Retailigence

“Club of Knowledge Hunters”

Wal-Mart’s formula a big hit in China source

Posted by retailigence on September 10, 2008

BEIJING — The No. 10 subway in northwest Beijing unloads another stream of people, old and young, who jostle their way up the stairs and head en masse into the three-story store next door. On another side of the store, the parking garage is full.

Inside, the atmosphere is almost festive. Shoppers crowd around a bakery worker who has just brought out a tall cart of aromatic loaves: French, semolina, chocolate-marble. Other shoppers leisurely peruse the wide shelves and bins filled with apricot croissants, golden cookies and delicately shaped tea cakes filled with lotus seed paste. The fresh seafood department is a wonder. Clean, bright and odor-free, it features 20 aquarium tanks teeming with fish and eels, and lively with prawns and skittering crabs. In the liquor department, the extensive collection of wines, always popular as a gift (or, it is whispered, as a bribe ), includes bottles from all over the world.

Welcome to Wal-Mart.

Don’t believe it ? Take the escalator up a floor, and you might as well be at a stateside Wal-Mart; here are the same tables piled high with flip-flops and men’s casual pants; the same smiley-face “Every Day Low Prices !” signs; the same weary parents hauling 10-roll bags of toilet paper, super-mega-packs of Pampers and slow-moving toddlers.

This Wal-Mart Supercenter was the first to open in Beijing three years ago, in the city’s bustling middle-class Haidian District. Now Beijing has four Supercenters, which sell general merchandise and groceries, plus a Sam’s Club. Unlike in the United States, where a big-box Wal-Mart is about as inconspicuous as an elephant, in China the stores locate in empty, existing buildings because land in the cities is so expensive, and because it’s crucial to be within walking and biking distance of their customers.

While some Americans have strong negative feelings about Wal-Mart and boycott the store because it sells so many lowprice Chinese-made goods, presumably at the expense of American jobs, none of the Chinese shoppers interviewed for this story was even aware that Wal-Mart is “Made in the U. S. A.” “I know it’s owned by someone from outside China, but this store really caters to the needs of Chinese people, so I don’t feel as if I’m shopping in a foreign store,” said Huang Hong, a 21-year-old forestry student holding a bag of honey cakes.

Maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The countless varieties of sneakers and bathroom cleaners and blond Barbies don’t say “Made Right Here,” but they don’t need to. Up to 96 percent of what is sold in China’s Wal-Mart stores is manufactured in China, said Jonathan Dong, a spokesman for Wal-Mart in China.

He adds that all 450 greeters, cashiers, stock people and other employees at the Wal-Mart in the Haidian District, as at most of the others, are local residents. Wal-Mart employs about 50, 000 people in its 106 stores in 53 Chinese cities. Their pay rates vary by location but are slightly above the retail-industry standard, Dong said. In Beijing, the standard pay for retail workers is $ 171 to $ 185 a month. Wal-Mart in China also provides workers with government-mandated medical benefits.

But that’s not what matters to Yang Xiao Xie, 20, who works in an office across the street. He comes to Wal-Mart every weekend for groceries and household items. “There’s a really big selection, so I can buy a lot of things at once,” he said. That’s particularly true of the food items, which account for about 60 percent of a Chinese Wal-Mart’s inventory. There’s an imported foods section, set slightly apart from the clamor in the rest of the store, which features Italian olive oils and dried pasta, European cereals and biscuits. And, strangely, Purina Dog Chow and Friskies cat food.

The refrigerated-cheese section is very popular; it’s difficult to find cheese in smaller grocery stores, and the selection here is broad, including such sought-after delicacies as Kraft American singles and Philadelphia cream cheese. At the deli counter, brownroasted duck heads are neatly stacked like sausages near pink-and-white striped slices of jellied pig’s ears and piles of chicken feet. Han Wei Jing, 40, appreciates how big and clean the store is. “It seems as though the quality must be better,” she concluded. In many ways, she sounds like a typical American Wal-Mart shopper.

“Both my husband and I work, and my son goes to school early in the morning, so I just want to buy things that are convenient,” she said. She likes the frozen dumplings, imported beef and roasted meats. And the shampoo selection. And the toys for her son. And chocolate, she said. Lots of chocolate. Information for this article was provided by free-lance correspondent Chai Lei.

Sources:- nwanews

Contributed by:- Vipin Rawat

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