Paul Mullis, industry leader, consumer products, retail & distribution, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Globalisation has become a major force for change in many business sectors, now it's key in retail. Daily there are newspaper reports of retailers looking for partners in Europe or the US and thousands of column inches have been generated pondering the arrival of Wal-Mart in the UK. Knee-jerk reactions do not genuinely address the best interests of businesses for whom such moves are supposed to protect. One assumption in the industry seems to be that the joining together of Asda and Wal-Mart and the merger of Carrefour and Promodès, herald a new era of pan-European grocer retailing. National retailers assume that they too must seek partnerships if they are to compete. However, retailers should not go global' as a matter of course ­ there are alternatives. The answer lies in identifying what the customer wants. What can a customer expect when a global retailer opens? Customers are demanding quality of service that strives to exceed their expectations and that this service extends across all stores. The combined effect of value pricing and good product availability has been a key point of differentiation for global retailers. But the likes of Wal-Mart have a further differentiator ­ they sell a much wider range of merchandise than their UK rivals. Wal-Mart sells two-thirds general merchandise and one-third food. To be successful, the global retailer will modify its offer for a particular local market and select a product/service range balanced between international brands, local goods and own-label. Just because the likes of Wal-Mart choose to play in the price/product' space based on economies of scale doesn't mean that the national retailer must follow. Trying to compete could be fatal. A chain's loyal customers may shop for different reasons, and the national retailer must ruthlessly exploit them! Mimicking the global players on price is a strategy where only the deepest pocket wins. {{NEWS }}