Woolworths, Wesfarmers among world’s top 20 retailers
Australia’s two retail giants have been ranked in the world’s top 20 retailers by the Deloitte Global Powers of Retailing study.PT0M0S 620 349
Woolworths and Coles - all-dominating here but almost nowhere to be seen overseas - have proven themselves something of an oddity in a global list of the 250 top-performing retailers.
It means that Woolworths and Coles will be looking to squeeze more and more growth from a domestic retail pie.
Ranking 17th and 18th respectively in Deloitte's Global Powers of Retailing report, Australia's trolley dominators are in stark contrast to most of the other top 250, which operate in an average of nine countries.
Australia's largest retailers have bucked the trend by not expanding overseas.
Woolworths and Wesfarmers are up so high on the list not because they are operating in a lot of countries but rather because they are overwhelmingly dominant in one – Australia.
Woolworths and Wesfarmers recorded annual retail sales just north of $50 billion each, while Walmart was by far the world's largest retailer with revenue of $US446.9 billion, followed by global hypermarket operator Carrefour with $US113.2 billion
According to the annual Deloitte report, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) retailers earned no less than 23 per cent of their revenues in countries outside their domestic markets last year.
This year's report was compelling proof of what has become a leading theme of the global retail industry: that growth in the modern era is crucially dependent on overseas expansion, particularly into emerging markets.
Not only are global retailers based in the US and Europe now often heavily invested in emerging markets, about half of the 50 fastest-growing retailers on the Deloitte list are actually based in emerging markets themselves.
Australia's largest retailers have therefore bucked the trend by not expanding overseas and this is not a great omen for smaller retailers or the supermarkets' vendors back home.
It means that Woolworths and Coles will be looking to squeeze more and more growth from a domestic retail pie that is increasing at a significantly slower rate. To achieve this they will need to squeeze harder and harder on price and also take more market share on the peripheral aisles – produce, bakery, meat and so forth – that have been the province of small specialty retailers in Australian shopping centres and strips.
On the non-food side of things, Australia's department store chains have also hesitated to give foreigners the benefit of their presence, preferring instead to open stores domestically despite a lack of visibility around demand for the format or the product. Myer and DJs have both probably concluded - and rightly so - that going overseas is not a strategy they can manage successfully, at least until they get their domestic houses back in some sort of order.
The implications of Australia's largest retailers not being able or willing to venture abroad like their counterparts elsewhere in the world are not great for the retailers themselves or their domestic competitors, many of them independent retailers.
The Deloitte report opines that 2013 will be a “hard slog” for retailers in Australia. You can say that again.
Michael Baker is principal of Baker Consulting and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.mbaker-retail.com.