Grocery retailing in selected countries from Asia, Africa, and The Americas

Page last modified 3/11/2021


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Countries detailed here, in the following order,






South Korea





South Africa





Turkey Back to top

Retail multiples

Tesco, 2016, sold its 95% share in the Kipa chain to Swiss rival Migros for £30million in order to focus on its core home markets, where it faces keen competition from the discounters Lidl and Aldi. In 2014/5, losses on the 170 Kipa stores amounted to £137 million, on revenue of £745 million.


Turkey is a large market of some 80 million consumers, a higher birthrate than Europe, and a growing middle class. However, Turkey is a very competitive grocery market where local discount chains are outperforming both foreign supermarkets and local ‘convenience’ independent stores, known as ‘bakkals’.


Turkey also faces political uncertainties, with a terrorism threat emanating from the Syrian civil war on its southern border as well as internal terrorism from Kurdish militants.


India Back to top

General retail economy

India, with its large, young, and growing population, and an emerging relatively wealthy middle class, presents an attractive target for expanding supermarket chains.  However there has been political resistance to the entry of large Western supermarket chains.   It was only in 1947 that India gained independence, from having been a British colony, and India has no desire to see its economy ‘recolonised’ by large Western multinationals.  India also has many small farmers and many small shopkeepers, and it is a democracy; these groups would vote to keep supermarkets out (see below).  However in 2013 the Indian Government voted to allow the entry of Western supermarkets such as Tesco and Wal-Mart.


The total size of India’s retail sector was estimated at US$ 300 to 325 billion in 2008.  It was US$ 370 billion in 2011.


India has (2008) around 14 million retail outlets; almost all of these are small family-owned stores known as kiranas.  India’s food supply chains are very inefficient, with (2011) about a third of food harvested rotting before it reaches the shop shelves.

Indian retailer numbers 1993-2001 (from Managing Retailing, p.21, 2007, Sinha et al)



Urban retailers

Rural retailers

Total retailers






























‘Modern’, or supermarket, retailing, accounts for just 2% of the total retail market (2017), with most food being bought at street markets or small local shops.  This means the Indian retail sector is very fragmented, lacking any dominant supermarket chains.  India also lacks any major wholesale or distribution chains, despite being home to one sixth of the world’s population.  The Indian government was also keen on opening up its food retailing sector [to large Western supermarkets] but the government has been forced to backtrack so what after protests from small shopkeepers.


In 1999 India’s first supermarket, called Crossroads, opened in Mumbai.


Who would gain from supermarket development in India

The Economist (31 May 2008, p.80/82) makes a  case for India to allow foreign retailers into its territory.

1) Low income households would benefit.  Where they have access to supermarkets they shop cannily, buying discount items and loss-leaders but staying loyal to small shopkeepers for the bulk of their purchases.

2) The small-shopkeeper sector in India seems robust at present, and on current trends will still have 85% of the retail market in 2013.

3) The opening of a supermarket nearby does reduce local small shops trade by about a quarter, but this recovers and, says The Economist, is back to pre-supermarket levels within 5 years.

4) Opening a supermarket nearby forces small shopkeepers to become more efficient, and some small shops even hire more staff for home delivery services.  ‘Only 1.7% of [India’s] small shops close each year’, says The Economist (ibid).  Small shopkeepers could join in co-operatives to gain buying power (but this could pass downwards price pressure back up the food chain onto India’s already-poor farmers).


Who would lose from supermarket development in India

The opposing argument is that if India opened its grocery retail market fully to foreign supermarkets, low income families might initially gain on price but could lose the opportunity to use local small shops, if the closure rate of these accelerated from its present (2008) 1.7% a year.  With small shops gone, the supermarkets could offer less loss-leaders and discounts.  Some families could be left in an Indian version of a ‘food desert’.  And whilst shoppers might gain, there could be large employment losses in the retail sector.  Economics says there should be net welfare gains from supermarket liberalisation in India, but the social equity question of how these gains are distributed, who are the losers, and how if at all they are compensated is less clear.


