Retail bosses survey darkening skies

Industrials Reuters

BERLIN (Reuters) - The deteriorating outlook for the world economy, and what retailers can do to cope, are likely to be the dominant themes at the annual World Retail Congress in Berlin this week.

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Executives from companies including France's Carrefour <CARR.PA>, Britain's Kingfisher <KGF.L>, America's Neiman Marcus <NMRCUS.UL> and India's Reliance Industries <RELI.NS>, will be discussing a slide in consumer confidence across Europe and the United States.

Shoppers are curbing spending amid fears major economies are falling back into recession and a sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone could spark another financial markets meltdown.

Retailers are traditionally wary of stepping into the political arena for fear of alienating some of their customers. But as the outlook deteriorates, they may become more vociferous in calling for policymakers to take action to boost growth, such as easing monetary policy or slowing down the pace of austerity measures.

Planet Retail research director Robert Gregory thought much of the focus at the three-day conference would also be on how companies can cope by, for example, maximizing their potential in still growing subsectors like online retailing and tapping relatively undeveloped markets, like those in Africa.

"Multichannel and best practice will be among the major talking points," he said, referring to store-based retailers' attempts to integrate their businesses with the internet.

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It will not all be doom and gloom either, as retailers will be present from fast-growing markets like India and Brazil.

India's Reliance Retail said last week it saw same-store sales rising 20 percent this fiscal year.

(Reporting by Mark Potter and Victoria Bryan; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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