Blog: The merits of going global

Joe Ayling | 10 April 2008

I'm getting ready for the second day of the World Retail Congress today (10 April).

Yesterday was capped off with a superbly interactive panel talk between Arcadia Group owner Sir Philip Green and J Crew and former Gap Inc CEO Millard Drexler. It was more of a chat then anything though, with the two being good friends and having flown in together.

Although their business values were similar - touch, feel and not shrinking costs - their ideas about being an international business differed greatly. Sir Philip has slated a Topshop opening in New York for October, but on the flip side Drexler does not think US-based J Crew is ready for the headaches associated with being a global chain and is looking to expand to a global audience through better e-commerce.

Arcadia Group already has close contacts with suppliers round the world who have to keep up with demands for 150 styles every 12 days, and Drexler assured the audience that US consumers already loved Topshop.

Sir Philip also conceded weather is not for wimps and has taken its toll on the UK high street, and agreed to a photoshoot with just-style's news editor - the results of which will be blogged next week.

Barcelona, of course, is not the capital of Spain but feels large and thriving enough to be - only without the usual pollution and overcrowding by-products.

My novelty commute involves taking the metro across the city via the University and Ramblas to the CCIB venue. Even the metro has a relatively calm feel to it, although my esteemed colleague did have a run-in yesterday when finding to out to his cost that the Spaniards not only drive to the right - promptly walking into the wrong turnstile on entry to the platform much to my cruel amusement.

A popular alternative to the metro here is Barcelona's bike sharing system, the kind of CO2 saving measure I'll expect to hear about at a sustainability conference slated for this afternoon.

Also today, there is a scheduled address from Dr William Fung, group managing director of Li & Fung, and it will be interesting to see how his firm's target of a US$1bn annual profit by 2010 can be achieved amid rising operating costs in China, coupled with higher pay demands.

It will also be interesting to hear panellist Wu Jianzhong, chairman of Wumart Stores, speaking about the other side of the coin that is retailing in the world's fasting growing market.

Joe Ayling, news editor.


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