To the Editor:
e of the global-retailing evolution was accurate and timely [SN, Nov. 29, 1999, "Who's Consolidating America?" Page 1]. But I would challenge readers to look at the story from a different angle: American retailers must look beyond the United States. The largest American grocery retailers must become global to maintain buying clout [on par] with multinational suppliers.
The solution may be for leading American grocers to merge with or acquire European retailers. This would allow them to get global quickly. Also, the possibility of [French retailer] Carrefour purchasing an American mass merchandiser shouldn't be ruled out. Global retailers must compete in three of four strategic continents.
American suppliers must also think globally. International [revenue] will represent 18% of Wal-Mart Stores' sales this year, against 5% in 1996. Suppliers looking to partner with the world's largest retailer must look for a new model of "customer team leader." This same approach is applicable to Ahold, Costco, Delhaize, Tengelmann and so on.
Global retailers are beginning to offer worldwide promotions. Examples include Ahold's World Champions sale, Delhaize's 2000-store event and Carrefour's anniversary sale. Global price transparency is also a hot button now among leading-edge retailers and suppliers.
Our industry has globalized at a slower pace than others. This can be attributed to the highly local nature of food consumption patterns, and retail formats akin to the "mom and pop" in emerging markets. But the pace of change is accelerating and increased SN coverage of global themes is warranted.