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WALMART SUCCESS IN MEXICO, CANADA AND


CHINA: GLOBAL EXPANSION, STRATEGIES,
ENTRY MODES, THREATS AND OPPORTUNITIES

ARTICLE JANUARY 2012

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Lee Yee Mun Dr. Rashad Yazdanifard


HELP College of Arts and Technology London School of Commerce
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WALMART SUCCESS IN MEXICO, CANADA AND CHINA:
GLOBAL EXPANSION, STRATEGIES, ENTRY MODES, THREATS
AND OPPORTUNITIES

Lee Yee Mun

B1000922

Help College Of Arts and Technology

Bachelor of Science in Collaboration with Southern New Hampshire University, USA

lemon_0611@hotmail.com

Rashad Yazdanifard

Faculty of Management, Multimedia University,

Cyberjaya, Malaysia.

rashadyazdanifard@yahoo.com

1
ABSTRACT

Global expansion has been gaining a lot of attention. There are many important factors to be
considered in the decision-making process such as business strategies, entry modes, and threats and
opportunities in the markets. Appropriate strategies will minimize the risk of failure in international
markets. The right business strategies and entry modes employed will increase the firms chances of
success and influence the future of the retailer.

Key words: global expansion, business strategies, entry modes, threats, opportunities, Walmart

1. Introduction

The internalization of the retail industry has been researched widely, and majority of these studies have
described the motivations and scales for international expansion by retailers (Akehurst & Alexander, 1995;
Williams, 1992). Many models of internalization explains the sequence of foreign expansion, showing that
companies who go international will do better in foreign markets that are similar to their domestic markets.
This was why Walmart chose to enter the markets of Canada and Mexico (Johanson & Vahlne, 1977).
There are several reasons why international retailing became popular. Some of these reasons are, the
domestic market is saturated, and there is a need for larger diverse investments, economic pressures, and
external and internal forces that compel retailers to enter new markets. It is therefore important for the
retailer to choose the right market entry strategy into the international markets (Sternquist, 2007). Several
research studies have concluded that retailers can minimize the risks of entering new markets by choosing
markets similar to the domestic market from the aspects of cultural, geographical and growth potentials.
(Barkema & Vermeulen, 1998; Welch & Welch, 1996).

Walmart was established in 1962 by Sam Walton. Walmart got its name from the family name Walton,
giving Walmart the meaning of Waltons mart in long form. Walmart is a strong company, having survived
the 2008 recession in the United States. Walmart registered annual increased sales and market growth. For
a fast growing retailer like Walmart, best entry modes are needed to enter a new market (Fred, 2011).

2. Global expansion

Global retail expansion has attracted many large-sized companies with targets to increase business profits
and market share. Global expansion not only attracts large organizations but also small to medium-sized
companies, companies new to international expansion, as well as those who are already expanding in the
international arena. The success achieved by newer specialty retailers in the international market such as
Zara (Spain), H&M (Sweden), and Shanghai Tang (Hong Kong) have motivated and paved the way for
other organizations to follow. However, there are also well-known retailers who failed in their expansion in
certain global markets due to regulatory, legal and cultural challenges, competition, and attempting to
change local shopping behavior (Cox, 2011). Retailers who operate only in neighboring markets, or those
geographically located close to their home markets will expect to face a lower level of such risks (Burt,
1993; Davis, Desai, & Francis, 2000; Hollander, 1970: Knee, 1993; Robinson & Clarke-Hill, 1990).

Top managers are also becoming more cautious in maintaining a common identity and culture in the
process of trying to build up global enterprises (Joshua & Chi, 2007). Moreover, it is very tough for
businesses to make decisions regarding the choice of markets for their business development because of the
lack of accurate and reliable information. Domestic players in the markets will only portray the positive and
potential side of the markets and hide the disadvantages, just to attract businesses into the market (Jackson,
Houdard, & Highfield, 2008).