In social redistribution terms India’s middle class would certainly gain from grocery retail liberalisation, seeing lower prices, whilst likely being in jobs that would not be threatened by such liberalisation.  India’s middle-class women are increasingly entering the labour force, and would benefit from greater access to one-stop shopping at supermarkets.  However the poor might lose.  Despite also seeing lower prices (they buy less goods than the middle class), wages and job opportunities might shrink.  About 40 million Indians  work in the retail sector (2001).  India’s farming sector would be forced to consolidate.  Small inefficient farmers would go out of business as farm gate prices would be forced down; their land would be taken by fewre larger farms who could sell at reduced prices due to economies of scale. Many Indian rural labourers would become unemployed and likely have to move to the cities.  India’s extensive class of retail middlemen would also lose out, as supermarkets arranged direct supply deals with the new large scale farmers.


Retail legislation

India presents a difficult regulatory environment for foreign supermarkets.  Foreigners initially could not invest in retailing, unless in a single-brand store, when they could own up to 51% .  This was relaxed, according to legislation passed on 24 November 2011, so that foreigners can now own 100% of single-brand retailers and up to 51% of multi-brand retailers such as supermarkets. 


However there are further conditions (2011) on foreign supermarkets wanting to enter India.  These supermarkets must invest £100 million in India, half of that to be spent on infrastructure.  30% of produce purchases must be from small and medium sized entreprises in India.  Supermarkets will only be allowed to set up in cities with population over 1 million.


Even once in, retailers must overcome a thicket of regulations, and pay taxes to move goods out of some states, into others, or even within some states.


However in late 2011 political pressure from small shopkeepers and farmers once again forced the postponment of this opening up of the Indian retail market.  Even if India’s national government ever implements these reforms, local politicians at State or City level could delay them.


Retail multiples

Indian domestic supermarket chains include Reliance and Bharti.  Reliance, an indigenous Indian industrial conglomerate, has opened 600 stores between 2006 and 2008, selling groceries and fresh fruit and vegetables.


Aditya Birla, another Indian company, has 500 stores under the ‘More’ fascia.


Tesco, after failing to agree to a partnership with Bharti Enterprises, finally (after a decade of talks) managed, in 2008, to tie up an agreement with Tata.  Tesco will act as wholesaler to Tata’s stores, and in a consultancy agreement will sell its retailing knowledge to Tata.  Tesco’s sales in India in 2011 were £39 million.


In 2006 Bharti opted to partner with Wal Mart instead.  Wal-Mart will operate 15 cash and carry stores jointly with Bharti; these stores will supply Bharti’s retail arm, Rajan.


Germany’s Metro Group entered India in 2003, and has two wholesale stores in Bangalore.


France’s Carrefour chain is trying to find an Indian partner, and planned to open four cash and carry stores by 2009.  In fact Carrefour opened its first cash and carry store in India in January 2011. Carrefour exited India in 2014.


DMart has (2018) 163 stores in India. It has (2018) a presence on less than half od India’s States; however it is growing fast with sales of 94 bn Rupees (US$1,3bn) in the 6 months to September 2018, up 33% on a year earlier; Profits for the 6 months to September 2018 were 7.4 bn Rupees.


Thailand Back to top

General retail economy

In 2002 six global retail chains – Ahold (Netherlands), Carrefour (France), Casino (France), Food Lion (Belgium), Makro (Netherlands), and Tesco (UK), were seeking to gain a foothold in Thailand.

Retail legislation

2007, the Thai government was considering passing legislation that would make it harder for foreign retailers to expand there.  Proposals were for regional Thai governors to be able to make recommendations to a central agency (The Retail and Wholesale Supervision Committee) which in turn could accept or reject proposed new supermarkets; penalties for contravening this agency’s rulings would be 3 years in prison or fines of 3 million Baht (£46,000).  Conditions in the Bangkok Hilton fall just a little short of those at Tesco’s head office in Cuffley, Hertfordshire.

Tesco has faced resistance to its expansion in Thailand since a military coup in the country in late 2006.

