Wal-Mart Takes on the World

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Dec. 12, 2011 12:00 am  

It had 352 stores in China at the end of October, and it plans to hire 160,000 Chinese workers in the next five years. (Wal-Mart is already the largest employer in the world with 2.1 million employees.)

Victories and Stumbles

The foreign reaction to Wal-Mart has been mixed, Chris Tilly, director of the Institute for Research on Labor & Employment at the University of California at Los Angeles, told Arkansas Business last week.

Chinese consumers have flocked to Wal-Mart. In some areas, though, Wal-Mart has stumbled. In 2006, it pulled out of Germany and South Korea after failing to gain momentum there, he said.

“So it’s not like it’s batting 1,000,” said Tilly, who has also studied Wal-Mart.

Still, when Wal-Mart has been able to get its foot in the door of a new country, it uses that position to stretch across the territory or continent, Tilly said.

In 2010, Wal-Mart bought 51 percent of South Africa’s Massmart for $2.2 billion, with the intention to spread and gain market share in all of Africa.

It is already making moves there.

Grant Pattison, a member of Wal-Mart’s Sustainability & Transformation Committee, told analysts in October that Wal-Mart plans to add 100 stores to South Africa in the next four years. It already had nearly 300 stores at the end of October.

“In South America, they’ve now got a foothold in Brazil, Argentina and Chile, but they’re also eyeing the rest of the continent,” Tilly said.

And Wal-Mart isn’t alone. Other retailers are also making similar moves around the globe.

“It’s a race for markets,” Tilly said.



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