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3. Comparison of business strategies used by Walmart in Mexico, Canada and China

Walmart used different strategies in Mexico, Canada and China. In Mexico, Walmart acquired Central
American Retail Holding Co., which was struggling with accounting issues in 2006. After the acquisition,
Walmart renamed the business Walmart Centroamrica. Central American Retail Holding Co. was
previously the largest retailer in Central America. Walmart re-launched the whole chain of retail stores
under the Central American Retail Holding Co. with wider product assortments and a lower pricing
strategy. The lower pricing strategy was their basic strategy to expand Walmarts philosophy, Every Day
Low Price to all parts of the world (Basic Strategy: 'Be More Walmart!', 2011). Walmarts main strategy
in Mexico was the multi-format strategy whereby different groups of consumers could be served through
meeting their various needs. Bodega Aurrera in Mexico is the company's fastest growing format. There are
three versions of this store. Bodega Aurrera Express Stores consists of very small outlets serving urban
areas such as Mexico City and Monterrey. Mi Bodega Aurrera is designed to serve rural towns and these
stores were a great achievement for Walmart (Multiple Formats Equal Flexibility, 2011).

Walmart Canada created a new home branding effort that placed the Better Homes & Gardens license as
the core for both hard and soft home categories (Wal-Mart International Improves Game, 2007). Every
product offered has clear and obvious differences from their competitors, leaving strong impressions in the
customers minds that these products originated from Walmarts fashion and value chain (Wal-Mart
International Improves Game, 2007). Walmart Canada also implemented Radio Frequency Identification
Technology (RFID) in 20 stores and about 12 of their suppliers. The parent country in United States first
practiced this technology to eliminate out-of-stock inventories. Walmart Canada focused on this to improve
their supply chain and customer services. Stores equipped with this technology were able to use the system
to track tagged items in the stores. This was an important achievement by Walmart Canada as it reduced
errors in manual restocking methods, reduced over stocking in the stores, and reduced unnecessary
transportation and ultimately a reduction in emissions of carbons (Mammarella, 2007). The success of
Walmart was also seen through a large grocery insert in its Canadian discount stores called "Grocery Shelf"
that provided a big return on capital at low risk (Orgel, 2005).

In China, Walmarts objective was to be a national retail chain with no interrelated national distribution
system. The mainland retail market had an estimated worth of US$750 billion in 2008. Therefore the gains
were estimated to be huge if Walmart succeeded. The only challenge was the distribution system; the
company had given in to union demands from the state-run, All-China Federation of Trade Unions, which
represented an important climb down from Walmarts anti-union US point of view (Distribution critical to
Wal-Mart China strategy, 2006). However, Walmart was not influenced. The marketing strategies used by
Walmart for BRIC and other developing countries still involved huge discounts and great values on all of
their products, similar to strategies in their home country: maintaining low prices every day, especially
middle-class customers, yet maintaining profits. According to JPMorgan and analyst Charles Grom,
Walmart's main objective for future success was not to overdo Target in the United States. They also
suggested Walmart worked on more interrelated marketing strategies and merchandising messages to serve
their low end customers as well, instead on just focusing on middle-class customers (Frazier, 2007).
Walmart in China was successful in using cost leadership, generating huge revenues. Therefore, Walmart
continued with the cost leadership strategy and implemented the differentiation strategy (George, 2007).

4. Comparison of entry modes

Another reason for retailers to expand into the global markets was because the domestic market was highly
saturated. For example, Sears, Kmart and Walmarts most successful expansion was into Mexico and
Canada. How do multinational retailers choose their entry mode into selected markets? Multinational
retailers expanding into culturally diversified markets chose to have joint ventures with local retailers in the
country to help them learn more about the country (Sternquist, 2007).

Walmart in Mexico penetrated the market with a joint venture with its local player, CIFRA, the largest
retailer in Mexico. This joint venture helped Walmart gain better knowledge of the Mexican market. In
Mexico, CIFRA supplied Walmart with supplier connections, knowledge about the local culture as well as

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helping Walmart to work with local authorities. This ensured successful expansion of Walmart's power in
the Mexican markets, gaining the greatest influence in the shortest time period. In return, Walmart
transferred logistics knowledge to CIFRA, which also helped improve their local supply chain management.
(Sternquist, 1997). Under Walmarts agreement with CIFRA, Walmart opened membership warehouse
clubs, known as Club Aurrera, which catered to small businesses and selected groups of consumers. The
first Club Aurrera opened in Mexico City in December 1991. (Global Push Begins in Mexico, 2012).
Besides that, CIFRA and Walmart also announced two joint ventures: a wholesale discount Aurrera stores,
and an import-export company that provided CIFRAs Mexican suppliers access to other Walmart outlets
in the United States (Millman, 1991).

