by Jeff Hankins
Posted 10/11/2010 12:00 am
Updated 11 months ago
(Slideshow: Click for a photo tour of the new Shanghai Wal-Mart Supercenter. And for more coverage including stories, photo slide shows and video go to ArkansasBusiness.com/China.)
The Wal-Mart Supercenter in Shanghai has several familiar characteristics you would find in an Arkansas location, but the local flavor is clear from the young Chinese woman greeter to the smell of the meat department.
Wal-Mart is fairly new to Shanghai and later to the market than other competitors, but as of August the Bentonville-based retailer claimed 188 Wal-Mart stores, plus a 35 percent interest in 104 additional Trust-Mart stores, in more than 90 Chinese cities. Wal-Mart's 2010 annual report cited China as a country offering the company "significant opportunities to add new stores," and indeed 13 stores have been added since the end of the fiscal year on Jan. 31.
An up-to-date employee count wasn't available, but as of September 2009 Wal-Mart employed almost 54,000 Chinese associates directly, and Trust-Mart employed another 30,000.
The meat department stands out in stark contrast to a typical American Wal-Mart, as one would expect in an Asian supermarket. The frozen meats aren't packaged and generally aren't in parts: They are whole chickens and fish frozen and stacked in a freezer or in ice. Fresh, de-feathered whole ducks hang from a wire, and water tanks include turtles and crabs.
A food sampling kiosk features fresh jellyfish, and it's located near a large liquor section. Wal-Mart's Great Value house brand is everywhere in typical fashion, but the not-so-typical offerings include snack packages of dried duck kidneys and barbecue-flavored shredded squid.
The décor is festive and bright, with food items on the first floor and merchandise on the second floor. Wal-Mart associates are everywhere you turn, and so are the shoppers.
While locals aren't able to haggle over price as they do in traditional open markets, they are enjoying the concepts of being able to make merchandise returns and shopping in a dry, air-conditioned store.