Independent retailers

2007, The Thai government claimed 100,000 small shops have been forced to close since 1997 due to the expansion of foreign supermarkets.  Thailand was heavily reliant on traditional open-air street markets for groceries, and summer temperatures reached 30C.  Shoppers liked the idea of air conditioned supermarkets, but small shopkeepers were not so keen.


China Back to top

General retail economy

Development of supermarkets in China

China’s first supermarket, the Dongguan Friendship Store, opened in 1981 in the southern city of Dongguan (Globalisation and the Chinese Revolution, Yong Zhen, 2007).  This store was for foreigners and only accepted foreign currency, not Yuan.  The first supermarket chain in China, for Chinese customers, began also in Dongguan in 1990; it was called the Dongguan Meijia.  China joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001, and China’s economy has since rocketed – in its east-coast cities especially.  Places like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong have seen major consumer booms, but in inland, western, China, the economy remains largely rural and poor.  In 2010 only 1.4% of Chinese households earned over US$ 15,000 a year, and just 11% earned over US$ 5,000.  Moreover,much of these earnings are saved, not spent in the shops, because outside the State sector, Chinese government pensions are paltry.  However this means there is keen demand for low-priced shops like supermarkets.  The Chinese Government, keen to avoid unrest, is attempting to keep a lid on inflation.

Foreign supermarkets accounted for 23% of the sales of the top 100 food retailers in China in 2006, although these top 100 account for a far smaller total share than the myriad of small shops and market stalls most Chinese still buy their foodstuffs from.

Stores like Wal-Mart are venturing further inland, not least to escape soaring rents and intensifying competition.  Here, they may find interesting local purchasing preferences which they must cater to, to survive – a preference for extremely rough toilet paper in Zhejiang, or a liking for whole pig’s faces steamed, sliced, and dipped in sauce at the table in Shandong. 

Supermarket numbers in China

China had 2,500 supermarkets in 1994.  This number grew to 21,000 in 1998 and 40,500 in 2001.  The share of retailing taken by supermarkets has grown from 0.18% in 1994 to 3.43% in 1998 and 8.2% in 2001.

Retail sales growth in China

Retail sales in China in 1992 were Yuan 1,000 billion.  By 2003 China’s retail sales had grown to Yuan 4,580 billion (US$ 554 billion).

2010, retail sales in China were Yuan 7,000 billion (US$ 1,000 billion) – seven times the figure for 1992.

Retail legislation

In the 1980s almost all foreign companies operating in China were in manufacturing (Globalisation and the Chinese Revolution, Yong Zhen, 2007), and there were no regulations in place concerning foreign-owned retailing.  Foreign companies whose investment in China exceeded US$ 30 million required the approval of the State Council, and the same law applied to foreign retailers.  These foreign manufacturing companies were mainly from Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore.

In 1992 the Chinese State Council issued specific regulations concerning foreign retailers, requiring approval from the Council no matter how big or small their investment in China.  Foreign retailers were allowed only in the 11 principal cities of China, and each city could host no more than two foreign retailers.  There were also rules on the foreign-goods content of sales by these retailers in China.

In 1997 China decreed that foreign retailers must partner with a Chinese enterprise, with the Chinese having a 51% share.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, local Chinese governments, in places like Shanghai, have tended to overstep their powers and be more liberal in allowing foreign retail investment than is strictly allowed by rules from Beijing.

Retail multiples


1995, Carrefour entered China

1999, Carrefour had 23 supermarkets in China

2001, Carrefour had 27 stores in 15 Chinese cities

2004, Carrefour had 49 supermarkets in China.

2007, Carrefour had 387 stores in China

2008, Carrefour had 112 hypermarkets in China.

2011, 2.3% market share in China.


Tesco entered China in 2004 by buying a share in the multiple Hymall. 

By the end of 2004 Tesco had 29 supermarkets in north and east China, including 11 in Shanghai. 

2006, Tesco had 39 stores in a joint venture with Ting Hsing.

In 2007 Tesco opened a store under the Tesco fascia in south-eastern Beijing.  By 2007 Tesco also owned 90% of the Hymall chain, of 46 stores, all of which were re-fascia-ed as Tesco stores.

