Wal-Mart's Global Expansions

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Wal-Mart's Global Expansion Established in Arkansas in 1962 by Sam Walton, over the last four decades Wal-Mart has grown rapidly to become the largest retailer in the world with sales of $330 billion, 1.8 million associates (Wal-Mart's term for employees), and almost 7,000 stores. Until 1991, Wal-Mart's operations were confined to the United States. There it established a competitive advantage based upon a combination of efficient merchandising, buying power, and human relations policies. Among other things, Wal-Mart was a leader in the implementation of information systems to track product sales and inventory, developed one of the most efficient distribution systems in the world, and was one of the first companies to promote widespread stock ownership among employees. These practices led to high productivity that enabled Wal-Mart to drive down its operating costs, which it passed on to consumers in the form of everyday low prices, a strategy that enabled the company to gain market share first in general merchandising, where it now dominates, and later in food retailing, where it is taking market share from established supermarkets. By 1990, however, Wal-Mart realized that its opportunities for growth in the United States were becoming more limited. Management calculated that by the early 2000s, domestic growth opportunities would be constrained due to market saturation. So the company decided to expand globally. Initially, the critics scoffed. Wal-Mart, they said, was too American a company. While its retailing practices were well suited to America, they would not work in other countries where infrastructure was different, consumer tastes and preferences vary, and where established retailers already dominated. Unperturbed, in 1991 Wal-Mart started to expand internationally with the opening of its first stores in Mexico. The Mexican operation was established as a joint venture with Cifera, the largest local retailer. Initially, Wal-Mart made a number of missteps...
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