Asia exec to weigh in on China

Wal-Mart Asia CEO Scott Price is among the feature speakers participating in this year’s World Retail Congress event scheduled for March 19-21 in Singapore.

Price joined Walmart in 2009 and is listed on promotional materials for the event as a panelist to discuss the topic of, "Selling to the world’s most populous country: the perfect retail opportunity?" He oversees Walmart operations in China as well as Japan and India and is scheduled to appear with Andrew Wu, group president of the Chinese arm of luxury goods manufacturer LVMH and Kent Wong, managing director of Chow Tai Fook, an operator of jewelry stores in China.

Price and the others should have a lot to say as they share insights into future opportunities in the China, as well as challenges already faced and overcome. Walmart now operates nearly 400 stores in China and last fall acquired a majority stake in online retailer Yihaodian. The deal is expected to accelerate Walmart’s growth in China and e-commerce in China and Asia-Pacific overall is a key focus of the conference.

"While developed markets may see a plateauing of consumer demand, many areas in Asia are still in the development stage, and consumers are being offered opportunities that they have never had before," said Dato’ Dr. Jannie Chan, chairman of the Singapore Retailers Association. "As the world gets smaller, global brands are making their presence felt in more markets, consumers are travelling to more countries more easily and more affordably, and the internet has literally brought the world's retail stores to everyone's home. Consumers' appetites in Asia are whetted and far from saturated, ensuring further growth potential for Asian retail."

The appeal of e-commerce in many parts of Asia relates to relatively low penetration rates when in comes to Internet access.

"Large populations do not automatically translate to a large online retail market without the presence of widespread internet access," said As Lucy Van Den Heede, head of content for the World Retail Congress Asia Pacific.

While there are examples of world-leading internet access in Asia Pacific, with South Korea at 82.5% and Singapore at 75%, some of the largest Asian populations have low rates of access when compared to averages of developed countries globally. For example, in June 2012, 40.1% of China’s population had internet access while only 32.4% of Filipinos, 22.1% of Indonesians and 11.4% of Indians could shop online.  At the far end of the spectrum only 1.0% of Myanmar’s population of 54.5 million had internet access. Consequently, there remains enormous potential for expansion of the online retail offering across Asia Pacific, according to Van Den Heede.

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