Walmart entered the Canadian markets through the entry mode of acquisition. In 1994, Walmart announced
its entry into Canada with the purchase of 120 out of 142 Woolco Discount Stores located north of the
border from the Woolworth Corporation. In 1993, the Woolco Stores had total sales of $1.14 billion
(Woolco Purchase Yields Entry Into Canada, 2012). Walmart had avoided a time-consuming problem
faced by other American retailers entering the Canadian market - that of building up stores. Walmart saved
time through buying the established Woolco Stores, most which had floor space of 100,000 square feet or
more, accompanied by strategic and attractive leases (Woolco Purchase Yields Entry Into Canada, 2012).
In 2011, Walmart Canada announced that it had also completed another acquisition from Target Canada
with a total of 39 store locations currently occupied by Zellers (Canada Newswire, 2011).

Most multinational enterprises has regarded market entry into China as not just an option for their business
expansion, but also a strategic necessity for the future of their business. The economy in China is growing
rapidly, supporting the whole population of 1.3 billion. China is expected to be a country with economic
superpower with a very huge market in the 21st century (Schlevogt, 2000a, 2000b). On the other hand,
Walmart is facing slow growth in the United States, and with these attractive and available options,
Walmart aims to be the top player in the retail sector in China with its acquisition of Trust-Mart (Naughton,
Schafer, Ansfield, & Lin, 2006). Other than using the acquisition strategy, Walmart also used the offshore
sourcing strategy. Walmart sees China as a major production or assembly source country for their products
the United States. This was their offshore sourcing strategy. Today, Walmart is the single largest export
channel from Chinese manufacturers to the United States, with a record of at least 4% in Chinas overseas
sales (Goldstein, 2003). Interestingly, Walmart does not have any manufacturing plants in China and it
does not have a direct control over the production process of its suppliers in China. Instead, the suppliers
are those who take control and responsibility to meet certain levels of requirements, for example cost,
quality and delivery (Shih, 2004). With this strategy, Walmart can hold to their Everyday Low Price
philosophy. Walmart also utilized its strong bargaining position while maintaining a high level of
ownership. Their selling strategy was to buy the products at a cheaper price from China, and reselling them
at a higher price in the United States and other parts of the world. Therefore, Walmart maintained a high
level of ownership control with its management control kept low (Goldstein, 2003).

5. Comparison of opportunities and threats

"Threat" and "opportunity" are two terms often used in strategic management in businesses (Mintzberg,
Raisinghini, & Theoret, 1976; Nutt, 1984). These are often used to make strategic decisions and to evaluate
their selected markets. The results and issues obtained from environmental analysis are categorized as
threats and opportunities faced by the business (Christensen, Andrews, Bower, Hamermesh, & Porter,
1982).

a. Opportunities
i. Mexico

In 2007, Walmart de Mexico had made a huge investment of $1 billion dollars for new developments and
they opened 136 new units from all its existing business formats. This development included the opening of
new units of 57 Bodega Aurrera units, 16 Walmart Supercenters, 6 Sam's Clubs, 4 Superamas, 15 Suburbia

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stores and 38 Vips and El Porton Restaurants. The new stores opened networks into the existing and new
cities. The expansion into new cities increased the firm's coverage of new customers, and for the existing
cities, Walmart had the advantage of dominating the market more widely. Besides that, the expansion of
new stores helped increase the new customer base, resulting in higher sales (DATAMONITOR: Wal-Mart
de Mexico., 2008). Consumers have changing preferences on where they buy their groceries and other daily
products. They no longer prefer traditional retail; some now prefer larger and more standardized
hypermarket and supermarket chains, and stores that offer lower and more attractive prices, as well as
providing the convenience. In Mexico, the market share of the modern-format stores had increased almost
50% over years 2005 to 2010. This change in the customers preferences created an opportunity for Wal-
Mart to expand its chains to more cities in Mexico (DATAMONITOR: Wal-Mart de Mexico., 2008).

ii. China

Walmart Stores has signed an agreement to acquire a little stake of Yihaodian.com, Chinas largest online
retailer. If the acquisition is successful, Walmart would have the chance to expand their business to the
world of online shopping market, which would then generate more revenue. However, Chinas anti-
monopoly bureau considered the acquisition as excluding or restricting the competition of value-added
telecommunications services market segments in China (China approves Wal-Mart control of Yihaodian.,
2012). Apart from Walmart having control of the services of Yihaodian.com, the latter could also use
Walmarts suppliers and logistics resources and system to track inventories (Mass Grocery Retail., 2012).

