India has leaped up the rankings of the most desirable retail destinations in the world.
According to management consultant AT Kearney's 2004 Global Retail Development Index, India rose from fifth to second place, despite complex restrictions on foreign investment in the country.
'India is at a stage where China was about 15 years ago. The lack of consolidation and modern retail concepts in India present great opportunities for those ready to enter the market this year,' said AT Kearney consumer industry and retail practice manager Fadi Farra, who helped conduct the study.
Kingfisher, which owns B&Q, and Wal-Mart are among companies that have expressed an interest in the Indian retail market.
Russia emerged as the most attractive destination for the second year running. This was attributed to the improving political and economic stability as it approaches membership of the WTO. AT Kearney said a move into the market will be crucial for international players this year, as domestic competition becomes more sophisticated.
Overall, this year is proving to be an ambitious one for international retailing. The study claims retailers have announced plans to launch in 16 new countries, a third more than last year.
It also found that EU-member Eastern European markets have reached maturity.