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Retail models are not global, and global certainly not inevitable

February 18th, 2008 by Devangshu Dutta

Many pundits have passed judgement on the inevitability of ‘organised retail’. Yet, around the world, independents continue to thrive.

One may think that at least in difficult economic phases – such as the one facing economies around the world right now – large retailers are better equipped to survive. Yet, often it is the flexibility of the owner-driven small business that rides out the trough. Service levels and personalisation – that are increasingly critical in an impersonal world – are often far better delivered by a small retailer. [See "Playing with the Big Boys"]

And when it comes to business across borders, I can’t think of any retailer that is truly global. Most retailers that have successfully run international businesses in multiple countries (Carrefour, increasingly Tesco and others) have had to localise significantly – often sacrificing scale to achieve localisation.

A well-written article by Paul Chapman in Mint (February 18, 2007) raises some of these points using India as an illustration. Worth a read: The Rocky Route to Modern Retail.

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