Another opportunity available for Walmart was the concept of discount store formats. Walmart could take
the first step to start a discount store format expansion before the other retailers because the discount store
format is now an attractive option in China. Walmart is the biggest retailer in China because of the
acquisition of Trust-Mart's 100-outlet-strong hypermarket network. Therefore, Walmart has the opportunity
to expand in China, by launching a new "discount compact hypermarket" format formed under Trust-Mart
in China (Mass Grocery Retail., 2012).

iii. Canada

Walmart in Canada expanded its chain to the food retailing sector in Canada, since Target was a competitor
to Walmart in Canada. Walmart had the competitive advantage over Target with involvement in the food
retailing industry because Target is limited in food retailing (Orgel, 2011). Walmart Canada also had
confirmed the retailer's planning of opening three supercenters in Qubec, and Walmart ensured the quality
of products they offer in the new store (Canada, 2011). Besides that, Walmarts low price strategy had gave
Walmart a great opportunity compared to other retailers in Canada, and this ensured Walmarts path in
Canada was stable (Swain, 1994). Another opportunity for Walmart in Canada was their decision to bring
their warehouse club, Sams Club into Canada and it helped to increase Walmarts popularity in the market
(Robin, 2003).

b. Threats
i. Mexico

In February 2006, Mexico's retail association Asociacion Nacional de Tiendas de Autoservicio y


Departamentales (ANTAD) sent many requests to the Congress to approve the proposals to upgrade the
anti-monopoly laws to international standards. This affected Walmart de Mexico, because, if the laws were
approved, Walmart de Mexico would lose its advantage of its better technology and larger size to offer the
lowest prices in the market. Walmart Stores also faced this problem in the company's parent country in
United States because, Walmart is a big retailer, and they were offering low prices and this affected smaller
retailers to quit from the industry. In this case, Walmart de Mexico's expansion plans in Mexico was then
affected by the laws and regulations in Mexico (DATAMONITOR: Wal-Mart de Mexico., 2008).

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Other than that, another main issue that Walmart Mexico faced was the opposition towards their expansion
in Mexico, mainly from the government and local retailer. A slow growing economy will cause a lower
purchasing power in a country. The economy in Mexico was an important threat to Walmart because the
slow growth in the Mexican economy affected the consumer spending and it affected Walmart's growth in
Mexico (DATAMONITOR: Wal-Mart de Mexico., 2008). Besides that, the intense competition in Mexico
will also be a threat for Walmart. In Mexico, Walmart is also facing a strong competition from Mexican
supermarket chains because the retail industry in Mexico is saturated. Some examples of Walmart's strong
international and domestic competitors were Organizacion Soriana, Controladora, Chedraui, and Gigante.
These retailers had an intense competition with Walmart. The increasing competition from these retailers
affected Walmart de Mexico, especially in terms of profitability (DATAMONITOR: Wal-Mart de Mexico.,
2008).

ii. China

Walmart planned to expand bigger in China and the company had planned to open another ten stores
throughout the urban areas. However, the effort faced some challenges, mainly from the government of
China. China's state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Union (ACFTU) had planned to take the
action to sue Walmart as well as other non-Chinese companies if these companies did not have union
branches in their Chinese operations. The main problem in this issue was that Walmart was well known for
their anti-union stance. In order for them to survive in the market, Walmart had agreed to respect the choice
of their employees in China who wanted to set up a union. This action may benefit China, but Walmart
would have restrictions handling employee benefits and limited ways in resolving grievances. Even though
there were many problems faced, as a multinational retailer, it was a must for Walmart to adapt to the
specific markets they are operating in (Wal-Mart: in union with China, 2005).

iii. Canada

Walmart Canadas largest threat will be the acquisition of Zellers Inc. by Target Corporation. The entry of
Target Corporation will be another add-on to the intense competition of retailers in Canada. In the
acquisition, Target took over 220 stores under Zellers, and this could impact Walmart as a big retailer
because Target is growing fast after the acquisition (Orgel, 2011). The retail industry in Canada was very
intense and saturated and the retail market was full of strong grocers and this would be a threat for Walmart
because there would be more competition. This would slow down and eventually reduce Walmart's sales in
Canada (Dunn, 2006). Besides that, Walmart also faced Canadas regulatory threats and the legal
challenges from Saint-Hyacinthe certification (Springer, 2005). Walmart also tried to introduce organic
food, and this could be a threat to Walmart because of lack of a proper marketing strategy to market the
product in their stores in Canada as there were other small-sized organic food suppliers which offered
lower prices (Goodbaum, 2006).

