CHAPTER NINE

The Information Revolution in Retail

WHEREVER I WENT IN Europe in 1993—Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland—I heard the same lament: European economic unification is at a standstill in manufacturing and finance. But in retailing, where no one expected it, economic unification is galloping across Europe.

Ten years ago, Aldi, a food discounter, was still purely German; now it is in seven European countries with some 3,300 stores. Other food discounters—German, French, Danish—are expanding with similar speed across Europe, from Spain to Norway. Sweden-based Ikea now dominates Western Europe’s furniture business and is opening stores in the former Russian satellites. Italy-based Benetton (women’s fashions) ...

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