The 10 Best Emerging Markets For Retail

Neither turmoil in the global markets nor geopolitical tensions can hold retailers down.

Through a dramatic dip in oil prices that bruised Middle Eastern economies, and China’s slowest gross domestic product growth in a quarter century, retailers are staying the course in expanding their brands around the world—albeit with a more cautious outlook.

That’s according to the latest Global Retail Development Index by A.T. Kearney, an annual report that selects 30 out of 200 developing nations and scores them on criteria including population, retail sales and political risk, to determine how important each is for retailers’ expansion plans.

“As a result of turbulence in the Middle East, Latin America and Russia, the past year has seen a more cautious approach to international expansion into some developing markets,” said Mike Moriarty, co-author of the report. “However, retailers are taking a longer-term view of emerging markets, with fewer exits and more targeted investments in areas of growth.”

Russia, in particular, saw its ranking drop nine slots to 21, as record-low oil prices, a less valuable currency, a slowdown in economic growth and geopolitical tensions caused retailers including Adidas and Zara to shutter stores.

On the flipside, after falling short of the title for four years, one country regained its place at the top of list. To see the 10 most attractive emerging markets for retail investment, click ahead.


10. Armenia

Photo via zvartnots dutyfree

Ranking last year: 6
Population: 3,060,631 (July 2014 est.)
GDP per capita: $7,400 (2014 est.)

Opportunity in the market outweighed political instability to land Armenia in the top 10. Home to Levi’s, Puma and Zara, the Yerevan Mall opened in the country’s capital in February 2014.

The city of Yerevan, the nation’s capital, accounts for about 80 percent of the country’s retail sales, which aside from food are predominantly made up of home improvement, clothing and furniture purchases.


9. Malaysia


Ranking last year: 9
Population: 30,073,353 (July 2014 est.)
GDP per capita: $24,500 (2014 est.)

Rising incomes, a young urban population and a stable environment for business contributed to Malaysia’s No. 9 ranking. Though the country’s gross national income per capita was near $10,000 in 2013, according to The World Bank, A.T. Kearney said it’s nearing its goal of $15,000 by 2020.

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Retail in the country has started to expand beyond the capital of Kuala Lampur. Aldo and Superdry have opened new stores respectively in East Malaysia and Penang, a state northwest of the capital.


8. Brazil

1261-03-brazil-Photo courtesy of Alexander Shafir
Photo Credit : Alexander Shafir

Ranking last year: 5
Population: 202,656,788 (July 2014 est.)
GDP per capita: $15,200 (2014 est.)

Brazil dropped three slots as growth in the country’s gross domestic product stalled, inflation jumped and consumer confidence fell. But it wasn’t all bad news. Unemployment remained low, and wages kept up their positive growth, though it came at a slower pace.

Beauty was the big story last year, as the Body Shop entered the country with more than 100 stores, and L’Occitane opened 90 shops under a new Brazilian brand.


7. United Arab Emirates
Photo via

Ranking last year: 4
Population: 5,628,805
GDP per capita: $65,000 (2014 est.)

The UAE is nearing saturation, according to A.T. Kearney, with retail space growing 7 percent last year. Still, Dubai has maintained its reputation as the retail hub of the Middle East, helping drive the country’s sales 6 percent higher to $71 billion.

Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s plan to open shops in The Galleria luxury mall, in Abu Dhabi, by 2018, marking Macy’s first international store.

Dubai Holding plans to build its mega Mall of the World development, which would be the world’s largest, over the next 10 years. The shopping center will be housed in a 48-million-square-foot temperature-controlled “city,” complete with an indoor theme park.


6. Georgia
Photo via

Ranking last year: 7
Population: 4,935,880 (July 2014 est.)
GDP per capita: $7,700 (2014 est.)

There are more than 40 international brands represented in Georgia, including Gap, Marks & Spencer and Aldo. Still, modern formats account for only about 30 percent of the country’s retail, with traditional bazaars taking up a key place in the market.

The retail scene is changing, however; a new shopping and entertainment center will open in the capital, Tbilisi, this year, only three years after the launch of the Tbilisi Mall.


5. Mongolia
Photo via

Ranking last year: New entry
Population: 2,953,190 (July 2014 est.)
GDP per capita: $10,200 (2014 est.)

Not having made the Top 10 last year, Mongolia burst onto the scene thanks to rapid growth and low market saturation. Retail sales in the country grew at a compounded annual rate of 16 percent from 2010 to 2014, with the luxury segment in a particularly sweet spot.

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Brands including Burberry and Louis Vuitton have stores in the country, which sits atop mineral deposits believed to be worth $1.3 trillion.


4. Qatar

Photo via tours42plus

Ranking last year: New entry
Population: 2,123,160 (July 2014 est.)
GDP per capita: $144,400 (2014 est.)

Qatar also made an impressive debut in the top 10, besting the rest of the Middle East countries with its stable economy and $12.4 billion in retail spending.

International players had previously been discouraged from entering the market due to a lack of real estate, but a slew of development projects over the next two years will “significantly enhance the retail landscape,” A.T. Kearney said.

The infrastructure should also benefit from the country’s controversial hosting of the 2022 World Cup.


3. Chile

Photo via

Ranking last year: 1
Population: 17,363,894 (July 2014 est.)
GDP per capita: $23,200 (2014 est.)

Last year’s top-rated country, Chile dropped two slots on the list hurt by slow gross domestic product growth, high inflation and rising unemployment.

A.T. Kearney noted that while sales in areas including apparel and consumer goods are rising, the market is showing “clear signs of saturation.”


2. Uruguay

Ranking last year: 3
Population: 3,332,972 (July 2014 est.)
GDP per capita: $20,500 (2014 est.)

High-earning locals and tourists have attracted Tiffany, Prada and other luxury brands to Uruguay, which boasts the highest retail sales per capita in Latin America.

Like Brazil, gross domestic product growth was slower, but retail sales still grew at a compounded annual rate of 9 percent in the four years ended 2014, to $22.7 billion.


1. China

Shopping street in Wenzhou. Photo via wikimedia

Ranking last year: 2
Population: 1,355,692,576 (July 2014 est.)
GDP per capita: $12,900 (2014 est.)

China fought through its slowest gross domestic product growth in 25 years to regain its position at the top of the list.

The country’s retail sales grew nearly 12 percent last year, and its retail market is set to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest by 2018.


This feature originally appeared in CNBC.



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