Wal-Mart is trailing its nearest rivals in terms of international presence but is rapidly catching up and could push Ahold into third place over the next year.

According to IGD’s new Global Retailing Report Wal-Mart has moved within touching distance of Ahold, which follows Carrefour in top spot.

Business manager - International Research - at IGD Louise Spillard said that following difficulties in South America “a number of concerns have emerged regarding the widespread nature of Ahold’s global strategy”.

“This is an area where Wal-Mart is now excelling, as shown by its recent move into Japan and its continued strong growth in key non-domestic markets such as the UK, Canada and Mexico.

“As a result it is climbing the table and given its relative immature nature of its international programme, its position can only improve,” she said.

Wal-Mart first began to expand out of its home market in 1991, compared to Carrefour in 1973 and Ahold in 1976.