Retail battle heats up in China

16 February 2012

BEIJING: Competition is intensifying between retailers in China's rapidly-evolving FMCG market, as multinational chains battle both one another and local rivals for supremacy.

According to Kantar Worldpanel, the research firm, FMCG value sales rose by 18% in China last year on an annual basis, a trend based both on inflation and rising demand among shoppers.

RT-Mart held 6.3% of the market, up by 0.2% year on year. Auchan, its sister company, was on 1.8%, meaning these two operators – together forming the Sun Art Group – claimed an 8.1% share of sales.

Walmart, the US chain, was on 5.6%, reaching 6.4% in the final quarter of 2011. Trust-Mart, now a unit of Walmart, also posted 2% on the first of these metrics, but this total had contracted to 1.3% by the closing three months of the year.

"Growth for Walmart has come from both the top tier cities, where Walmart already has a stronger presence, as well as the lower tier cities where the American chain is expanding its operations," Kantar's study said.

Elsewhere, the CR Vanguard Group, operating the Vanguard and Ole banners, claimed 6.9% of sales, ahead of Carrefour on 4.8%, Balian Group on 4.3% and Tesco on 2.1%.

Meanwhile, Zhongbai secured 2%, Wu Mart 1.9%, Beijing Hualian 1.4% and Lotte Mart 1.3%.

Overall, the top ten retailers enjoyed a 39% market share in the fourth quarter of 2011, a total that was one percentage point lower than in Q4 2010.

"This suggests that China's national retailer landscape hasn't become consolidated as the smaller players fight back against the big international chains who now dominate many cities," the study argued.

International retailers account for 49% of FMCG sales in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai, falling to just 5% in China's counties. Local chains are also gaining ground in certain regions, with Century Mart, owned by Balian Group, boosting its share from 6.8% to 7.7% in the provinces of Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

Wu-Mart has also reached the 10% share threshold in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong and Shanxi provinces. More broadly, Yonhui now has 204 stores, opening 49 last year, and is quickly growing beyond its "heartland" of Fujian and Chongqing."

"The pressure from local retailers is not just seen in the lower tier cities where they are more established. They are also giving the international players a tough time in the provincial capitals," the study concluded.

Data sourced from Kantar Worldpanel; additional content by Warc staff