After last month handing a new role to Dave Cheesewright, this week has brought more upheaval in the senior ranks at Walmart.
Alongside Cheesewright in his new globe-spanning role sit Latin American boss Eduardo Solorzano and Scott Price, who runs things in Asia. Price has been in the news today after Walmart’s Chinese chief, Ed Chan, quit the company citing “personal reasons”, leaving Price to take a more hands-on role. A senior HR bod, Wang Yu Jia, has also resigned.
Coincidentally, Walmart has been under the cosh in China for allegedly selling regular pork as organic pork. Stores have been temporarily shut down and hefty fines handed out. But the retail giant’s problems aren’t limited to some iffy char siu.
With 350 stores around the country, Walmart is something of a political football, as rising food prices rise even faster up the political agenda. The timing of its falling-foul of the authorities in Chongqing is regarded as being highly symbolic, with local bigwigs cashing in on nationalistic fervour by bashing an overseas villain.
More fundamentally, however, the business model that has steamrollered competition at home just doesn’t translate as well into Mandarin, with shopper numbers down in Walmart’s last set of figures.
“If Walmart just plays the low-price card in China, they lose,” said Gary Gereffi of Duke University, echoing a number of analysts today.
“It’s no surprise that we came in the beginning with an Americanised concept,” the departed Chan recently told the Wall Street Journal. “Now we tailor to the city, to the culture, and we learn from our competition.”
Clearly rivals aren’t the only obstacle in the land of the Great Wall.