As the international industry for home textiles products gathered last week in Shanghai for Intertextile – the biggest Asian trade show for the business – we all need to be reminded that doing business on a global basis is no easy task. Some of the smartest, most sophisticated corporations on the planet have stumbled – even failed – trying to establish business units away from their native countries.
Take the situation in China. Two of the biggest retailers from the United States – Home Depot and Best Buy – have basically given up trying to establish store operations there. The biggest American toy company, Mattel, has pulled back from its Chinese beachhead, too.
It’s not just U.S. companies that have had their problems. Two big European retailers – Carrefour and Tesco – have both said they are not happy with their operations there and are looking at alternative solutions.
And this is not just a case of Western companies going to Asia. Tesco, the second biggest grocery retailer in Great Britain, has just admitted defeat trying to establish an American operation under the Fresh and Easy name.
Even more relevant to the companies gathered in Shanghai, the textiles business has been no easier. U.S. and European suppliers are still finding their way in Asia. Likewise, producers from China, India and elsewhere have often had to reinvent their business models several times to find the right strategy to operate on a global scale.
And yet, it can be done. The Western cosmetics retailer Sephora has some 135 stores in China. That is a sizable presence – and a formidable one, too. Walmart, while not perfect, is largely successful in China as well.
Two large Chinese suppliers, Haier in appliances and Lenovo in consumer electronics, are major players in the American market.
And all you had to do was walk around the streets of Shanghai to see the large numbers of Western fashion brands that have outlets there to understand that many corporations have figured out how to do business on an international scale.
I guess it’s like any business situation: There will be winners and there will be losers. Any company attempting to become global needs to keep that in mind. You can’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t immediately work. But you can’t stop trying either.