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The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart "is expanding in Japan for the first time since 2008, sensing an opening as increases in the ranks of the working poor and pensioners on fixed incomes propel a trend toward thrift there. The retailer is planning 22 new stores in Japan in the next two years, as well as scouting for acquisitions to enlarge its 368-store presence in the world's second-largest consumer market, where it got off to a rocky start about 10 years ago."

Walmart invested in Seiyu, a small and not terribly successful grocer, a decade ago, and then took over the company completely four years ago. But while it has not been a high point in Walmart's global adventures, there seem to be signs now that its low-prices approach is getting some traction.

"Instead of relying on Japan's traditional thicket of middlemen to supply products, which can raise product prices and slow deliveries, the company is using its global footprint to import food from other countries," the Journal writes. "Wal-Mart said grapes imported straight from California can be 20% cheaper than those sold by competitors."

The story says that Walmart has out-performed the market for almost two years, and "received positive news coverage when it flew in groceries and stocked shelves faster than competitors after last year's earthquake and tsunami, providing items like bottled water from Canada. Wal-Mart is now taking advantage of vacancies to move into empty storefronts in Japan rather than building stores from scratch, which requires a lengthier wait for government permits."
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