Is Walmart In Japan In 2022? (Yes, But Not What You Think)
Japan has the third-richest economy in the world, so it’s fitting that American businesses would want to establish a foothold in that country.
That can be difficult, though, especially for Western companies, who may lack insight into the particular culture of Japan and its shoppers.
If ever you visited the Land of the Rising Sun, or are just curious, you might have wondered: Is Walmart in Japan? Although the answer to your question is “Yes”, it may not be what you think.
Is Walmart In Japan In 2022?
Walmart’s Japan presence can be seen in its retaining share of the supermarket chain Sieyu and in its partnership to Rakuten. Rakuten is the nation’s top eCommerce platform. Until recently, Sieyu was a subsidiary of Walmart, but the American retail giant announced it was selling 85 percent of its shares in November 2020.
Japan: How many Walmarts are there?
Walmart Japan has no actual stores by its own brand. Walmart Japan is the owner and operator of Japanese Seiyu grocery chains.
According to Bridget Goldschmidt of ProgressiveGrocer.com, there are about 300 Seiyu locations all throughout Japan.
These include a dozen or so clustered in and around Tokyo, as well as locations near Nagano, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nagasaki.
Seiyu: What Does It Mean?
Seiyu refers to the Japanese supermarket chain Walmart bought in 2008
Established in 1963 by the Japanese government, it has been an established and trusted brand in Japan since then. Walmart began its acquisition in 2002, when they purchased a 37 percent stake in the company.
Walmart had a major stake in the company three years after it was acquired.
The company became sole owner three years later. This was just six years from its original investment.
Seiyu Supermarkets can be compared to Walmart Neighborhood Markets. Seiyu Supermarkets may look more like Walmart Supercenters.
There is also one Seiyu General Merchandise shop in Tokyo that doesn’t sell food.
Christian Monson published a piece about Japan’s shopping and highlighted some similarities and differences in Walmart and Seiyu.
Monson believes that the Seiyu supermarkets can be almost identical to Walmart Neighborhood Markets.
He says the Seiyu Supermarkets are incredibly close to the feel of a Western supermarket.
Monson thinks that hypermarkets are the most different.
Seiyu Hypermarkets, he explains, are located in basements large buildings that lie in central Tokyo.
Walmart could have been attracted to Seiyu for this reason. Supercenters tend not to be easily found in large urban areas.
Monson also remarks that the products in Seiyu stores can be quite different (and culturally appropriate); for example, some stores sell kimonos for the entire family.
What Challenges Did Walmart Face In Japan?
Why is it so difficult to get by in Japan?
Although the attitude is unbending at times, it was not fast enough to significantly impact Seiyu’s already low-performing sales.
An alteration in the supply chains led to the disappearance of a favorite item from the stores. That alone caused Seiyu customers who were comfortable with the selection to stay away from Seiyu.
That same article stated that Walmart executives were less concerned about store employees than they are with management.
And Walmart’s emphasis on frozen foods (very popular in the U.S.) was confusing and distasteful to Japanese shoppers used to fresh produce and meats.
Is Rakuten Part Of Walmart?
Rakuten has been and continues to be a business partner of Walmart.
Rakuten was actually able to buy a 20% share in Seiyu, while Walmart will continue to hold a 15% stake.
Walmart joined forces with Rakuten to create an online shopping site called Walmart Rakuten Ichiba.
This was an eCommerce platform that sold American products and Walmart fulfilled the orders.
Additionally, Rakuten and Walmart teamed up to offer online grocery delivery and e-readers/ebooks/audiobooks, a la Amazon.
Rakuten does not belong to Walmart. However, they are close friends in many areas and have multiple investments.
If you are looking to learn more about Walmart, you might also be interested in reading up on if Walmart is in India or Delhi, if Walmart is in New Zealand, and if Walmart is in the UK or London.
Walmart has had a presence in Japan since the early 2000s, though it is obvious that things haven’t necessarily gone the way they would hope for.
Walmart was not used to Japanese culture and norms. This may have contributed to their failure.
Walmart will be able to benefit from their close connections with Rakuten Japan Online, which is Japan’s largest retailer online, in future projects.
.Is Walmart In Japan In 2022? (Yes, But Not What You Think)