Saturday, July 29, 2006

Wal-Mart says "Auf Wiedersehen"

It's the top story of Deutsche Welle: World's Biggest Retailer Wal-Mart Closes Up Shop in Germany. That gives David's Medienkritik reason for a German-hostile rant and Merkel-bashing (wtf? - too bad, that they were inept to blame Joseph Fischer or Joseph Goebbels this time).

I've never been to a Wal-Mart in Germany. No, I did not boycott them or something; it just didn't happen, because there hasn't ever been a Wal-Mart close to me. I have my Wal-Mart experiences, though: Moscow in 1997 (the store was quite... um, Russian). And Nanning, PRC, in 2004 (too expensive in comparison to local options, if you ask me).

Diehard multicultural lefty that I am, I'm more like the "think global, buy local" kind of guy. I prefer the next door 16/7 shop (run by Turks), the polish baker woman at the market with her disarming smile (even if the temperature is 14 F) - and at work, I can't wait the lunch break to visit my Korean grocery lady (NO! It's not about her looks! Not in this case. She is such a lovely, caring person. The other day, I met her on the street near my home, and we found out that we're neighbors! What a joy!)

Talking about Korean ladies: Germany isn't the only country in the world where Wal-Mart is losing a battle (my emphasis):

Is Globalization Succumbing to Glocalization? (via Yale Global)

The Korea Times, 26 July 2006

The success story of E-Mart, a domestic retailer, and the failure of multinational corporations such as Wal-Mart, the world number one retailer, and Carrefour, the strongest retailer in Europe, are not enough to say globalization is succumbing to glocalization. This situation is merely another incident of intense competition resulting from free trade and Americanization. Glocalization is defined as the mix of global standards and local preferences.


To sum up, the famous story of E-Mart and Wal-Mart maybe significant because a company of the size of Wal-Mart failed, but other than that, these things happen all the time. That is what the market is all about. Glocalization has no reason to fit in this story because neither Wal-Mart nor E-Mart was 'glocalized' in the first place. Some people try to make this story an accomplished fact of glocalization but, in my perspective, I see no glocalization in this story.


Don said...

Contrary to popular myth, the German market does seem to have a strong low-cost sector. Lidl comes to mind, though I have no idea how Lidl pricing compares to Wal-Mart.

My Aunt (in the US) swears by her local Lidl shop. She says it's the cheapest place to buy groceries though the selection is limited. So you simply go elsewhere for things Lidl doesn't carry I guess. We have a Lidl a longish bus ride away from me - I'm thinking of giving it a try.

The funny thing is that Wal-Mart used to do cheap pretty well - even in groceries. While living in Kansas City in the early 90's I used to go to one of the 24 hour Wal-Mart superstores all the time for groceries. Cheapest place around and I was working 60-80 hour weeks then - so I could shop after midnight if I wanted to!

Rayson said...


In Germany, "Aldi" is the synonym for "low-cost". Lidl is more or less a copy, although a successful one. In Germany, due to very tough competetion grocery prices are about 10-15% lower compared to other European countries, even if you consider different VAT rates.

Every company without deep market knowledge that tries to become the low price leader here commits mere suicide. As Wal-Mart did.