Worldwide consumer confidence has shot up to its highest level for four years according to a survey of 130 Global Retail leaders

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·         The biggest leap was in Western Europe where sentiment is six times more positive than a year ago, according to the study released at the 10th Annual World Retail Congress

·         The findings, in a study by Australia’s Monash Business School, set a positive tone to the start of the Rome event, which expects over 1,000 delegates from around the world

Other key findings in the report, now in its fourth year, are:

Price, value and convenience are uppermost in consumers’ minds, with quality and the ‘shopping experience’ also highly rated.

The growing influence of social media is also highlighted both by consumers and retailers. 

But, despite the increasing significance of digital channels, the physical retail space is still the most important in influencing where consumers shop. Some 89% of retailers still consider the physical store to be the most important channel for enabling the shopping experience, up from 73% in the prior year’s survey.

In an increasingly fickle retail environment, where shoppers can engage in so many different ways, customer loyalty is seen as the biggest opportunity, although possibly the biggest future challenge too, for retailers. Continued growth online, coupled with new product development, are also highlighted.

The research was conducted during August and September 2015, amongst a group of leading retail experts, 77% of whom are Chairmen or CEOs, with over a third from businesses with annual sales of more than US$1 billion.

They expect retail revenue increases in most markets, but the strongest growth prospects are the Middle East and Africa with 81% and 79% of those surveyed respectively expecting sales increases in these regions.  In contrast, 39% expect China’s sales growth rate to decrease. 

Despite China’s slowdown Asia still remains the focus for international growth as retailers recognise the attractive demographics and consumer affinity for brands.

Across all markets the most important priority for growth is analysing customer data, which will help the understanding of customer behaviour.

This is increasingly being impacted by social media with 55% of retailers believing that consumers are heavily influenced by social media and peer group recommendations.  Brands also feel that the digital world is putting them under pressure as it can provide instant feedback, which can go viral, with 67% of those quizzed saying they feel their brands are more in the spotlight than ever.

Ian McGarrigle, Chairman of the World Retail Congress, commented: “It is reassuring to hear that retailers are optimistic about the future, but clearly also recognise that the age of disruption is well and truly upon us and the digitally aware consumer is leading the way that retailers must follow.”

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