The mood so far at MAPIC is hopeful. Seminar and conferences titles are peppered with mention of “the future”, “looking ahead”, “emerging markets” and “strong pipeline”.

It seems that for the retail market, like many others, things are finally starting to look up and while no one is predicting a massive surge in work in this sector anytime soon (yet, it’s only 11am on day one so I’ll keep you posted) there are plenty of hints that investment opportunities are out there and development is on the horizon.

This afternoon there is going to be a talk specifically on what retail development work is in the pipeline. The talk, headed up by DTZ’s Chairman of EMEA Retail, Martyn Chase, promises to bring together four key experts to review different European markets including the UK to explain what the prospects are for getting development off the ground. I will be sure to report back on what is said.

So far today, I have attended a seminar called Brave New Worlds: A Tour of Emerging Markets. Representatives from Brazil, Russia, India and China discussed the opportunities for retailers and retail developers in each of their countries.

What was particularly interesting was that a fifth member of the panel was invited to attend from Argentina. In fact, the panel leader even alluded to the fact that BRIC soon needs to incorporate an ‘A’ as this part of the world is set to become a major world player in the next decade. The rep from Argentina, Dr Jorge Bliman was extremely honest about the country – at one point he conceded: “we change the rules all the time. We are always changing and it irritates people from foreign countries. But it’s very true and there is nothing I can do about that,” – but also made the point that the country is a great entry point to other Latin American countries including Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Chile – all up and coming markets with good opportunities for UK developers and construction firms.

The talk also focused on Brazil –“the sleeping giant which is now waking up” according to its representative Paulo C Mauro, Russia India and China.

Perhaps the most interesting talk came from the Russian representative, Hakan Pehrsson, deputy general director of IKEA real estate in Russia. He explained that there is huge underdevelopment in retail in Russia at the moment and therefore massive opportunity. There is just 80 sqm per 1000 inhabitants when the European average is 200sq m. He added that this is in a country where the people spend, an average, 70% of their income and spend around three hours in shopping centres at a time – 40% more than the average time spent in a US mall.

All interesting points. It was just a shame that two unknown hot headed French people had a loud debate just behind the rather flimsy boards the panelists were sitting in front of half way through, drowning out some of the talk on China.

The star of the show was Mr Argentina. Even the panal leader commented as he closed the proceedings that Dr Bliman had made his day with his “disarming candor”.

So goodbye for now from Cannes where I am delighted to report that the sun is shining and there is no sign of any gale force winds.