For 25 years, Nielsen has organized what has become one of the most important business events in Italy. The focus of L'Incontro Nielsen 2009, which was held late last month in Sardinia, was the economic crisis and possible solutions for recovery.
Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and an advisor to several heads of state, opened the event by outlining his views of the crises facing the world today: economic, energy and climate. The solution, Rifkin believes, is a third industrial revolution propelled by a hydrogen economy. By focusing on the development of hydrogen as a fuel, all three crises are addressed.
Participants also heard from two academics regarding the economic crisis. Andrea Boltho, a professor at Oxford, linked the current crisis to the collapse of housing prices, increases in the costs of oil and raw materials and the collapse of major financial institutions, which caused a decline in public confidence. Boltho predicted that recovery would come in the second half of 2010. Meanwhile, Franceso Daveri, a professor of economics at the University of Parma, focused on Italy and its future. He stated that Italy entered a recession prior to the other European countries due in large part to its failure to remain competitive in the global economy. They key to recovery, Daveri believes, is for Italian companies to innovate and change the way they do business.
Stefano Galli, managing director of Nielsen Italy, presented new research on the shopping patterns of Italian consumers. While pointing out that confidence was low, consumers were adapting to the recession in ways similar to those in other countries: making fewer shopping trips, reducing impulse purchases and rediscovering cooking and eating at home. Baking bread and cakes and making pasta at home were identified as some of the ways Italians are coping with the economic downturn. Only 25% of Italians surveyed said that they believe that recovery has started and that the economy will recover in the next 12 months.
Finally, Emma Marcegaglia, president of Confindustria, the Italian employers' federation, spoke of the depth of the economic crisis, noting that gross domestic product declined 5.9 percent last year, the worst fall in the past 30 years. She noted that it was necessary for Italian companies to invest in "green" technology, implement reforms and focus on developing exports to Russia, the Baltic countries and other nations closer to Italy that will resume growth once recovery takes hold.