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Comment: Dynamic market growth on show at In-Store Asia says Adam Arnold of CJ Retail Solutions

It’s always exciting to spend time in Asia, particularly in India where the retail industry is positively booming. Recent reports show it’s now the world’s fifth-largest global destination in the retail space, and is on track to grow by a staggering 60 per cent in the next two years. Fuelled by a rapidly-expanding middle class and a growing economy, there have never been more exciting opportunities for retailers across the world to tap into this lucrative sector.

All this was evident at the 11th In-Store Asia Expo, held at the Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre in bustling Mumbai in February. Now the largest trade-show for suppliers on the Indian sub-continent, it attracted around 100 exhibitors, including cleaning appliance specialist Kärcher, industry association POPAI, and trade fair EuroShop.

More than 7,500 delegates, including retail design firms, visual merchandisers, in-store branding specialists, POP manufacturers and lighting providers, are thought to have attended the event – a significant increase on last year’s 5,000 and an indicator of just how strong the market has become.

As well as speaking to exhibitors and other delegates, the purpose of our visit was to hear from some of India’s leading retail authorities, and this event delivered an impressive line-up. While subjects such as digitally-enabled retail environments, retail design, visual merchandising, design innovations, retail research and shopper marketing all resonate with audiences around the world, it was refreshing to hear them being discussed in relation to the Asian market. How the latest retail technologies will be harnessed to appeal to Asian customers is certainly fascinating to those who have worked predominately in Europe.

Of particular interest was a talk from Vivek Bali, chief operating officer at Sephora India, who looked at the growth of beauty across offline and online channels in India. Part of Arvind Internet Limited, Sephora India launched its online store last summer to rave reviews from the likes of Vogue India. It’s a sure sign that, as internet use grows across this enormous country, retailers will find plenty of opportunities to grow their customer base.

Other topics included the ‘evolution of grocery retail’ from the founder of online provider Tata Starquick.com, while David Kepron, vice-president of design global strategies at Marriott International, looked at some of the most important trends in digitally-enabled shopping environments.

Each year, In-Store Asia hosts the country’s most prestigious awards events for the retail design community, the VM & RD Retail Design Awards. With 22 categories, including ones for store design and specialist areas like fashion, grocery and home improvement, the competition attracted 370 entries, which is more than 30 per cent more than last year. It’s another indication that the Indian retail industry is flourishing, with those who work in it fast becoming experts and innovators in their fields.

One of the most exciting parts of the expo for me is the VM challenge, which sees 42 VM teams from more than 15 top brands compete in a live ‘window display contest’. With just an hour to complete the project after receiving the brief, it’s always exhilarating to watch.

As India’s retail industry, and economy in general, continues to grow at an exponential rate, it’s clear that the coming year will bring plenty more innovations and surprises, especially as more brands harness the power of digital. I am already looking forward to seeing what these might be at next year’s event, due to take place in New Dehli.

Adam Arnold is global business development manager at CJ Retail Solutions