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Wal-Mart: strategic concept

Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer with approximately 6,500 stores worldwide (Business 2006). The main feature of Wal-Mart’s business model is to cut costs (continuously) and therefore offer lower prices than their competitors. For instance, Wal-Mart has introduced new logistical technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) to optimize its logistic processes. RFID is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders. Wal-Mart tries to minimize labor costs by offering minimal health care plans. Wal-Mart pressures its suppliers to cut costs, on a continuous basis. In brief, Wal-Mart’s managers are constantly seeking out ways to cut costs, and some of their successes are passed on to shoppers, in terms of lower prices.

Wal-Mart’s entry into the german market

In 1997, Wal-Mart acquired over 21 stores from the supermarket chain “Wertkauf.” One year later, Wal-Mart bought an additional 74 stores from the supermarket chain “Interspar”. As a result, Wal-Mart became the fourth biggest operator of supermarkets in Germany (Lebensmittelzeitung 2006). The objective was to expand to 500 stores in Germany. However, the number of stores never exceeded the 95 stores that were originally purchased in the first two years. Wal-Mart’s position in the marketplace deteriorated over the years. In 2002, Wal-Mart had some financial difficulties due to a low turnover which resulted in the dismissal of some employees. At the end of 2006, Wal-Mart was bought out by “Metro”, one of Germany’s largest retail groups. Finally, Wal-Mart left the German market with a loss of one billion dollars before tax (Manager-Magazin 2006).

Mis-steps in the german market

In general, there are five key issues related to Wal-Mart’s ultimate withdrawal from Germany: ( a) market structure; (b) business model (these first two are discussed together here); c) cultural and communication; (d) politics and regulation; and (e) product/service failure. Each of these issues is discussed in turn. Note also that these five issues are highlighted in [link] .

Market structure and business model

A retailer that wants to follow Wal-Mart’s strategy of low prices needs to expand rapidly. In Germany, there not enough appropriate locations to support such expansion (see [link] ). As previously mentioned, Wal-Mart did not build their own stores but took over 21 existing “Wertkauf” supermarkets that had a totally different business model. The stores themselves were very small and had a limited range of goods. A related problem is that these stores were located far apart, which resulted in high logistical costs.

When entering a new market, it is important to anticipate competitors’ reactions. In Germany, Wal-Mart’s biggest competitor, Metro, wanted to expand their stores; at the same time, Metro wanted to prevent Wal-Mart from executing their expansion plans (Senge 2004). Many times, a product has to be deleted because the competition is too strong.

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Source:  OpenStax, Business fundamentals. OpenStax CNX. Oct 08, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11227/1.4
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