. First, the destruction of wealth that has transpired over the past two years (roughly $14 trillion) will not be reversed quickly unless both the equity and property markets experience unusually rapid price increases. Thus, consumers will feel the necessity to rebuild wealth by saving, a process that has already begun.

Second, given the destruction of housing wealth, most consumers will no longer be in a position to borrow against increased property values; as a result, consumer spending will be constrained by income. Third, while financial markets are showing signs of recovery, history suggests that banks will remain cautious in their lending behavior for some time to come. Thus, consumer credit will not be as readily available as in the recent past, and prospective changes to the regulatory environment will likely exacerbate this factor. If banks are forced to hold more capital, and if the market for securitization remains a shadow of its former self, there will be less credit available for consumers.

Other areas of government policy may play a role in restricting consumer spending. Increased taxes on upper-income households will have a negative impact on spending; in addition, efforts to restrict emissions of carbon gases are likely to increase the price of energy, thus shifting consumer spending away from other goods and services. Finally, there is the elusory psychological factor: The length and depth of the recent recession, the worst of the post-war era, may have a lasting impact on the willingness of consumers to engage in risky behavior. This may compel a permanent shift toward more frugal spending (fewer big-ticket items purchased, more discount shopping).


The Eurozone is staging a surprising recovery, thanks to stable consumer spending and a revival of demand from trading partners in Asia. A belated-yet-aggressive monetary policy response is playing a role, as well.

The corporate response to the uncertainty that arose at the end of 2008 was to slash inventories and freeze investments. With manufacturing orders picking up, companies are expected to start rebuilding inventory, aiding the rebound in industrial production and contributing positively to GDP growth.

If the recovery in global demand can be sustained and capacity utilization rises, companies will likely take advantage of the low-interest-rate environment to initiate some investment spending. If investment spending is slow to pick up, it will not be for lack of money. As part of the financial rescue plan, and in the hope that it would rebuild banks' confidence in lending to the real economy, the ECB flooded the banking system with liquidity, some of which is seeping through to the corporate sector.

Overall, however, corporate lending remains at an extremely low level, and surveys suggest this is not due to an issue with the supply of, but rather with the demand for, money. Even the ECB accepts that business borrowing to fund investment will likely pick up only slowly as the recovery unfolds, so the future pace of recovery remains somewhat uncertain.

The European consumer sector

While the clampdown on spending by corporations has been a drag on growth in recent quarters, consumer spending has held up better than expected during the recession – not least because of government incentives. But now there are fears that Eurozone consumers could tighten their purse strings as unemployment rises.

The impact might be less severe than feared, however. Lower wage income is partly compensated for by higher social transfers (unemployment benefits), which in Europe can run up to two-thirds of the last income for a year or longer. Also, the savings ratio (currently at about 15 percent in the Eurozone, slightly above its longer-term average of 14 percent) has room to decline as unemployment rises, acting as a buffer for spending. The bottom line is that, while retailing did not suffer egregiously during the recession, it will probably not grow rapidly in the recovery.

United Kingdom

Like most advanced economies, the United Kingdom's has seen a marked improvement in economic prospects. Financial markets have stabilized and this has been reflected in the continued rally in equities and corporate bonds, in narrowing corporate bond spreads and falling inter-bank interest rates. Most lead indicators of economic activity signal recovery – though it is likely to take place at a modest pace.

A slow recovery is the price the U.K. is likely to pay to rebalance its economy. Consumers entered the downturn with low savings and relatively high levels of debt. Household debt as a proportion of income increased from 100 percent to 165 percent in the 10 years leading up to 2007, while the savings ratio dropped from 4.5 percent to -0.5 percent. Financial innovation had enabled more consumers to access credit more readily, and this helped fuel rising house prices and consumption.

Since 2007, lower house prices have eroded consumers' collateral and, therefore, their ability to raise credit. At the same time, banks have become more cautious about lending. The result is that a process of balance sheet rebuilding is well underway.

The pace of consumption growth depends largely on the pace of rebalancing in the economy, but the general view is that this will be a slow process. The corollary is that growth in consumer spending will remain subdued into 2011.

