Sunday, November 28, 2010


Controversial retail giant signs deal

At a time of dismal economic predictions, business closures and job losses, comes news of a huge new commercial venture in the region.

A year after Ikea announced its hopes of opening a store in Loulé, the Swedish chain is to to sign a co-operation agreement with Loulé câmara next Thursday.

Ikea is the world's largest furniture retailer. It specialises in designing and selling ready-to-assemble furniture, home accessories and appliances.

In addition to a massive Ikea store, the new Loulé project is expected to incorporate a retail park and shopping mall. Hopefully by the time it all comes to fruition, Portugal will be well on the road to all-round prosperity.

The Loulé deal comes as a brand new book, The Truth about Ikea, is causing considerable controversy. The author, Johan Stenebo, is a former executive who worked his way up from trainee to managing director of an Ikea subsidiary, GreenTech.

In a review on Friday The Guardian called the book “explosive.” Stenebo claims that far from offering British shoppers a bargain, at the height of its power in the 1990s Ikea betrayed its golden rule – that prices should be 10% lower than those of its rivals – and ruthlessly overcharged British shoppers to boost profits.

As Businessweek put it, “The Swedish furniture giant has long been viewed as a model company. But an unprecedented insider account by a former exec paints a much darker picture.”

According to Stenebo, “few retailers are as smart at extracting money from customers' pockets.”


Mediterranean diet dumped

It would appear that most young people in this country have lost their appetite for the Mediterranean diet that is supposed to be so good for them.

More than 50 percent of the population aged between 10 and 18 are overweight and nearly nine percent are actually obese. These are the findings of a national study to be presented at a congress on obesity in Portugal today.

The study, by a team from the universities of Oporto and the Minho, says that obesity is most prevalent among the young and especially among boys. It is the impact this could have on health in later life, on mortality rates and the economy, that is concerning specialists.

The researchers who carried out the study believe the blame for 95% of childhood obesity can be attributed to nutritional and lifestyle problems. Only 5% of cases are genetic in character. Today's conference will discuss what more can be done to contain the problem.

The overweight trend is not confined to Portugal, of course. It is rampant in the other Mediterranean diet countries of southern Europe. Indeed, people are getting fatter almost everywhere. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally. The World Health Organisation predicts there will be 2.3 billion overweight adults in the world by 2015 and more than 700 million of them will be obese.

This is mainly due to increased consumption of more energy dense, poor nutrient foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats, combined with less physical activity. The upshot here and elsewhere is expected to be an exponential rise in heart problems, type II diabetes and other diseases, including some cancers.

Much of this could be curtailed by more exercise and a return to the Mediterranean diet. So bring on the fish, vegetables, fruit and whole grains, along with a generous splash of virgin olive oil and, for those who are old enough, a glass or two of red wine.

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