Retail. Chinese Style.
Buying anything in China can be an interesting experience. The first thing that struck me as I walked around Beijing and Shanghai was the sheer quantity of retailers. I saw some blocks with literally 10 convenience stores selling the exact same items. Unlike their American counterparts, these convenience stores were often a few hundred square feet or less, or in many cases, they would simply be a stall opening directly onto the street. One of the stores I saw often was FamilyMart. It’s a chain originating in Japan that has been opening about 100 new stores in China every year. The interesting thing about stores like FamilyMart is that they represent a very new and changing face of retailing in China. FamilyMart and its many counterparts present a clean, modern, and standardized shopping experience that diverges from the model of independent shopkeepers that has long dominated China.
On the far end of the spectrum, this new approach to retail in China is being explored and developed by corporations like Walmart. As of 2011, the American mega-retailer has opened 220 Supercenters in China, in addition to its other retail concepts such as Sam’s Club. I managed to visit a Walmart during our stay in Beijing and was surprised to see just how similar it was to any of its counterparts in the U.S. Perhaps the only thing that stood out to me was the grocery selection. Like any market in China, the Beijing Walmart was sure stock a shockingly diverse selection of fresh and preserved animal products.
While Walmart is one of the major players in China it holds only 6% market share among major hyper-/super-markets (the leader is Shanghai Balian with an 11% share). In other words, retail in China is still highly fractured and undergoing rapid change. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next decade as the preferences of Chinese consumers evolves, and in many respects, becomes more westernized. This shift in retailing is likely to have innumerable implications related to supply chain development, sustainability, and even land use planning.
Sustainable Business Practices
University of Oregon
MBA Candidate 2012