Autor: Warrem Shoulberg
Walmart is the most successful retailer in America ever.
Outside the United States, not so much.
The news today that the company’s planned hand-off of its Asda division in Great Britain to rival Sainsbury’s is now in question and may not go forward is only the latest in a decades-long tableau of setbacks, disappointments and out-and-out failures on the international stage. For a company that relentlessly came to overwhelm all competitors and far out-distance itself from the rest of American retailing to mess up so consistently elsewhere in the world is one of the great global business paradoxes of the past 50 years.
A little context, however: Walmart does a huge amount of business outside the United States. International sales, at $118 billion last year, represent more than 20% of its overall $500 billion in annual revenue. As such, it would qualify as one of the biggest retailers on the planet even if you took away its domestic sales.
But in the 28 years since it opened its first store outside the U.S.—a Sam’s Club as part of a joint venture in Mexico—Walmart has failed to have the same success it has enjoyed in its home country. There have been high points—Mexico and Canada stand out—but in Europe, Asia and South America, the story is very different.