Walmart is one of the biggest names in retail, not only in the U.S., but internationally as well. Here at the Food Institute, it seems we are constantly reporting on new developments in Walmart’s business, whether it be new store openings, warehouse expansions or acquisitions. Recently, though, Walmart has been especially busy expanding globally and updating its U.S. operations to improve its reputation and make its stores more effective.
The company plans to cut hours at some of its 24-hour stores in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Maryland in order to have more time to stock shelves and organize stores before the rush hits. The change will affect about 40 stores, while about 25 stores have already reduced their hours, and more are expected to be announced in the future. CEO Doug McMillon says the move is an effort to address customer concerns that shelves are empty, checkout lines are too long and the produce is poor-quality. A spokesman for the company also said the reduced hours could help reduce theft, though that wasn’t a main reason for the change.
While it works to retain customers in the U.S., Walmart is also looking to focus more on the Asian marketplace, particularly China. The company acquired all of the outstanding shares of Yihaodian, a Chinese e-commerce company. It previously held about 51% of Yihaodian and acquired the remaining shares from Ping An of China to take full ownership of the company. Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce said, “Our investment in Yihaodian is part of our long-term commitment to grow in China.” The company also plans to expand its distribution center in North China to increase distribution services for its suppliers in that area. Peter Sharp, who is in charge of its Asia business, said this also shows “the company’s determination to invest more in the Chinese market.”
Walmart has also tried to expand into India numerous times in the past, but due to the country’s culture of mom-and-pop grocery stores and its laws on foreign supermarkets, it has run into many roadblocks. Neighborhood shops, called kiranas, sell 98% of the country’s groceries, according to Euromonitor International. Walmart India decided instead of trying to compete by opening one of its supercenters, it would become a wholesaler for the independent grocery outlets, offering advice on how to become more efficient. It is is also looking to increase its e-commerce platform. Kirana owners can now go to Walmart’s Best Price wholesale outlet and source most of their inventory, rather than traveling to numerous domestic wholesalers which may not always have popular items in stock. Analysts say this ultimately makes the experience better for the customer, because stores are able to offer a wider variety of items in the same size store.