Retailers at NRF’s convention this week got a citing of Bill Fields, a former Walmart executive who spent 25 years with the company serving in various roles from 1971 to 1996. Today Fields is chairman of a group called China Horizon, a joint venture with the Chinese postal service charged with helping to develop retail and consumption in rural China, and it was the topic of China that Fields addressed during the super session: “Making the retail business dynamic,” sponsored by Microsoft.
Fields did not go into detail about his current gig and instead focused on the general consumer environment and market that exists in China today.
“China will be the dominant economic force in the world in my children’s lifetime,” Fields said.
A lot of people would agree with him on that point considering the world’s most populous nation has only the U.S. to overtake at this point and its Gross Domestic Product is expanding at a far more rapid pace that the U.S. America is coming out of a recession and low single-digit economic growth in the years ahead will be considered a triumph while Chinese economy is steaming forward and last year expanded at a rate of 10%, according to Fields. “We are in probably one of the most exciting times we have ever seen.”
Aside from the big picture outlook Fields shared, he did peel back the onion to offer a view of how societal changes are influencing consumer demand in ways that will transform the retail industry for decades to come. For example Fields noted that while in the past three decades the trend was to move from rural China to urban China, in recent years that has changed and noted that in 2008, 10 million people went back to rural China from urban China.
“This is the time to build a brand, this is the time to understand that China is the second largest economy in the world,” Fields said.