6. Discussion

Walmart indeed has been a good example of a successful retailer that has successfully expanded and
survived in the international markets. This had proved that there is potential for retailers in domestic
markets to expand their business into the international arena through appropriate marketing strategies and
entry modes. However, Walmart should also have sufficient information on the markets to overcome entry
barriers. Walmart had been a successful retailer in the United States and today, and they are still growing
across the world, mainly in United States, Canada and Mexico. Walmart used different types of marketing
strategies and entry modes to dominate the markets, and this had given the large retailer a huge competitive
advantage over other retailers in the market with the philosophy, Every Day Low Price, which had been
successfully applied throughout the world.

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Walmarts choices of strategies in the Mexican, Canadian and China markets also portrayed the firms
success in adapting to the country. Walmart in Mexico used the multi format strategy to set up different
types of stores to satisfy majority needs and demands of the markets, and this helped Walmart to achieve a
greater amount of concentration of customers. The Bodega Aurrera store chains were proof of the firms
intelligence in dominating the market. These stores had different concepts such as discount stores and
convenience stores that served different types of customers in different areas in Mexico. Secondly, in
Canada, Walmart used the retail format development strategy to approach the market. Walmart in Canada
extended their offerings into the home furniture sector where these furniture products were found only in
Walmart. This had created brand awareness and brand loyalty towards Walmart. Besides that, Walmart
made full use of their satellite communication system to frequently check on the inventories in Walmart
stores to decrease shortage in supply. In Canada, Walmart have discount stores where these stores can
generate high profits with low risks in the country. Thirdly, Walmart in China had achieved a huge success
by using the cost leadership strategy in the country to attract more people. This is because of the growing
population and economy in China that has helped Walmart to lower their prices and yield high volume
sales.

Other than these successes, Walmart also used the appropriate entry modes to enter the markets. In Mexico,
Walmart used the joint venture mode with Mexicos largest retailer, CIFRA. This joint venture benefited
Walmart as CIFRA provided the firm with information on the markets in Mexico, and Walmart saved time
in the process of understanding the markets. This gave Walmart the advantage of a faster growth in the
market. The strategy used by Walmart in Canada was the acquisition mode, where the firm took over the
operations of Woolco, a weak retailer in the Canadian markets. With this acquisition, Walmart took over
existing Woolco buildings. In China, Walmart used the offshore sourcing strategy together with the
acquisition strategy where costs were reduced in finding new locations. From the different choices of entry
modes that Walmart chose, all of the strategies were working well in different markets, where these
strategies helped Walmart build a strong market base. Walmart has a huge potential expanding beyond its
domestic market. With its strong market base, Walmart is well positioned to expand into other regions in
the world. However, Walmart needs to heed the regulations of foreign markets, as well as the intensity of
market competition.

7. Conclusion

Walmarts decision to expand globally has been successful as seen in Walmarts domination in the markets.
Walmarts success is a glorious story in the business world for being able to sustain their businesses not
only domestically, but also globally. The business strategies and entry modes used were wisely chosen as
they ensured profitability on a long term basis. Even though Walmart faced challenges in the foreign
markets, they penetrated these markets successfully as they overtook their competitors in the retail industry.
Walmart also demonstrated strong strategic management skills because Walmart chose their locations and
targets countries carefully.

Walmart success can also be credited to their efforts in satisfying their customers from all social classes
through offering a wide range of products using a low pricing strategy and attracting brand loyalty through
repeat purchase. Another notable success was that the firm was able to survive the tough recession periods
where the slower economy contracted business cycles, slowed down business growth and lifted
unemployment rates. Notwithstanding, Walmart continued its business operations during the recession
years and became a successful retailer in the industry beyond the borders.

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