Leading economists forecast that the end of the recession is in sight, and will be led by a recovery in the US and China, followed by Europe.
Speaking at the World Retail Congress in Barcelona, Mirae Asset chief global and Asia strategist Ajay Kapur forecast that the recession would end in the US in the next “few months”, followed by China.
Deloitte director of global research Dr Ira Kalish said that recovery is “all about the US and China”, which have shared a “symbiotic relationship” over the past decade.
“By the end of the year or early next year, we will see the US economy growing again,” said Kalish.
He added that as a result of the downturn the US will shift from consumer spending to exports, investments and government spending, whereas Asia will shift away from exports towards consumer spending.
Kalish praised countries that had taken strong policy measures including quantitative easing to boost confidence and criticised Europe’s “insufficient” policy response to the crisis, and lack of strong fiscal stimulus.
Meanwhile, Li & Fung managing director Dr William Fung warned against repeating history and creating trade barriers – a method employed in the depression of the late 1920s.
He said: “The only silver lining I see is we are now operating on unprecedented lower levels of inventory and trading will be sharper. What my customers are telling me is keep inventories low, let’s chase business and have a quick response.”
He said that a consensus was forming, given the resultant imbalance of power in favour of buyer over seller, that the idea of payment within 30 days on open account is “very prevalent”. However, “once you go past 60 days you are giving the retailer working capital to finance the product” leading to a lack of credit in the supply chain, he added.
Fung also said he expected prices to decrease by between 5 and 10 per cent as commodity prices continue to fall.
Toys R Us chairman and chief executive Jerry Storch said that the “essential” rule by which retailers should trade though the downturn was “know thyself”.
“We don’t know how long the recession will last,” he said. “We need to get back to the basics and get back to common sense.”
He added that he had seen a “charge to cheap” at the expense of quality and warned against short-termist responses.
Etam chief executive Richard Simonin said that the beginning of the end of the “average customer” had begun before the global downturn but that recessionary factors had sped up the evolution. He said that it was essential for retailers to know their customer and be honest with their teams.