Walmart in China: dramatically different than in the U.S.

January 18, 2014
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Walmart in America vs China: strange differences

The old adage “give the people what they want” seems to be the long-held business model for Walmart. Now, being so prevalent in China, it seems their business model has been adapted: they are still giving the people what the want, it just seems what Chinese people and what American people want greatly differ.

bar Walmart in China: dramatically different than in the U.S.
American Walmarts are the Valhalla of bargains and selection; the same is true in China, but for different items. Property is much more expensive in China, so Walmart purchases a small plat of land and creates several levels, like a mini shopping mall, instead of a single level that is spread across what seems like acres in America. However, the quantities are kept smaller in China.

Most houses in China are small and do not have room to store bulk purchases, so the stores carry less merchandise in an effort to save money. In America, purchases are made in bulk, especially paper products. Also, there are no books or clothes offered in China stores, as well as, the addition of vendors placing sales representatives in stores selling their products with hopes of getting their brand name out in to the Chinese marketplace.



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Perhaps the most bizarre item, at least from my American perspective is the fresh meat. Not fresh, as in freshly packaged in plastic wrapped packages, no. It is fresh as in many stores have tanks full of live fish, frogs, eels, and turtles waiting for customers to catch with nets. You can then have your catch killed and cleaned, but you will not find any meat wrapped in plastic or Styrofoam; this idea repulsed customers. They want meat as fresh as possible.

They have even revolutionized toilet paper

They had the idea to remove the cardboard tube from the middle of the roll, enabling them to offer more rolls at a cheaper price, making it the cheaper toilet paper in the country. They also charge customer 20 cents per plastic bag to help encourage the use of reusable shopping bags.

For all the success they have in China, Walmart has still not been able to replicate the efficient logistical system it has in America, mainly because it lacks scale. There just is not enough affordable land in China for Walmart to purchase. While they continue to “give people what they want” the markets are very different and are a good reminder to businesses to know your market, your customer; and what works best for your business model.

Jennifer Walpole is a staff writer for AGBeat and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.


  • shashibiya

    Could this article be more misinformed? I live in Shanghai, and regularly shop at Walmart, a block from my home. Books and clothes are available in abundance. The claim that Walmart is responsible for taking the cardboard tube out of toilet paper is ludicrous: toilet paper has been sold that way in China long before Walmart came on the scene. The practice of charging for plastic shopping bags is also ubiquitous. Walmart had no hand in instituting it. Better stick with penning screenplays, Ms. Walpole, since you’re so good at writing fiction!

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