Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tesco CEO on moving into a new territory--the USA

I've had the opportunity to help several companies set up shop in the USA. It's a very challenging process, even for companies that have had success in other foreign markets.

European companies can leverage the EC, the euro and geographical proximity when expanding to other countries in Europe. The USA is a different matter. It's massive in size, covers four timezones, has laws and tax rules that differ state to state, and its customers are used to getting their own way with products. Succeeding, however, can bring the company its largest market. Ask Toyota.

In Thursday's Wall Street Journal, the "Boss Talk" column featured an interview with Terry Leahy, CEO of Tesco, the largest grocer in the UK.

Highly innovative in its home market, Tesco has set its sights on the US--but not with its superstore concept. Instead, Tesco is building smaller, 10,000 square foot neighborhood stores. Leahy describes planning the US launch, doing market research, and competing with Walmart. A sample:

We didn't want to buy an existing business because what's the point of going to America and just doing the same as everybody else? There is already so much retail there. So what we tried to do is turn a weakness we had -- that we had no presence in America -- into an advantage: We can research and design the perfect store for the American consumer in the 21st century.

This interview should be required reading of any CEO who has dreams of conquering America.

(Photo: "Go and Buy" by lusi via stock.xchng)