2008, Tesco opened its first ‘Express’ format store in China, in Shanghai.

2009.  Tesco had 71 stores.

2011, Tesco had 105 stores, a market share of 2.9%, and sales were £1,100 million.  1.0% market share.

2013, Tesco started negotiations to merge its operations with (state-owned) China Resources Enterprise, China’s biggest retailer with almost 3,000 stores. Tesco’s 131 stores would be refasciaed as Vanguard, and Tesco would have just a 20% share.


1992, Wal-Mart obtained permission to enter China.  However it did not enter until 1996, after expensive market research was completed.

1996, Wal-Mart entered China

1999, Wal-Mart had 6 supermarkets in China

2004, Wal-Mart had 30 Chinese supermarkets

2011, Wal-Mart had 338 supermarkets, in 124 cities, with 90,000 employees.  Annual sales in China were US$ 7,000 million – 3% of its sales in the USA.  3.6% market share in China.


Based in Beijing, Wu-Mart was founded by Zhang Wenzhong in the 1990s.

2010, Wu-Mart had 469 shops, and annual sales of 14,000 million Yuan (US$ 2,000 million)

Independent retailers

In 1992, China had 10 million retailers, employing 24 million people.  The average of just 2.4 employees per shop indicates a highly fragmented retail sector, with many shops employing just 1 or 2 people.  In 1997 China had 13.5 million small retailers, with a further 1 million supermarkets and 800 department stores.


South Korea Back to top

General retail economy

A sharp recession in the 1990s followed years of rapid growth.  This recession prompted the Korean Government to open up its retailing to foreign supermarkets.

Shinsegae is the main indigenous retailer

Retail legislation

1998, South Korea opened up its retail markets to foreign investors.  Wal Mart was one of the first foreign retailers to enter the country.  The rule that any supermarket development over 1,000 square metres required special planning permission was relaxed in 1997; new large stores thereafter only required registration. 


However in 2012 South Jorea introduced specialised legislation aimed at curbing larger foreign supermarket chains from outcompeting local small stores.  In cities, supermarkets were prohibited from opening within 1 kilometre of smaller stores, unless local community approval was given.  Larger retailers faced opening-hours restrictions between midnight and 8am, again to protect smaller stores who cannot easily compete with such hours.  Tesco’s boss in South Korea accused the South Korean Government of running a ‘water-melon’ policy on global competition – apparently ‘green’ on the outside, but in reality ‘red’ (i.e. protectionist) at heart.


Countries like Korea do not have full social security provisions to protect those who lose their jobs, so politicians are sensitive to the threat of job losses amongst small independent shopkeepers  that might come if Tesco expands there.  Tesco replied (2012) that it operated a franchise system whereby small shopkeepers could run Tesco local stores.  But this won’t protect shopkeepers whose businesses close completely.

Independent retailers

Until the late 1990s South Korean retailing was dominated by small independent stores, there were no supermarkets.

Retail multiples


1999, Tesco entered South Korea.

2005/6, Tesco sales were £2,133 million; profits were £129 million.

2006, Tesco had 55 stores, including 36 hypermarkets, in a joint venture with Samsung.

2008, Tesco acquired 36 stores from E-land in the Seoul region in a deal worth nearly £1 billion.

2011, Tesco had 354 stores, including 255 (August 2011) smaller urban stores, a market share of 4.4%, and sales were £5,000 million.  By end-2011, Tesco had 299 smaller urban stores.

2014, The South Korea market yields £4 billion sales and £300 million sales for Tesco.


Japan Back to top

General retail economy

In 2003 and 2004, both Tesco and Wal Mart entered the Japanese grocery retail market, see Part II of this site, ‘supermarket time lines and store numbers’ – Tesco, 7/2003 and 4/2004, and Wal Mart, 2004.  Nevertheless, the Japanese way of life may not be so favourable to supermarkets as it is in Europe or North America. Japanese houses are much smaller, so the model of a large weekly or fortnightly supermarket shop may not work as many people would have nowhere to store all this food. Japan also has a rapidly ageing population, certainly more aged than in the USA; in 2020 34 million of its 127 million people will be aged 65 or over (Guardian, 1/6/04, p.15), and many Japanese women shop more traditionally, walking or cycling to a local mall of small shops several times a week.


