If retailers are interested in global expansion, where in the world should they begin looking for their next prime location? Management consulting firm A.T. Kearney has released its annual global retail development study, which ranks countries by risk (economic performance, debt indicators, political risk); market attractiveness (business efficiency, retail sales per capita, urban population); market saturation (size, number and performance of retailers already within the region), and time pressure (whether the retail sector is developing rapidly, and if the expansion opportunity is right). A score of 100 means the country is primed for retail expansion. "This study is a strategic predictor of where retailers should be going," said Mike Moriarty, a partner with A.T. Kearney. "The higher the score, the better the timing is for retailers to enter the country." — Cecily Hall

INDIA

Global Retail Development Index Score: 92

"This is an exciting time for India," said Mike Moriarty of A.T. Kearney. "Relaxed retail laws are in place now, which allow single-brand retailers to own a 51 percent majority stake in a joint venture with a local partner." This is key for luxury goods and fashion brands, which are rushing into the market. Hermès is a classic example: The French luxury company said in June it had established a joint company to open stores in India, with a first unit expected in New Delhi. DLF City Centre, in nearby Gurgaon (left), has stores such as Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger and Marks & Spencer.

RUSSIA

Score: 89

"Multilevel fashion malls and mixed-use centers are expected to be successful here," the A.T. Kearney study noted. An ideal example is Moscow's Slava center, expected to be completed by 2010. Luxury and fashion companies are flocking to Russia to capitalize on its growing wealth. Ralph Lauren opened two Moscow locations in May, including a flagship near Red Square; British department store Debenhams opened its flagship here in the fall, and jeweler Kieselstein-Cord is set to open in the fall. Last year, Alberta Ferretti opened its second Russian flagship, in Kaliningrad.

CHINAScore: 86

Robust economic expansion in China and India is contributing to a strong global economy, WWD reported last week. Said Moriarty, "The middle class is going to grow over the next 10 years to over half a billion people. The Chinese have a terrific fashion sense, and apparel manufacturers and retailers should gain real insight into what these consumers want." Stuart Weitzman has revealed plans to expand into Beijing; Calvin Klein opened its first freestanding Collection store in Beijing, and in June, WWD reported that Coach plans to open at least 20 more stores in the region in the next three years.

VIETNAM

Score: 74

"Vietnam is much bigger than most people think," said Moriarty. "The region boasts 84 million people, per capita incomes are growing rapidly...if retailers study the cultural aspects and really learn this marketplace, Vietnam will be a real winner for many." WWD reported in April, "Vietnam is quickly becoming one of the new hot spots for retailers," noting that Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Ermenegildo Zegna and Lacoste have all either lain down roots here or have plans to do so in the near future.

UKRAINE

Score: 69

A.T. Kearney's study pointed out that although a majority of the Ukranian retail market is still composed of family-owned shops, residents are beginning to prefer malls and supermarkets as their ideal shopping destinations. One of Kiev's most popular shopping and entertainment centers is Globus mall, which features shops like Swatch, Timberland, Adidas and Esprit. International retailers, such as Metro, Rewe and SPAR have entered the market, according to the study. A massive shopping center construction project in Lviv is under way and expects to open in 2008.

CHILE

Score: 69

Chile's gross domestic product growth was steady at 4 percent for 2006, while retail sales rose 5 percent. But competition remains tough: Because Chilean-based supermarkets and hypermarkets are considered the most successful formats, other international retailers have exited the region. However, "for global retailers willing to play hard," noted the study, "Chile remains an attractive but challenging investment opportunity." In Santiago, Parque Arauco is one of the area's best-known malls. A few shops housed here include Ferragamo, Versace, Polo, Valentino and Zara.LATVIA

Score: 68

Thanks to impressive GDP growth of 12 percent in 2006, Latvia is expected to remain steady within the ranking during the next few years. "Riga is getting hipper by the minute," WWD Fast reported in 2005. "Cafes, designer hotels and boutiques of all sorts are racing to claim space on Riga's cobbled streets, lined with a mix of medieval architecture, wooded buildings and the highest percentage of Art Nouveau buildings in the world." Designer brands such as Armani, Gianfranco Ferré and MaxMara are all located here, along with fast-fashion shops including Zara, Mango and Benetton.

MALAYSIA

Score: 68

This Asian country continues to enjoy strong GDP growth (6 percent in 2006). Said Moriarty, "Because it is so near to Singapore, there is a terrific availability of talent, great training programs — the quicker retailers can hire local nationals to run these operations, the more quickly they'll turn a profit." Shoppers enjoy plenty of destinations in the region, including the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (left). The six-level, 1.5 million-square-foot mall, titled "Suria KLCC," is one of the largest in the world and houses many designer labels, including Chanel, Gucci, Hermès and Prada.

MEXICO

Score: 64

In March, WWD reported that Gucci opened a two-story, 4,844-square-foot flagship on Presidente Mazaryk Street in Mexico City, "joining luxury retailers such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Chanel, Tiffany & Co. and Cartier in the tony neighborhood of Polanco." Another popular destination is The Central Plaza (left), part of the Ciudad de los Niños (City of Children), a theme park designed to teach a work ethic and brand loyalty at a young age. The Ciudad de los Niños is located inside Mexico City's Santa Fe shopping mall, which boasts 285 stores.

SAUDI ARABIA

Score: 64

Saudi Arabia advanced seven places to number 10. With an economy driven primarily by high oil prices and exports, the country's $347 billion economy saw its GDP grow by 6 percent in 2006. "Tourism and a tax free status make Saudi Arabia a very attractive market," noted the study. Paris-based Carrefour plans to open 20 more hypermarkets in the region over the next 10 years, while Casino has plans to open 15 more stores over the next three years. Al Faisaliah Center (left), a popular shopping destination, houses stores such as Harvey Nichols, Nike, Zara, Mango and DKNY.TUNISIA

Score: 64

There is definitely more to this North African country than the souks (colorful open markets that sell everything from spices to jewelry). Major cities, such as Tunis and Sousse, boast some of the country's largest shopping destinations. Located just outside of Tunis is the Berges du Lac commercial center, home to an upscale hotel and spa, along with nearby stores that include Gap and Carrefour, which opened its hypermarket

in 2001.

BULGARIA

Score: 63

The central European country joined the European Union this year, "which opens up numerous opportunities for economic growth in this highly fragmented market," noted the study — which also pointed out that European giant Carrefour is reportedly attempting to jump into the region. The bustling capital Sofia is the most likely destination for expanding retailers. At City Center Sofia mall, retailers range from Nike, Puma and Geox to Sephora and Marks & Spencer. Another popular shopping street is Ivan Assen II, where lots of boutiques, small cafes and restaurants are located.

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