Bentonville, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is interested in moving into Russia after strong growth in that country's retail spending — but does not have specific plans yet, the world's largest retailer said Monday.
Wal-Mart's international division is smaller but is growing faster than the company's flagship U.S. business. Russia would mark another move into large but underdeveloped markets like Latin America and China, where it is already established, and India, where Wal-Mart plans to open stores with a local partner company.
Wal-Mart pulled out of two wealthy, developed countries last year — Germany and South Korea — after racking up losses there. It remains active in Britain and Japan.
Angela Hofmann, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart International, said Wal-Mart has been watching the Russian retail market for several years and likes what it sees.
Hofmann said ,"We've been watching impressive growth and it has piqued our interest, We are definitely interested in the Russian market."
But He said it was too early for any specific plans on how or where Wal-Mart might move into Russia or what Russian company it might partner with.
In the past, Wal-Mart has moved into new countries by teaming up with a local company, either through an acquisition or some kind of partnership. That way it can build on existing stores and the partner's experience with consumer demand in a new market.
The Moscow Times said Russia's food retail market accounts for less than 2 percent of gross domestic product but has seen annual growth of more than 25 percent since 2001.
Wal-Mart's international business accounted for about 22 percent of the company's total sales in the first nine months of last year.
That share is growing faster than the large U.S. business. International sales in the first nine months last year rose 30 percent from a year earlier, compared to 8 percent for Wal-Mart U.S. stores.