Worldwide Retail Exchange (WWRE) chief executive officer Colin Dyer has identified global data synchronisation and collaboration as important factors for the future of the company.

Set up in 2000, the WWRE appeared along with a wave of similar services across a range of vertical markets, hoping to make use of the Internet to bring manufactures, retailers and suppliers of components or raw materials together in a virtual marketplace.

The basic premise was that buyers would combine bids to get economies of scale on large orders. While many of these digital exchanges have collapsed because of disenchantment by participants, the WWRE remains as the dominant digital exchange for the retail sector.

However, the exchange is not without its critics. WHSmith and Safeway are both understood to have walked away, and even founder members Delhaize and Kingfisher have written off their initial investments in the project.

However, Dyer insists that about US$9 billion (£4.89 billion) of procurement has been made over the exchange in the past three years, with the number of transactions increasing every year by between 30 and 50 per cent.

The exchange has about 40 active retail members, based primarily in the US and Europe. It counts Tesco, Auchan and Casino among its members.

However, the exchange has turned its attention to the encroaching trend of collaboration. Dyer accepts that the exchange will have to adapt to a world that is no longer proprietary.

‘The principal area of growth in future will be in the areas of collaboration and data synchronisation,’ he said in an exclusive interview with Retail Week. ‘That’s the area where standards are being set and will produce the greatest potential for us.’

Dyer recognises that the creation of a Global Data Standard (GDS) may dilute WWRE’s business case, but he is prepared to square up to the competition.

He said: ‘We welcome the competition. Some retail companies may choose to work with specialist GDS organisations. Our job will be to look into working with these other sources.’

The company is also rolling out collaboration functions on the service to help retailers interact more efficiently with their suppliers.

WWRE stalwart Tesco is giving the service its blessing by bringing 100 of its largest suppliers onto the collaborative planning network over the summer.