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U.S. retail CEOs expect M&A activity to drive bullish growth

The nation’s retail chief executives are bullish on growth.

That’s one of the findings of KPMG LLP’s 2018 U.S. CEO Outlook report, in which 83% of CEOs in the consumer and retail industry say they are very confident about the growth prospects of their companies during the next three years. Mergers and acquisitions were cited as the top (38%) growth driver, followed by third-party strategic alliances (23%). M&A activity is expected to transform retailers' business models faster than organic growth, reduce costs, increase market share and on-board new technologies, according to KPMG.

"Although U.S. CEOs are bullish on the business prospects of their companies, the percentage increase in growth over the next three years may still be moderate," said Mark Larson, national leader of KPMG's consumer & retail practice. "Retailers that acquire the right technologies, either through M&A or third-party alliances, and successfully personalize the shopping experience for their customers, may see the highest percentage increases in growth."

In other findings, nearly all of the executives (98%) see technological disruption as an opportunity rather than a threat. Most (92%) also said they are keeping up with innovation.

When it comes to emerging technologies, 94% of the CEOs expect to see a significant ROI from digital transformation and AI within the next five years. The majority of the executives (88%) said that technological investments made to personalize the customer experience have already delivered the growth benefits expected, but there is more that can be done.

CEOs are also staying mindful of the potential risks that digital technologies pose. The executives named cyber-security and emerging/disruptive technology as the greatest threats to their organizations' growth (25% each), followed by operational risk (21%). Ninety-percent of the respondents said that protecting customer data is one of the most important responsibilities for their organizations in order to grow.

"Risks such as cyber-security, managing customer data and adoption of new technology can significantly impact retailers' top-line and long-term growth," said Duleep Rodrigo, risk consulting industry leader, consumer & retail, KPMG. "Since the various risks in retail are heavily interconnected, rapidly evolving, and impact each retailer in a unique way, companies need to be creative in taking a balanced approach in managing risk and maintaining consumer trust, particularly as it relates to technology."
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