International Retailing - Meaning and Important Concepts

International trade and commerce has existed for centuries and played a very important part in the World History. However International Retailing has been in existence and has gained ground in the past two to three decades. The economic boom in several countries, coupled with globalization have given way to Organisations looking at setting up retailing across borders. The advent of internet and multimedia has further changed the dimensions as far as International Retailing is concerned.

Who are the International Retailers

When you think of International Retailers the names that come to one’s mind would be the Wal-Mart, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Mango, GAP etc. All of these are International Retailers. However we can broadly classify the International Retailers under two categories. The first category would be the global grocery retailers and the second category belongs to the International fashion Brands.

International Grocery Retailers

The Companies namely Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Metro, Tesco and Ahold etc are the leading international grocery retailers who have multi country presence. Major portion of their total revenue comes from foreign sales. Wal-Mart operates in over 8,500 stores in 15 countries with foreign sales contributing to 18% of its $405,046 billion net sales (2000). Carrefour, a French international retailer has presence in 32 countries with foreign sales amounting to over 48% of its net sales.

These international grocery retailers follow a multi brand and multi product business format which includes all products like food encompassing all types of fresh vegetables, fruits, juices, chocolates etc, fashion and clothing including bed linen etc, grocery, all types of branded consumables, as well as liquor and many more household goods under one roof. They generally follow a format that allows for selling to whole sellers, retailers as well as general public at the mega stores.

Traditionally these International Grocery Retailers have operated mainly in US and in Europe. Specifically in Europe the largest markets have been in Germany, France and UK. With globalisation and with several countries opening their markets to FDI in retail, these Organisations are moving into other parts of the world and into emerging markets.

There is yet another group of International retailers like IKEA, Lego, Toys ‘R’Us etc who have chosen to focus and specialise in a particular segment like furniture etc.

International Fashion Retailing

Names like Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Zara, Hugo Boss, JC Penny, Benetton, Jimmy Choo, Swarovski, Dolce & Gabbana etc belong to the second category of International Fashion Retailers. Originally these Companies catered to domestic markets in the countries of their origin. Fashion and Luxury brands have always been known by their label and brand value across countries, through word of mouth and sought after by the rich and famous from all over. Over the years, these companies have realised the opportunity in expanding their product mix and promoting their brands internationally. Thus we see the emergence of international fashion brands, luxury product brands dealing exclusively with branded clothing including sportswear, casual and formal wear, party wear, foot ware and accessories, luxury items including watches, perfumes, jewellery and many more items of personal use.

In the earlier times, the nova rich and the business class were the main customers who sourced these branded products from abroad. However in the recent times we see the educated and economically empowered youth demanding fashion and going in for branded items. International brands have thus established a niche for themselves in domestic markets aided by the increasing demand for branded fashion products. International grocery retailers have expanded their business in emerging markets by virtue of their investments and procurement strategies.


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