Japanese housewives are often very thrifty, especially in the early years of marriage when total family earnings have not yet risen to their peak level, savings have not yet been built up, and there are children to raise. This thriftiness may work against supermarket penetration, because shoppers like to shop around for bargains, also for freshness, and like to visit many small shops to achieve this. However (Guardian, 1/6/04, p.15) in a popular magazine for young Japanese married women, Sutekina Okusan, it said that daily shopping may tempt people to spend more than they could afford on items they didn’t need, and the chance to go shopping just once a fortnight at a large supermarket might help cut out this temptation. Time will tell which viewpoint is right.


Retail legislation

Japan has a very restrictive regime on large shops.  The Large Scale Retail Stores Law (LSRSL), enacted in 1973, required retailers to notify public officials of their intention to build any new store with a floor space of greater than 500 square metres.  This has greatly hampered the expansion of the supermarkets (Kuwahara, 1997, p.112).  Japanese retailing remains dominated by small stores.  The LSRSL was relaxed in 1994 in response to the Heisei recession of 1990, when Japanese stocks and land prices fell sharply, but the recession has continued through into the 21st century and Japan has seen no boom in supermarkets, despite further relaxation of the regulations in 2000.

Retail multiples

1960s, 70s  Seiyu and Daiei were the leading multiple retailers in Japan.  Daiei dominated the Kansai region (Osaka and Kobe).  Seiyu was mainly in the Kanto region (Tokyo).


2003, Tesco entered Japan.

2005/6, Tesco sales were £300 million; profits were £12 million.

2006, Tesco operated over 100 small-format stores in Japan.

2011, Tesco had 140 stores, a market share of 1.0%, and sales were 476 million.  In 2011 Tesco exitted Japan.


Malaysia Back to top

Retail multiples


1999, Carrefour had 6 supermarkets in Malaysia

2000, France’s Carrefour chain was the only major European retail multiple in Malaysia.

2010 Carrefour to quit Malaysia 


2000 Tesco announced plans to open 20 stores in Malaysia.

2005/6, Tesco sales were £151 million, losses were £1 million

2006, Tesco had 10 hypermarkets and three supermarkets in Malaysia.

2011, Tesco had 38 stores, a market share of 10.3%, and sales were £794 million.


Australia  Back to top

Retail multiples


1914, Coles opened its first store in Collingwood, Melbourne.



Egypt  Back to top

Retail multiples


Sainsbury set up a supermarket in Cairo in 1999, and by 2000 had expanded to seven supermarkets across Egypt, as well as an 80% holding in an Egyptian supermarket chain, Edge.  However when the Palestinian ‘Intifada’(uprising) began across the border in Israel, Sainsbury was perceived as too pro-western by Egyptian customers and was forced to pull out of the country.  Egyptian religious leaders had spoken out against Sainsbury for threatening the livelihood of small Egyptian shopkeepers. 


South Africa Back to top

General retail economy

2002, supermarkets accounted for 55% of total grocery retail sales.

2002, 4 multiples took 90% of the total supermarket sales.  The Shoprite/Checkers chain and the PnP chain had 40% each; Spar and Woolworth had 5% each.

Retail multiples


Massmart was set up in 1999, by entrepreneur Mark Lambert, as a hardware retailer, but has increasingly moved into the retail groceries sector, implying greater competition with Shoprite (see below).  In 2010 WalMart bought a 51% stake in Massmart.  In 2011 Massmart bought the Rhino retail chain, with its 16 |South African stores.


Shoprite / Checkers began with 8 stores in 1979.  In the 1980s Shoprite consisted of ‘a few tatty stores in Cape Town (Economist, 15/1/2005, p.64).  Its first venture outside South Africa was to take over a French-owned chain in Madagascar, and to open a store in Mauritius. 

