retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The New York Times reports that Walmart plans to bring back its layaway program for the upcoming end-of-year holiday season, one way that it hopes to re-establish its credentials as a place where cash-strapped shoppers can get a good deal.

The retailer scrapped the long-time layaway policy in 2006, saying the credit cards and gift cards made it obsolete. But today, when people are trying not to run up their credit card bills because of concerns about their houses and employment status.

• Walmart International CEO Doug McMillon said yesterday that the company could look for a Japanese acquisition to improve its business there - but did not comment on speculation that it might buy Tesco’s 129 stores there, which were put on the sales block last week.

According to the Reuters story, “Japan is a small but important business for Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer. Sales at its Japanese stores have improved in the months following the earthquake and tsunami as Wal-Mart focuses on everyday low prices and brings in fresh food and other products from elsewhere to try to stand out from competitors.”

Walmart currently has more than 400 stores in Japan.

• Walmart has not committed to entering Russia yet ... but it has hired Lev Khasis, the former head of that nation’s largest retailer. The Wall Street Journal writes that he “will serve as senior vice president and chief leverage officer, a job whose responsibilities include integrating new retail acquisitions and combining purchasing in Wal-Mart's myriad locations to get better deals from suppliers.”
KC's View:
That is, until Walmart decides to enter Russia.