World Retail Congress 2019

 

Dutch Prime Minister pledges to back the digital economy

Dutch Prime Minister pledges to back the digital economy

The final session of day two brought together the Dutch Prime Minister with two of the Netherlands' biggest retail leaders to discuss omni-channel retailing 

Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, called on retailers to help improve sustainability and to ensure that products are ethically sourced as he reflected that “retail is undoubtedly changing very fast. If the retail landscape is changing quickly anywhere then it’s here.”

In the final session of day two of the World Retail Congress, he stressed the industry’s importance to the Dutch economy - retail is the biggest employer in the Netherlands, employing 900,000 people - while he said that the country is investing heavily in the communications infra-structure to bolster the digital economy. On creating a level playing-field for retailers and pure-players he said: “Firstly, you have to agree with the concept that where the money is made, the tax must be paid,” while he said that national interests in some other European countries, notably France and Germany, had slowed growth in the continental ecommerce supply chain. Dick Boer, Former Chairman and CEO, Ahold Delhaize, stressed that high speed internet is very important to the Dutch online consumer market and said: “The less boundaries between us in Europe the better, we need to grow rather than the giants from the US or China.”Tjeerd Jegen, CEO, Hema, picked up on creating a more equitable position for omni-channel retailers. He said: “We use Amsterdam [the company’s headquarters] as the base of our brand. I have quite a lot of bricks and mortar stores but around the country there are regulatory restrictions like permitted opening hours, or differences in parking restrictions. It is all locally-focussed and we could really do with the decisions being made nationally.” Of trade restrictions between countries and continents, he added: “Tarriffs and duties will make global trade very hard and thinking ethically the people worst off in society will pay the highest price for it. Specifically we would love to have clarity on Brexit, we have stopped opening stores in the UK because of the uncertainty.” Jegen also backed investment in start-up companies, with Amsterdam one of Europe’s leading tech hubs, and said that Hema is using start-ups to “help train us to be more entrepreneurial” as he stressed “I believe the future of retail is in partnerships”

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