Cover Story Beijing breaks record with largest number of participants at 12th ARCE
Beijing, the host city for the 12th Asian Retailers Conference and Exhibition (ARCE), welcomed a record number of participants for the five-day event, which started on 6 September 2005. Here are some highlights of the biennial event, which is organised by the Federation of Asian-pacific Retailers Associations.
THE 12th Asian Retailers Conference and Exhibition (ARCE) will be remembered for being the event with the largest number of participants over 3,000 in the series of biennial ARCEs held since the inaugural event in Tokyo in 1983. But it is the content, not the record number of participants, that made the event a success. On top of it, the host organisation, China General Chamber of Commerce (CGCC), put up a commendable programme for the delegates, who included more than 1,300 from outside of mainland China. Altogether, the 12th ARCE attracted participants from 22 countries and regions.
Our primary aim and focus is to make this event greater, better ... and attract more international participants from beyond the Asia-Pacific region so that it becomes truly an international event, said Jiang Ming, vice-president and secretary-general of CGCC, in an interview with RETAIL ASIA.
Jiang, who heads the 12th ARCE secretariat as general director, added: ARCE plays a significant role in the retail industry. It is a gathering of retailers from all across the Asia-Pacific region, providing a platform for players from different markets to network and share information on the latest retailing concepts, marketing strategies, management, technology ... and all participants can share their experiences and exchange information.
The theme Innovation and Cooperation summed up the key focus of the education programme that CGCC had put together.
Chinas economy, propelled by its billion-plus population, is experiencing tremendous growth, which is accelerating the expansion and development of the countrys retail industry, and this in turn has made an impact on the region and beyond, said Jiang.
Domestic retailers need to learn from their counterparts outside of China, [even as] foreign retailers (from Asia and beyond) see the potential in expanding their business into China. [The foreign companies are] not only retailers but also suppliers that service the retail industry IT providers, logistics and payment companies, he said.
The five-day event kicked off with an impressive opening ceremony at The Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, with a dynamic keynote address by Chinas Vice-Premier Wu Yi. This was followed by an information-packed presentation on the opening of Chinas retail industry by the Assistant Minister of Commerce Huang Hai at the start of the Plenary Assembly immediately after the opening ceremony. (Read Steven Gohs One ViewPoint on pages 11 & 12 for the details.)
One of the benefits of attending the ARCE is its comprehensive education programme and, this year, the CGCC delivered a veritable feast of topics.
The official conference programme profiled 71 speakers in all, with presentations by leading retailers from around the world as well as industry specialists, regional and global suppliers of information, technology, products and services to the retail industry.
Dr Hans-Joachim Koerber, president and CEO of Metro Group of Germany, was one of the international retailers who spoke at the Plenary Session as did founding FARA member Okada Takuya, honorary chairman and advisor of Aeon Co, Japan.
Koeber in his presentation, entitled Asia as a Centre of Global Growth Perspectives for International Retailers, said that Asia, which currently has the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world, is set to displace western countries as the focus for international economic dynamism. Rising Asia will reshape globalisation [giving it] less of a Made in the USA or Made in Europe character, but more of an Asian look and feel.
Asia, which lacks regional homogeneity will be much harder to penetrate than anywhere else in the world, said the German retailer, whose company has a presence in several markets in Asia. Each Asian market is different. There is nothing like a winning retail format in Asia but rather a diversity of successful concepts and a great need for adaptation of retail formats.
Nevertheless, Koerber believes that any international retailer that has a clearcut strategy will succeed in overcoming these challenges in Asia. Metro, which set up its first Cash & Carry store in China 10 years ago, today has 25 stores. It ventured into Japan and Vietnam in 2002, followed by India in 2003. And, this year, it has announced plans to set up a chain of hypermarkets in Pakistan.
Takuya, renowned for his passion for greening the retail industry, having initiated the planting of thousands of trees in every location that Aeon sets up a store from China and Malaysia to Boston in the US said that the 21st century will belong to Asia. It will also herald an era of environmental awareness.
He also touched on another of his favourite subjects creating a world of peace. Retail is a business of peace as prosperity symbolises peace and the retail sector, which attracts tens of millions of consumers every day to their stores, can help to create peaceful and harmonious societies, said the 80-year-old retail veteran in a brief speech at the opening ceremony.
The speakers platform also saw a slew of Chinas top as well as up-and-coming retail players taking to the podium to share their own insights and experiences with the delegates. They include Dr Zhang Wenzhong, president of Beijing WuMart Group, who discussed the current scenario of traditional retailers and how this retail segment can be systematically integrated into chainbusinesses.
Wan Wenying, one of Chinas veteran retailers who is well-known in the regions retail fraternity, focused on human-resource development for Chinas retail industry. The former general manager of Beijing YouYi Shopping City and current consultant of Beijing Lufthansa Shopping Center said that there is a shortage of mid-level managers and retail professionals in China and there is an urgent need to find and train such employees to keep up with the pace of retail development in the country.
Krish N Iyer, managing director & CEO, Piramyd Retail Ltd, India, offered ARCE delegates fresh insights into the opportunities and challenges in Indias fast-growing retail industry. He spoke about the growth drivers for organised retailing in India, focusing on product categories, customer bases, store formats and markets.
Iyers company operates several store formats lifestyle (Piramyd Mega Store) and food, home and personal care retail (TruMart and TruMart Daily).
Industry specialists were also on the ARCE speaker platform and they included Scott Kohno, president & CEO of The Retail Element, USA, and Andrew Ong, news analyst, Euromonitor International, Singapore.
Kohno, who has been in the retail design and consulting industry for 20 years, spoke on Retail Marketing and Design Trends, using examples such as Nordstrom re-invention which he called a success in progress and giving advice on topics raging from in-store communication and customer service to the use of store fronts and windows to create a successful store.
Euromonitors Ong, who tracks global retailing trends and is one of the team members working on the Retail Asia-Pacific Top 500 ranking, discussed the shifting trends and strategies that are shaping Asias retail industry before zeroing in on Chinas retail economy, the worlds largest emerging market.
He said that China, with its retail market valued in excess of US$590 billion and growing at more than 8% per year, holds incredible promise for both local and international players to grow their business quickly. However, he warned delegates that retailers [who] sit on the sidelines will soon find that the time to make a move has passed.
These are but a few relevant insights and intelligences into the regions dynamic retail industry highlighted at the convention. On the whole, the 12th ARCE presented wide-ranging topics by high-calibre speakers that cater to the diverse needs and interests of the delegates.