U.K. consumer balance sheets are certainly stretched, but the problems may be less acute than they appear at first. Borrowing has risen sharply, but so too has the overall value of consumers' financial assets. This is because part of what has been driving the housing market is older homeowners selling large homes, buying smaller ones and putting the extra cash into financial assets. U.K. households accumulated an additional £1 trillion of debt between 2000 and 2008 but also acquired more than £750 billion of financial assets over the same period. And while lower house prices are seen as an economic depressant, more affordable housing provides a boost for those planning to trade up or buy their first house.

For now it looks as if the process of strengthening consumer balance sheets will take time. The United Kingdom's economic recovery over the coming quarters is unlikely to come from the consumer; rather, the main drivers are likely to be investment, exports and a switch in demand from foreign to U.K. producers.


Japan appears to have come out of its worst postwar recession. The recovery is fragile, however, and conjures up memories of the "lost decade" of the 1990s when the economy showed signs of recovery only to keep faltering again. Record unemployment, falling wages and a decline in business investment have kept the mood somber. The accelerated decline in consumer prices (excluding food and energy) recently increased fears of the economy being caught in a deflationary spiral.

Massive fiscal stimulus, coupled with a near zero interest rate policy, are virtually identical to the factors that fueled the 2000-2007 recovery. Consumer spending is set to rise modestly despite a worsening job outlook, but the current recovery is being led by exports, a pattern similar to the past. Exports have grown thanks to the massive stimulus spending programs launched by governments across the world, especially China.

A short-term euphoria may be created by the landslide victory of the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), but there is some uncertainty regarding the policies the DPJ is likely to adopt and their impact on economic growth in the medium and long term. The DPJ has indicated that it will try to boost domestic consumption through reductions in taxes and fees and through provision of a social safety net. The idea is to increase household income and reduce precautionary savings and, thereby, boost household spending. Skeptics, however, are worried that households may divert the increased income to savings rather than increase consumption.

A big concern is how the DPJ will fund these policy measures: it plans to raise the money by eliminating waste in government and reevaluating public works projects, and the suspension of dam construction projects has already been announced. Even if the government withholds the entirety of public works spending, however, it will likely get only around half the amount needed.

The real hope for the economy is that exports are likely to continue to expand, but the recent strengthening of the yen against the dollar has worried exporters. A stronger yen erodes earnings by reducing the amount exporters repatriate to cover their costs. Further, the Chinese yuan being closely tied to the dollar means that earnings of Japanese exporters from China, a price-sensitive market, could also get hurt. China has emerged as the single biggest market for Japanese exports, and the current growth in exports is mainly being fueled by China and other Asian countries.

The bottom line for Japan is that it remains highly dependent on exports at a time when its currency is rising in value and its second most important market (the United States) is retrenching. Hence, overall growth will likely remain slow while the outlook for the consumer is uncertain.


Several things are clear about Russia: it had a very bad 2009, it will have a better 2010 and its longer-term outlook depends heavily on the price of oil. The big question, then, is whether Russia, even with rising oil prices, is capable of returning to the high growth of the past decade. The answer depends on several factors: the policy response of Russia's authorities; the health of global credit markets; the degree of confidence in Russia on the part of foreign investors; and just how high oil prices rise.

The outlook for the coming year depends on a number of factors. First and foremost, the price of oil will have a big impact. When oil was close to $150 per barrel, Russia was doing very well; when the price fell to $60 per barrel, the situation became troubling. However, the price of oil throughout the past decade was lower than this, and Russia's economic performance was quite good. Export revenue in 2009, while considerably lower than last year, will probably be roughly comparable to that of 2006. The problem is that during the past decade, Russia took advantage of the relatively high price of oil and low capital costs to borrow heavily from abroad. Today, external debt is much higher than three years ago. Given this and the state of global credit conditions, Russia requires an even higher level of export revenue to restore economic credibility.

Russia's performance next year will depend heavily on the stance and flexibility of government policy. Fiscal policy has been highly expansive, the effect of which has been widely debated, but there is almost no debate as to what comes next. Russia will ultimately have to remove fiscal stimulus, something it seems determined to do in a credible way. Indeed, the government is making very pessimistic assumptions about the price of oil and the rate of economic growth in forecasting a budget deficit of 7.5 percent of GDP for 2010.

