Tesco backs out of Japan



Tesco’s decision to end its 129-store Japanese venture has come as no surprise to expats in the country.

Tesco, the third largest retailer in the entire world has just announced that it will be selling off all its Japanese stores after concluding that the business is not “sufficiently scalable”.

However, English expats in Japan are not surprised, in fact the general feeling is that the move is a long time coming, as Anton Lloyd-Williams explained: “We went along hoping it would be like an English Tesco and that we would be able to stock up on English items, but apart from a few things it was mainly an enlarged version of a Japanese convenience store and that, I think, was the problem. When it arrived no one had heard of the brand and, by setting itself up as a Japanese supermarket, it just became another one of many and brought nothing new to an already developed scene.”

Japan is a very popular destination for British expatriates, however it seems that Tesco’s goal was not to connect with the expat community, as evidenced in words issued by a Tesco spokesman: “The whole point of our overseas Japanese business was to cater for local consumers. The expat market was always going to represent only a small proportion of this. What we found in Japan was an already developed market, and unlike in China, little room to build a sufficiently scalable business.”

With around 17,000 British expatriates in Japan perhaps Tesco took the wrong approach to business in the land of the rising sun.

Learn more about expatriate life in Japan by reading our Tokyo City Guide.