SHANGHAI: Walmart is seen by manufacturers as the top retailer in China, new research has revealed, with Taiwan-based RT-Mart a close second.

The latest PoweRanking study from insights and consulting business Kantar Retail surveyed over 300 manufacturers and retailers in China to establish how trading partners view each other in the most important areas of the manufacturer-retailer relationship.

The study said that Walmart retained its leading position thanks to its better performance in the 'best of the best' composite section of the report, driven by "the strength of its business fundamentals and its unmatched supply chain". RT-Mart, however, was growing in strength, especially regarding its branding and clear strategy, and was seen as the winning retailer in future.

Kantar also highlighted the emergence of two other local retailers. CRE had claimed the number three spot, thanks to a program of store openings, acquisitions and regional expansion. And Yonghui had progressed from being a regional player to appear in the Top 10 in Kantar's Best of the Best rankings.

No online retailers appeared in the top ten but was earmarked as a business that manufacturers expected would become a 'Power Retailer' within the next five years.

Christophe Meuter, Kantar Retail's Managing Director North Asia, noted that Chinese retailers had spent the last few years learning from their global competitors. "As growth in China has slowed, the global retailers have eased off while they go back to basics in their strategies," he said, "and the Chinese companies have taken advantage of that."

"China is an increasingly complex environment, with different regions and cities having distinct cultural differences and many are at different stages of economic development," he added. "Those companies that are able to adapt to those nuances will be successful."

On the manufacturing side, Procter & Gamble and Unilever were clear leaders in the top two spots, being viewed by retailers as highly strategic, offering valuable brands and engaging in better consumer insights and category leadership than their competitors.

That said, Kantar observed that Coca-Cola and Mondelez were closing the gap on them, while regional manufacturers such as South Korea's Orion and Singapore's Wilmar International were also increasingly prominent.

Stronger brands and improved supply chains meant that retailers saw less difference in terms of capabilities between global manufacturers and local or regional ones.

Data sourced from Kantar Retail; additional content by Warc staff