In 2002 Shoprite / Checkers consisted of 294 Shoprite supermarkets, 19 Checkers hypermarkets, and 41 fast food outlets, as well as furniture stores and financial services sales outlets.

In 2005, Shoprite also had stores in Botswana, Egypt, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, (the latter doing badly because of the economic slump under the Mugabe regime).  It plans to enter Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In December 2004 Shoprite opened a large store in Mumbai, India. 

Shoprite, January 2005, was the biggest supermarket in Africa. 

Shoprite positions itself at the lower end of the market, adopting a ‘pile it high and sell it cheap’ strategy.

Shoprite (2005) had 700 stores in 16 countries, and 63,000 employees. 


USA Back to top

General retail economy

The USA was the home of the world’s first supermarket, the Piggly Wiggly chain, founded in 1916.

1935 the USA had 300 supermarkets, with a total market share of 1.7% of the grocery market.

1941 the USA had 8,175 supermarkets, with a market share of 19.8%. By 1980 33 supermarkets accounted for 20% of US retail sales.

1959, The US had 32,000 supermarkets, 11% of all food retailers, but they accounted for 69% of all food sales.

2005 just 7 supermarkets accounted for 20% of US retail sales. In 2002, supermarkets had an overall share of 70% of grocery retailing.


Total size of US grocery market,

2005, US$ 600 billion. 


Retail multiples


1976, Aldi opened its first store in the USA, in Iowa.

2005, Aldi has 800 stores in the USA, across 25 states.

2005, Aldi was expanding in southeast Michigan, opening shops in impoverished Detroit, an area abandoned by many grocery retailers.

2007, Aldi had 800 stores in the USA.

2009, Aldi opened its 1,000th store in the USA (in Connecticut)


2017, Lidl opened its first store in the USA


1915, Safeway was founded when Marion B Skaggs bought his fathers grocery store in American Falls, Idaho, for US$ 1,088. With his 5 brothers he expanded the business, and by 1926 they had 428 stores across 10 States.

24/3/1926, Safeway opened stores in Maryland, USA.


2007, Tesco entered the USA, under the ‘Fresh and Easy’ fascia; the first of these was in California.  However this was just before the Credit Crunch hit the USA, and then the rest of the world, severely curtailing consumers’ willingness to spend. 


No. of stores

Losses (£million)

Sales (£ million)

Sales space (million sq m)
































The Tesco stores were to operate under the Fresh and Easy fascia; at around 1,000 square metres sales area they were based on the Tesco Metro stores in the UK. Tesco ploughed £2 billion into the venture.


Tesco undertook extensive market research before entering the market, to try and ensure it would not meet a similar fate, using ethnographic studies of US families and their purchasing habits, and focus groups. They built a mock store in California where invited groups of US consumers could try out the offerings, and pretended it was part of a film set to avoid alerting rival retailers such as Wal-Mart. However the original ethnographic research on which the mock-up store was based was flawed. Tesco’s researchers had accessed the living rooms and kitchens of these US families, but failed to penetrate to the garage where they would have seen huge freezers full of frozen produce purchased at cut-price. This mistake led Tesco to aim at a mid-price fresh food market that wasn’t nearly as big as they thought it was.


Tesco opened its first Fresh And Easy store in the US in November 2007 and by early 2009 had over 100 of these outlets in the western states of Arizona, California and Nevada. The then Chief Executive of Tesco, Sir Terry Leahy, wanted to have 1,000 Fresh and Easy stores across the entire USA. However before the supermarkets even opened they attracted criticism in a report from the Occidental College of Los Angeles, querying the treatment of staff and the shop’s environmental record. In March 2008 City analysts in London alleged the Fresh And easy stores were undershooting their sales targets by as much as 70%.


Tesco had failed to spot an important gap in its extensive Clubcard data. This data tells the retailer a lot; what the consumer purchases, what time of day and day of the week they buy it, how often they buy it, what else do they buy, how much do they spend, where do they live, what sort of household do they live in, what other consumer goods they may possess, even what sort of family they live in. What the Clubcard data doesn’t reveal is Why? Why do consumers buy what they do, when they do (Ritson, 2009). Only with the answer to ‘Why?’ can real sense be made, and profits extracted, of all that financial data from Clubcard.


