Are you planning a trip to Japan?
This nation is famous for its delicious cuisine, including sushi and other yummy treats.
However, there are sure to be times when all you want is a taste of home. Visiting a supermarket in a foreign country can be a minefield. Although there are likely to be some familiar products, they will probably come in different packaging with unusual labeling, making them difficult to identify.
So, let’s find out…
Is Walmart in Japan?
Japan boasts the third-richest economy in the world. Over the years, a large number of American businesses have tried to break into the Japanese market. However, with a few exceptions, most of these American businesses fail spectacularly.
In the early days, Walmart had grand plans to open a chain of branded supermarkets in Japan. When this proved to be unsuccessful, the company managed to enter the market another way. A chain of Japanese Seiyu grocery stores had long since been established, and the retail giant took over ownership.
Tried and failed as many before…
However, like most American companies that had come and gone before, the company proved to be unsuccessful. In November 2020, Walmart announced that it was selling 85% of its shares. This leaves the company with just 15%, which is a significant reduction in control.
Seiyu was founded in 1963, and the chain of grocery stores had a respectable presence in Japan. Walmart began the acquisition of the company in 2002 by purchasing a 37% stake in the company.
They held a majority stake three years later and started to change the way the grocery store chain operated. The takeover was completed in 2008 when Walmart became the sole owner and absorbed Seiyu into its family of holdings.
Seiyu operated three different types of stores, which are fairly similar in concept to Walmart stores. Seiyu Supermarkets are similar to Walmart Neighborhood Markets, while Seiyu Hypermarkets are similar to Walmart Supercenters. There is also a Seiyu General Merchandise store, which sells traditional Japanese homeware products.
Today, there are around three hundred Seiyu stores throughout Japan. This includes large stores in major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagano, Nagasaki, and Osaka.
The Challenges Faced by The Store
On the face of things, the younger generation has a love affair with American culture. Many Japanese people listen to American music, watch American movies, and adopt American fashion trends. Many Japanese people regularly eat at American fast-food chains like McDonald’s.
Therefore, it may seem surprising that Walmarts failed to appeal to Japanese shoppers. However, a closer inspection of typical Japanese shopping habits may reveal the answer. Here are some potential reasons why the supermarket chain found it difficult to thrive.
American consumers love a bargain, and this has been one of the secrets behind the company’s success. While this business model helped the company to thrive in the United States, it was a different story in Japan. Japanese shoppers value quality and have a distrust for products that are seen as being cheap.
Many Japanese people consider the emphasis on low prices to equal low quality. In the end, Seiyu supermarkets switched focus to emphasize quality over value for money. However, the change came a little too late to prevent sales from plummeting.
Local business customs
The American supermarket chain failed to take local business customs into account. The dramatic change in the supply chain and company structure directly led to a loss of business. Previously popular products started vanishing from stores, while the staffing structures also changed significantly.
Seiyu has always had a strong emphasis on local customs. Most stores sold traditional products such as kimonos for the whole family. However, the focus after the acquisition tended to be on American-style products.
While some Japanese people occasionally indulge in hamburgers and pizza, these dishes are usually reserved as a treat. When it comes to their daily diet, most Japanese people prefer to stick to traditional Japanese dishes.
Frozen foods are very popular among American consumers, and Walmarts emphasizes those items. A typical superstore in the United States features several aisles of frozen meat, vegetables, and frozen TV dinners. However, most Japanese shoppers are used to fresh meat and other produce and often find frozen food distasteful.
Rakuten is a joint stakeholder and business partner with Walmart in the Japanese market. The two companies joined forces in 2018 and launched the Walmart Rakuten Ichiba Store. The concept behind this online store is an eCommerce platform that sells American products. While Walmart fulfills the orders, Rakuten uses its knowledge of the Japanese market to promote them.
The two companies also work in partnership to offer online grocery delivery and e-readers, eBooks, and audiobooks. The business model for this online platform is modeled on Amazon. Once Walmart decided to sell some of its shares in Seiyu, Rakuten purchased a 20% stake.
What Else Would You Like To Know About Walmart?
Are you curious about the superstore? Well, you’re in luck! Some of the interesting facts we’ve covered include Why Do People Call Walmart Wally World, How Much Is Walmart Worth, which Companies are Owned by Walmart, and my favorite, Why Are There No Walmarts In New York City?
But that’s not all! Let’s take a closer look at Walmart Hidden Clearance items, Who Makes Great Value Products for Walmart, who are the Biggest Walmart Competitors, or perhaps you’d like to know Who Does Walmart Use For Shipping and What Is Walmart Neighborhood Markets?
Lastly, for a bit of shopping info, you might want to know Does Walmart Price Match Their Online Prices, when is the Best Time To Shop At Walmart, as well as What Time Does Walmart Pharmacy Close Open, and the Walmart Customer Service Hours Open And Close in 2002?
If you are paying a visit to the Land of the Rising Sun, you will find that the country’s food is very different from what we are used to in the states. Many Americans find it quite difficult to adapt, at least at first. One way to make the transition easier is to seek American fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King.
People who are spending several weeks or months in Japan will probably go grocery shopping at some point. Although you will not find any Walmart supermarkets in Japan, you can pay a visit to Seiyu. While these chains mainly cater to Japanese tastes, you will find a few recognizable American products on the shelves.
A taste of home is always the best!