Monetary policy will matter, as well. It has lately been relaxed, aimed at providing liquidity to the financial sector. Yet inflation remains stubbornly high, possibly necessitating another tightening of monetary policy in the near future.

Finally, longer-term prospects will depend on other aspects of economic policy like regulation, investment in infrastructure, efforts to tamp down corruption and respect for private property rights. Such issues have been an impediment to economic diversification. Russia's excessive dependence on the resource sector is a concern for policymakers, and diversification will require a new business environment.

The outlook for the consumer sector, however, looks good. If Russia grows, consumer spending will grow. Moreover, with limited government interference, retail modernization will likely continue and foreign investors will be welcomed.


Brazil is on fire: Its economy has recovered nicely from a very modest recession, and there is general consensus that the outlook is quite strong. Nearly two decades of low inflation, modest deficits and strong growth have convinced the global investment community that Brazil is a relatively safe bet. A combination of stable politics and economics has generated very strong direct investment from overseas. Plus, the recent awarding of the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro has increased the sense of confidence – bordering on euphoria – in the Brazilian business community.

Another positive aspect to Brazil is that the social policies of the current government have led to a lessening of income inequality – a sharp reversal from past experience. Thus, the number of people moving from poverty into the low middle class is substantial. In addition, for the first time roughly half the population is considered middle class. This represents a major opportunity for retailers.

Top retail trends 2010

Resetting consumer behavior

As expected, the global recession changed the behavior of consumers. They became more value conscious, more attracted to private labels, less likely to purchase large discretionary items and less likely to eat outside the home. Yet the duration and depth of the recent downturn raises the possibility that these changes in consumer behavior will be sustained even after recovery takes place. This would apply principally to those markets in which consumer spending had been excessive during the pre-recession era and where spending was fueled by debt. Such markets include the United States, U.K. and Spain, to name the most significant.

If this pattern holds, it will have important implications for retailers operating in large developed markets. First, they will have to offer consumers a favorable value proposition; this will be especially critical for retailers not in the discount business. A good value proposition will entail being clearly differentiated from competitors so that consumers sense a unique offering – perhaps through exclusive brands – and become less likely to compare prices. In addition, smart retailers will focus on brand management in order to convey their value proposition. They will also focus on improvements in customer experience as a differentiating factor.

Second, retailers may find it necessary to shift their resources toward the development of discount concepts: Some multi-brand retailers are already doing this. The problem, of course, is that discount formats can cannibalize higher-priced formats. Thus, this strategy could prove to be a zero-sum game.

Finally, challenging conditions in markets like the United States and U.K. may compel retailers to invest in newer markets. Thus, the value orientation of rich country consumers could have the effect of accelerating retail globalization.

Luxury reset

The luxury market took a big hit from the economic recession. As the global economy recovers, the luxury market will, too, but the end result will be quite different from the recent path.

Basically, there are two luxury markets. At the very high end. this market will do well: After all, even if a household experiences a decline in wealth from $100 million to $50 million, there is still plenty of money remaining to pay for an expensive handbag. Second, there is the aspirational luxury market. This involves households with sufficient incomes and wealth to purchase luxury items, but where such purchases have a noticeable impact on wealth.

For these consumers, the recent recession led to a severe drop in perceived wealth and, therefore, willingness to engage in luxury spending. As the economy recovers, wealth will still be suppressed – especially housing wealth. Thus, the propensity of such consumers to purchase luxury items will be reduced for some time to come.

For luxury retailers, this will be a tough environment. Appealing to the aspirational consumer will require a greater focus on the issue of value, yet such an appeal could offend the sensibilities of highend luxury shoppers. Thus, there may be a need for greater market segmentation on the part of luxury retailers and suppliers.

In addition, luxury sellers will shift their focus to the needs of aspirational shoppers in emerging markets like China. In such markets, the newly affluent are especially brand conscious and attracted to luxury brands. Such shoppers might be easier to attract than similar households in developed markets.