Tesco not only faced stiff competition from the indigenous chains Wal-Mart, Safeway and Target, but also from online grocery delivery services such as Google and Amazon. Also Aldi, who already run the successful Trader Joe chain in the US, plan (2016) to bring their discount Aldi fascia to California.


The last chapter in the Fresh and Easy story closed in October 2015 when the fascia finally disappeared from the US. In April 2013 Tesco put the 200 Fresh and Easy stores on the market but nobody wanted to buy. Eventually Tesco sold the chain to Mr Ron Burkle, who would restore the chain’s fortunes, but only with a sweetener from Tesco of a loan of US$ 120 million (UK£ 78 million), secured on the 140,000 square metre Fresh and Easy distribution depot at Riverside, 110 km east of Los Angeles. However Mr Burkle, who only bought 150 of the stores, later closed 53 of them. The remaining 97 closed at the end of October 2015, with the loss of 3,000 jobs, This enables Tesco to reclaim their £78 million; any buyer for the remaining Fresh and Easy stores would be unlikely to keep that fascia name.


Wal-Mart (See also Asda)

1945, Mr Sam Walton began his career in retailing when he opened a variety store in Newport, Arkansas.

1950 Sam Walton purchased Harrison’s Variety Store in Bentonville, Arkansas.  He renamed the Harrison’s store as ‘Walton’s 5 & 10’, and branded the store on low prices and value for money.

1962 Sam Walton and his brother James opened the first Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Arkansas.

2006, Wal-Mart announced a 26% drop in 2nd quarter year-on-year earnings to US$2,080 million, (UK£ 1,100million), largely due to a US$ 863 million write off consequent on its exit from Germany  Its 85 German stores were sold to Metro, who will add them to its existing chain of 288 ‘Real’ stores. Wal-Mart blamed strict German labour laws, and very limited shopping hours (short weekdays, no Sunday shopping at all; the German Ladenschlussgesetz) making it hard to operate its ‘high volume-low-cost business model’ and weak consumer sentiment in Germany.

There was ‘fierce competition’ from three incumbent discounters; Lidl, Aldi, and Kaufland.  As a result, Wal-Mart failed to reach ‘critical mass; its German operations never really gained enough economies of scale to compete with the incumbent stores.

However Wal-Mart also made its own errors.  It had a boss of the German operations who spoke no German (and insisted his managers also worked in English), followed by a boss who ran the German operations from England. Wal-Mart’s German supply infrastructure was fragmented and costly, and it had too few German stores to achieve worthwhile economies of scale. Wal-Mart also failed to anticipate the German consumer’s preference for choosing their own goods, un-molested by cheery shop assistants at their elbows.  Wal-Mart also mis-matched products to the German market; for example American pillowcases as stocked by Wal-Mart did not fit German pillows.

(Global Marketing, Svend Hollensen, 2011)

2006 Wal-Mart market share, USA, 28.8%

2009 Wal-Mart began selling coffins in the USA; undercutting the independent undertakers.  They don’t (yet) do burials or cremations, but this is one step closer to the time when a person could live their entire life within a supermarket.

Wal Mart statistics

Year – reporting date

31 January

No of stores worldwide

Sales (US$ million)

Profits (US$ million)





















































































































Year – reporting date

31 January

No of stores worldwide

Sales (US$ million)

Profits (US$ million)



International expansion

1991, Wal-Mart entered Mexico, partnering with a local store chain called Cifra, to open a Sam’s Club store in Mexico City. In 2007 Wal-Mart had 919 stores in Mexico.

1992, Wal-Mart entered Puerto Rico, opening 5 stores.  In 1999 Wal-Mart had 15 stores in Puerto Rico

1994, Wal-Mart entered Canada, purchasing 122 Woolco stores. In 2007 Wal-Mart had 290 stores in Canada.

