Sunday, February 1, 2009

Discussions at the World Economic Forum - It's a Good Time to Be Alive; Changes in the Consumer

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, political and business leaders from around the globe have been meeting. Of course, most of the discussions have focused on the current global financial crisis, and a there have been numerous meetings on the various proposals. Below are some of the items from the conference.

Bill Clinton: It's a Good Time to Be Alive

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton delivered an upbeat message Thursday amid the mood of economic gloom at the World Economic Forum, telling delegates, "This is still a good time to be alive."

Clinton admitted that the deepening impact of the financial meltdown, which is dominating the agenda at this year's meeting in Davos, had left many people frightened — but said the global scale of the crisis proved that the world's nations could no longer afford to turn their backs on one another.

"This financial crisis proves, as nothing else should or could, the fundamental fact that global interdependence is more important than anything else in the world today," Clinton said. "We cannot escape each other. Divorce is not an option."

Clinton, the husband of current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urged the current generation of international statesmen to rise to the leadership challenges posed by the financial collapse and climate change.

"This is not a time for denial or delay. Do something. Give people confidence by showing confidence," said Clinton, who served in the White House from 1993 to 2001. "Don't give up. Don't bet against yourself. Don't bet against your country. This is still a good time to be alive."

Changes in the Consumer

Eating at Home

General Mills and other food makers are benefiting from a sharp rise in home cooking in the United States and to a lesser extent in Western Europe, the head of the U.S. company said on Saturday.

"We are seeing some very interesting changes in consumer behavior...," Chairman and Chief Executive Ken Powell told a panel at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Two or three years ago, around half of the $1 trillion spent by Americans each year on food went into the tills of restaurants and fast-food outlets.

But the fashion for eating away from home -- a strongly growing feature of the U.S. marketplace for the past 35 years -- has now been thrown into reverse.

"What we see now, over the last year and a half, is a very, very significant change in the direction of that trend," Powell said. "Basically, consumers in North America are rediscovering the grocery store and cooking at home again, clearly to the benefit of some and the disbenefit of others..."

General Mills earlier this month reported a rise in December sales, helped by stronger results at its Betty Crocker and Pillsbury baking units.

Online Sales Jump

Nike is experiencing a sharp increase in online sales, driven in part by cost-conscious shoppers conserving gasoline, the U.S. company's chief executive said on Saturday.

"We've seen a fairly dramatic increase in online sales," Mark Parker told a panel at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Industry analysts say the online sector continues to grow as more shoppers opt to shop on the Internet for convenience and the ability to compare bargains.

Nike, the world's largest athletic shoe and clothing maker, last month reported a 9% rise in quarterly net profit, showing its relatively resilience to the sluggish consumer environment around the world.

Sources: The Huffington Post,, Reuters

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