A typical Wal-Mart shopper in China is a middle-aged woman with a family of three. Though she shops three to four times a week, her average basket spend is just $6. Meeting her needs as well as those of students and white-collar workers is the key challenge for Edwin Xu, the general manager at Wal-Mart's second and largest store in Shanghai.
The store, located over three floors of the Wanda Plaza in the up-and-coming Yangpu district, is buzzing with activity. About 10,000 shoppers visit the store every day lured perhaps by '200% satisfaction guaranteed' - as promised on one poster.
There are certainly enough staff around. The store boasts 440 associates with name tags bearing distincity anglicised names such as Ally and Jessica, as well as a whopping 300 promoters - sampling and promotions are big news in China, though shoppers are more likely to be persuaded by a free gift or a discount than a bogof.
Less than three months into the job, Xu is excited about his new role and frank about the challenges. Though fresh deliveries arrive daily, the store has to stock two weeks' worth of non-food inventory above the shelving.
He believes Wal-Mart's private label has a lot of potential (its Great Value Egg Yolk Pie is a pretty big seller), but one of his biggest priorities is local sourcing, he says. Here 'local' could mean anything in the sizeable Shanghai district and extends beyond grocery to non food. Although the store currently sources all its fresh produce from the Shanghai area and 70% of its grocery, it also sources 30% of its electronic goods locally and 10% of its paper.
"I want to source more local products," says Xu. "Products from the Shanghai area are very popular in this store. It's not Western brands that shoppers like," he says.
One of his major priorities is to improve the assortment by introducing more local lines, he adds. But it won't be easy. Because 90% of the orders are made by head office, they are often based on sales generated by Wal-Mart's first Shanghai store, which has a very different customer base. But he remains confident. "This is one of the biggest stores in China and the location is good, but the sales don't match," he says. "If I could increase sales by 30% by the end of the year, that would be great."