East Asia is a region currently undergoing rapid retail development. There is little mystery in this. It is by far the most densely populated region of the world, and, with some important exceptions, remains largely undeveloped in terms of modern retailing. This latter fact is changing as the world’s leading grocery retailers, notably Carrefour, METRO Group, Tesco, and Wal-Mart, expand in the region, emphasizing East Asian markets as a major pillar of their global strategies. In addition, and although almost unrecognized in the Western press and academic literature, equally large retailers from Japan are also aggressively building market share in all of the key markets in the region.
Such factors make East Asia one of the most interesting regions in the world in terms of how retailing will develop over the next few years. At the same time, East Asia is not a homogenous entity. It does not have a common language, culture, religion or even a single race. There are wide disparities between countries in terms of economic development and standards of living. The geography of the region ranges from desert to jungle and from snowbound winters in northern Japan to constant 30 degree temperatures in Singapore and Indonesia. It is by no means a single market. In contrast, Europe, which is also a large and diverse market, is still more uniform.