World-class emerging retailers

Any discussion of the future of the consumer necessarily requires a substantial look at emerging markets. Large emerging markets are set to play a far more significant role in the global economy in the coming years, yet most discussions about the consumer markets of emerging nations have focused on the opportunity for global retailers that are based in developed countries. What about retailers based in emerging markets? Most of the spoils will go to them rather than the relative handful of global retailers that have the gumption to invest in emerging markets.

Moreover, many emerging-market retailers are rapidly becoming world-class players in their own right. Not only are they well equipped to compete with the global giants in their home markets, some are even becoming competitive in other markets. Several emerging-market retailers have experienced success in neighboring emerging markets, whether in East Asia, Africa, the Middle East or South America. More of this will surely occur in the near future as such retailers become regional powerhouses.

The next step in the evolution of these players, however, will be investments into developed markets. Some of this is starting to take place: There are retailers based in emerging markets that see growth opportunities in much more affluent markets. Generally, these are specialty players rather than food or mass merchandise retailers, and are often vertically integrated retailers selling single brands that evoke the essence of their home markets. Such markets are still seen as exotic and romantic by consumers in rich countries.

What this trend implies is that the global playing field of retailing is becoming more level. Many emerging markets now have sufficiently large middle classes to support the efficient operations of a large, sophisticated home-based retailer. Such retailers are now able to tap into global expertise, often hiring reverse expats who have spent time in affluent markets gaining valuable knowledge and experience. In addition, these retailers have relatively easy access to domestic and global capital markets. They obtain capital from private savings (especially in Asia), global private equity firms and sovereign wealth funds interested in supporting domestic entrepreneurs. As such, these companies are able to be world-class competitors to the larger global players.

Globalization of U.S. retailers accelerates

The globalization of American retailing has been imminent for decades. It still is, only this time may be different. U.S.-based retailers now face an economic environment at home far more challenging than anything they've experienced in recent memory. In the past, there may not have been sufficient incentive for U.S.- based retailers to risk entering new markets. Given the sorry experience of many global retailers and the strong opportunities that still existed at home, it was probably wise to focus on the home market. But things are clearly changing: the home market will grow more slowly, and the consumer will likely be more fickle. Therefore, to achieve solid growth, U.S. retailers will either have to substantially gain market share at home or find new opportunities in other markets.

The most likely candidates for global expansion are specialty retailers rather than food, mass merchandise or department store operators. U.S.-based specialty retailers are well developed, often clearly differentiated, well executed, have substantial financial resources and are facing saturation and slow growth at home. We have already seen global investments by U.S.-based apparel and home goods retailers, and more will surely follow.

The home specialty concept is perhaps the most pioneering area of U.S. retailing, but this segment has been hit hard by the collapse of the U.S. housing bubble. It is not likely that the business environment for these retailers will dramatically improve anytime soon – so if ever there was a time for globalization, it is now.

Social networking and retailing

Many people above the age of 40 have no idea how to engage in social networking – and many who do have no idea what to do with this modern form of communication. Yet as with most new technologies, this one is having an impact on retailing. Indeed, social networking has the potential to revolutionize the industry by empowering consumers, whose technological learning curve is quickly disappearing. Many retailers are lagging behind their customers' rapid evolution, however.

The first effect of this is the need for increased transparency: Consumers demand greater access to information about retailers, their products and their pricing. Essentially, this changes the relationship between retailer and consumer into a seller's auction, which has the potential to undermine margins by lowering prices to the level of the most desperate seller.

Second, social networking has an effect on the shared shopping experience. Consumers interact with friends as they shop and exchange ideas, tips and recommendations about bargains, new merchandise, sales events and bad experiences. Consumers are thus shopping "virtually" with their friends, seeking their instant approval, validation and opinions. The personal referral is making a comeback in the virtual world.

Social networking not only affects consumers, it creates new touch points and marketing tactics for retailers that didn't exist only a few years ago. Retailers can now build a more complete relationship with their best customers through networks. Personalized marketing was a frustrated vision 10 years ago and got a bad reputation in early attempts. Now it is entirely feasible and, eventually, will be a necessary competitive capability.

