The Great Wal-Mart of China – Keith Naughton

From Newsweek:

To move into China, America’s biggest and most successful retailer had to learn its business all over again.

In the grocery section of a big-box store in north Beijing, shoppers struggle to catch a bargain. And a fish. “We’d still rather pick it out ourselves,” says law student Guo Jiao, as she and a friend repeatedly plunge fishing nets into a tank full of slippery grass carp. Other shoppers with nets mob serve-yourself tanks swimming with crabs, clams and eels. Nearby, Yang Fuming has already landed his fish and carefully watches a clerk gut it. Once his fresh catch is eviscerated, Yang takes the bloody bag of still-convulsing carp and drops it into his shopping cart beside a pair of duvets he’s buying to cover his sofas, and a new kitchen apron. “I come here every day or two for the fresh stuff,” says the retired physicist. “They’ve got everything you need.”

Such is life in the Great of China. Recognize the place? For Wal-Mart, China represents the biggest frontier since it conquered America. China’s voracious consumers are pushing retail sales to a 15 percent annual growth rate; that market will hit $860 billion by 2009, according to Bain & Co. But the standard-bearer of American retailing has pains-takingly discovered that success in China requires more than dutifully replicating its formula of cheap, steep and deep. It requires the kind of flexibility Wal-Mart has rarely shown: it requires going native. And now, after a decade of ingratiating itself to Chinese consumers by adopting their customs and culture, Wal-Mart is making its move from a minor player with just 3.1 percent of the market to a dominant force. [Full Text]

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