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World Retail Congress: 'Consumer shopping behaviour changed faster than retailers'

Understanding rapidly-changing shopper behaviour is one of the many challenges facing retailers in China today, vice president of Wangfujing Department Store Wendy Wang has said.

Speaking on a panel at the World Retail Congress in Rome, which kicked off at 2pm today (September 8), Wang said consumers have changed how they shop and prefer to shop closer to the community in which they live. She said shopping is no longer the top of the list of leisure activities for the Chinese shopper.

Alongside Wang on the panel was Jerry Black, chief digital officer at Asian retail network Aeon Group. He explained that he was excited about the changing demographic of Asia and underlined the impact of the expanding middle class on retailers.

Black also said the biggest driving force of the “digital age” is the explosion of social media: “From a marketing perspective you have to be part of that conversation.”

Wang also highlighted the increased use of digital and mobile channels, as well as the consumer’s  higher expectations of theatre in stores. She said: “China is currently in the middle of an economic transition, but as retailers we are in a transition too.”

Dr Ira Kalish, chief global economist at global consultancy Deloitte (pictured), discussed the economic situation in China in an earlier keynote session. The UK suffered its worst day of trading since March 2009 on August 24 after Chinese stocks plunged 8.5%, but Kalish said there was “a lot of unwarranted fear and panic around China”.

He said he believes that, while China’s footprint is big in the global economy, its impact on the US and EU will remain relatively small. He added: “I don’t think China will have a recession, just a slow down.”

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