There’s an article in WSJ today about American retailers pulling out of China after failing to understand the local market. Home Depot, for one, says that with its cheap labor, China is more of a “do-it-for-me” kind of culture rather than DIY, so there isn’t a whole lot of demand for things like lumber and power tools (actually, I don’t even think most professional handymen in China carry power tools; they usually go around carrying rusty little doodads and struggle to do what they can with what they’ve got.) So after six years in China, Home Depot is closing down the remaining seven big-box stores in the country.
Anyway, the article also mentions a couple other failures:
- Mattel’s Barbie flagship store was shut down last year because Chinese parents would rather have their kids read.
- Best Buy closed its nine outlets because Chinese consumers need washing machines and air conditioners, not espresso machines and fancy stereo systems. Although, I don’t understand why they couldn’t just start selling more washing machines and less espresso machines. Also: maybe they should have looked into selling more cameras — because CHINESE PEOPLE LOVE TAKING PICTURES. SO MUCH.
Of course, the article also mentions KFC and Pizza Hut as model examples of companies that did successfully adapt to the local culture — with menu items like egg tarts and soy milk. And you know what else I’ve noticed they do in China? They give out plastic disposable gloves for people to use while eating chicken and pizza — because they know Asian people are not used to eating with their hands and think it’s kinda unclean.