1995 Wal-Mart entered Brazil, partnering with Los Americanos. In 2007 Wal-Mart had 298 stores in Brazil.

1995, Wal-Mart entered Argentina

1996, Wal-Mart entered Indonesia, opening two stores.

1996, Wal-Mart entered China, opening a store in Shenzhen.  By 2004 Wal-Mart had 38 stores in China, and in 2004 opened its 39th store in the south-western city of Guiyang.  Wal-Mart opened its 40th store in China in November 2004 in Wuhan.  In 2006 Wal-Mart had 60 stores in China. In 2007 Wal-Mart had 184 stores in China.

1997, Wal-Mart entered Germany, buying an upmarket chain, Wertkauf, and another chain, Inter-spar.  See 2006 for reasons for exit from Germany.

1999 Wal-Mart took over Asda with its 229 UK stores. In 2007 Wal-Mart had 337 stores in the UK.

1999, Wal-Mart entered South Korea

2002 Wal-Mart entered Japan  In 2007 Wal-Mart had 392 stores in Japan.

2004 Wal-Mart opened its first superstore in Japan, in Numazu, a seaside town south west of Tokyo

2005 Wal-Mart entered Costa Rica In 2007 Wal-Mart had 140 stores in Costa Rica.

2006 Wal Mart exited from South Korea where it had 16 stores.

2006 Wal Mart exited from Germany. 

2010 WalMart announced it would bid for MassMart, South Africa’s largest retailer, with its 290 stores.  Johannesburg-based Massmart also has stores in 12 other Sub-Saharan countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.   This would be the first major entry of a Western supermarket into the Sub-Saharan African market.

Whole Foods

Began in Austin, Texas, in 1980, as the ‘Safeway’ vegetarian shop

1988 Safeway became Whole Foods when it acquired a new Orleans natural foods store also called Whole Food.  Further acquisitions by Whole Foods followed.

2004 Bought the UK chain Fresh and Wild – see ‘UK supermarkets and timelines’.

2007, Whole Foods has 195 stores, with annual sales of US$ 5.6 billion (UK£ 2.8 billion).

2008, Whole Foods made an operating loss of £36million in the 12 months to 30 September 2008, as against a loss of £9.9m for 2006/7 (Guardian 4/8/90.  This is against a background of the Credit Crunch.


Mexico Back to top

Retail multiples


1999, Carrefour had 17 stores in Mexico


1991, Wal-Mart opened a Sam’s Club supermarket in Mexico City.

Further expansion in Mexico was delayed by the Mexican economic crisis.

1998, Wal-Mart acquired a majority stake in Cifra.

1999, Wal-Mart had 458 stores in Mexico, and a 53% stake in Cifra.

2000, Cifra changed its name to Walmex (Wal-Mart de Mexico)

2001, Walmex sales in Mexico were US$ 9,700 million


Brazil Back to top

Retail legislation

Some restrictions on edge of town supermarket developments but fairly easy to gain planning permission. 

Retail multiples



1999, Market share = 6.0%


1975, Carrefour entered Brazil, buying Ultracenter in Sao Paulo state. Carrefour was the first foreign retailer to enter Brazil.

1999, Carrefour had 193 stores in Brazil generating sales of US$ 4.3 billion; market share = 18.0%.


Pao de Agucar(Casino)

A consortium of five retailers, serving mainly an upmarket customer base.

1999, Pao de Agucar had 285 stores, and annual sales of US$ 3.7 billion; market share = 15.0%.


Begun by a Portuguese migrant in the 1920s in Rio de Janiero.

1995, Sendas had 40 supermarkets in Brazil.

1999, Sendas had 73 supermarkets and annual sales of US$ 1.1 billion


1995, Wal-Mart entered Brazil.  It set up a Sam’s Club outlet in 1995 in Sao Caetano, a less-affluent area near Rio de Janeiro.

1999, Wal-Mart had 14 supermarkets in Brazil

2009, Wal-Mart had 348 stores in Brazil

2010, Wal-Mart had 487 stores in Brazil