C&B Notes

Walmart’s International Plans

Walmart promoted David Cheesewright to head its international business late last year after Doug McMillon was named CEO.  Despite recent softness, international markets will continue to be an ever-larger piece of Walmart’s business.

On his overall plan:

I have four specific initiatives.  First, create a platform for sustainable growth in China because based on where growth is coming from, if you get it right there, life becomes a lot easier.

Second, turn around our operations in Brazil.  We’ve talked about that for a while but I think we’ve got some high caliber people there and we’re encouraged by recent results there.

Third, we have to rejuvenate Mexico.  Some of it has to do with cyclical economic issues, but some of it is self-imposed [as the company tries to improve the quality and price gap versus competitors].  I don’t think we’ll get back to the high growth levels from years past, but there’s a lot we can do to help them become a more mature business.

And fourth, we have to drive e-commerce.

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There are two key trends we see in every country. First, a rapidly changing customer that is rapidly moving online.  Second, declining growth rates.

Looking at any metric, whether it’s gross domestic product or retail sales growth, virtually everywhere we are seeing a slowdown.  The nice thing about international is that there are still markets with pretty good growth rates, including Brazil, China and Mexico.

If you look at the countries we currently operate in and look forward to the next 10 years, we have access to more than 50% of the growth that’s going to occur on the planet.  That’s pretty good coverage versus our competitors and the biggest chunk of that will be outside the U.S.

Once you know which countries you’re going to focus on, then you have to think about whether you have the right formats.  E-commerce is going to be incredibly important to us and it doesn’t matter which market we’re in.  We have to excel at the fundamentals of e-commerce and then the big advantage for Wal-Mart will be the intersection between online and the physical stores.  No one else has the portfolio of assets that we have to do that.

On a strategy shift in India:

Wal-Mart India is refocusing on the business-to-business market, rather than selling to consumers directly, with both cash and carry stores and e-commerce.

India is going to be like a classic developing market, where the vast majority of sales increases are going to come from people emerging from informal into formal shopping, and that’s primarily the early days of mom-and-pop stores and small supermarkets.  To supply those stores is the most sensible place to start.  Somewhere down the road there might be retail stores and an item-to-home type of e-commerce business, but for the moment, the business-to-business proposition is the right way to go.