BEIJING — IGA plans to open its first office outside Chicago next fall here in Beijing, Mark Batenic, IGA president and chief executive officer, told SN.
China is IGA's largest single global market, with 17 licensed distributors serving approximately 1,800 stores — slightly less than half of the 4,000 IGA stores operating outside the U.S.
Tom Haggai, IGA chairman, said the company has the potential to operate 1,000 more stores in China.
The office here will have a staff of four Chinese nationals working under the direction of Xiaoguang Fang, who carries the title of IGA chief representative.
“It's impossible to manage a country like China from Chicago,” Batenic explained, “so it makes sense to have people on the ground there to tend to the day-to-day needs of members as we grow and as they grow and to respond quicker to their needs.”
Fang had been an IGA consultant for about a year before becoming chief representative — helping IGA communicate with Chinese companies and helping it formulate a growth plan, Batenic said. Fittingly, he was originally introduced to IGA by John Haggai, Tom Haggai's brother, who runs the Haggai Institute for Third World Leadership, based in Singapore.
A further indicator of China's importance to IGA's future is that it will be the first country outside Canada to offer IGA private-label brands with bilingual labels — English and Chinese. The introduction of IGA products with those labels is set for late next year, Batenic said.