The Blog for Culture Vultures

Satiate your inner Culture Vulture with regular news and posts about cultural awareness, doing business abroad, working in a multicultural environment, HR diversity and global mobility.

Shopping, Global Retail and Local Culture

Shopping, Global Retail and Local Culture
Have you ever thought about the link between culture and retail? One of the first things I like to do when I go into a different country is go check out the local supermarket.

There is something about the whole experience of walking through the aisles and observing people doing their shopping that I find incredibly insightful.

Even in some of the big supermarket chains, all the products that are stocked and the general atmosphere gives me a good understand and ‘feel’ for the country’s culture. When I come out of the supermarket feeling that I have just experienced something new, I consider the retailer to have successfully adapted to the local culture.

So what makes global retailers such as Costco and Carrefour succeed in making the shopping experience appealing to the local population even though they operate worldwide? And what made Walmart pull out of Germany?

The recent article on cross-cultural learnings points to some of the key cultural factors that affect the successes or failures of these global retailers.

I was actually living in Duesseldorf, Germany when Wallmart first opened, and I remember the excitement of my American friends when the first one opened in our town. I also remember my German friends’ reactions to how frustratingly “American” their shopping experience had been. Conclusion? What works at “home” doesn’t tend to work abroad.

The successful stories of Costco in Australia and Carrefour in China bring me to conclude that a little cultural due-diligence can go a long way if implemented ahead of time. In addition, lending an ear to customer feedback, customer demand, and local managers who know their customers goes a long way.

So here the lesson I took away - to a successful global and local operation, it’s time to start with a good honest look at ourselves – are we humble enough to take a step back from what we think is the right thing to do and really listen to what those on the ground are suggesting? Cultural awareness starts with the self as we've outlined in this small video we put together.

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