By Tu Lei
Tesco, one of the world's largest retailers, told the Global Times Sunday that the company expects to open 23 stores in China this year, a move to compete with perennial giants Carrefour and Wal-Mart.
"The new stores will be mainly located in satellites cities around the megalopolises that already have our branches," said Li Jia, public relations manager with Tesco China, adding city popula-tion is an important consideration to open stores.
David Hobbs, Tesco China's newly-appointed chief operations officer, said Friday that the company will beef up investment in China with the hopes of becoming the industry leader.
Currently, Tesco has 81 stores on the Chinese mainland, mostly in or around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Last year, the British retailer opened 17 stores in China. But the other heavyweights are not sitting on the sidelines. Wal-Mart opened 55 stores in the country last year to take the lead over Carrefour with a total of 178 stores.
"Our next step is to move into more third-tier cities," said Lv Zhiping, property manager from Wal-Mart, in June.
Carrefour, however, has taken a step backwards. This month the French chain will close its only Xi'an outlet.
This marks the first time for Carrefour to shut down a location in China since it started rapid expansion in 2005. Carrefour has been backpedaling in other markets as well. The firm has com-pletely pulled out of South Korea, Russia, and Japan.
But the China market is too big to leave. In the first half of this year, Carrefour opened eight stores, to bring the total to 156. Chen Bo, Carrefour China's director for public relations, said the close is due to business adjustment, and "this will not impact our development strategy in China," adding the company plans to open 20 to 25 stores in China this year.