Finally, networking creates access to information at a level that shifts the balance of knowledge and expertise from the seller to the buyer. Buyers can research product information at a level that goes beyond the ability of many retailers to educate their sellers. This shift in the balance of power will stimulate retailers to equip their associates with product information at a level that matches or exceeds the customer's knowledge.

This revolution is driven by the consumer's creative use of new technologies. Retailers will need to understand and follow their customers' new shopping behaviors in order to thrive.

Rationalizing assortments

Most retailers offer too much product. This is a symptom of a disconnect between buying teams and an institution's ability to understand customers, but it is also a failure to recognize the life cycle of products, brands and SKUs. Retailers often boast about the large number of SKUs they offer, but exiting a category or product range can be as important as the introduction of a new one. In the future, smart retailers might boast of how many SKUs they have eliminated and take pride in the focused nature of their offering.

Strengthening customer loyalty will increasingly involve demonstrating to the consumer that the retailer understands her preferences and lifestyles and can anticipate changes in these attributes. A fundamental demonstration of such understanding would come from eliminating what the customer doesn't want and focusing on what is relevant to her. The customer's loyalty will be rooted in her trust that the retailer is able to do this through range editing.

Achieving such focus will not come easily: It will involve not only the use of information technology to monitor consumer behavior, but also using networked communication to understand consumer preferences and lifestyles.

Increased polarization

Polarization is an old story, but an important one. It appears to be on a one-way path that threatens the viability of those in the middle.

Most developed retail markets – and, increasingly, many emerging ones – can be split into three major segments: value, middle and premium. Value involves category killer and mass merchandise volume-driven big boxes; premium is aspirational, niche and higher margin.

The middle, therefore, is often the default segment, and many retailers attempt to be all things to all people. The middle is especially vulnerable given the constraints on consumer spending growth in many developed economies and the pressure on margins that creates. The economic constraints on consumers will further drive the necessity for retailers to choose the low-margin, high-volume approach or one that is more aspirational, valueadded, niche and higher margin; the guys in the middle will face growing pressure. The extent to which middle-market players can strengthen their models and become more focused in the eyes of consumers will be key to their survival prospects.

Global Powers of Retailing Top 250 highlights

2008 a tumultuous time for Global Retail Industry

The global economic expansion came to an end in 2008. As the year progressed, the recession that began in the U.S. worsened, spreading around the globe. Retailers faced an extremely challenging environment as consumers became more cautious and reduced their spending in response to troubled housing, employment and credit markets. As consumers realized they could no longer spend beyond their means, retailers selling discretionary goods were particularly hard hit. Retailers selling food and other necessities fared considerably better.

Fiscal 2008 sales and profits for the Top 250 Global Powers of Retailing reflect the impact of declining consumer confidence. Among the Top 250, 61 retailers had declining retail sales in 2008, up from 44 in 2007. As spending became much more dependent on income than on credit, retailers selling apparel and accessories, consumer electronics, and home improvement products struggled. However, given the severity of the economic downturn, composite retail sales growth was not as sluggish as might have been anticipated. Sales-weighted, currency-adjusted retail sales for the Top 250 rose 6.3 percent in 2008 compared with 7.6 percent in 2007.

While sales growth slowed as recession-weary consumers pulled back, profitability plunged in 2008. The composite net profit margin fell to 2.4 percent from 3.7 percent a year earlier, bringing to an end what had been a trend of continuing improvement in retail profitability in recent years.

Many retailers "bought" sales with heavy promotions, which hit the bottom line hard. Of the 184 companies that disclosed their bottom-line results, 30 operated at a loss (more than double the 14 unprofitable companies in 2007). Perhaps more telling, 123 companies, or fully two-thirds of all reporting companies, saw their net profit margin decline in 2008.

As a group, retail sales of the Top 250 Global Powers of Retailing exceeded US$3.8 trillion in fiscal 2008, an increase of 5.5 percent from 2007's Top 250 total of US$3.6 trillion. Some of the increase reflects nominal sales growth, and some reflects the changing composition of the Top 250 list itself. However, part of the gain in the aggregate U.S. dollar-denominated sales figure is due to the impact of a weaker dollar against many major currencies during 2008.

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Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.