Tesco entered China in 2004, operating in partnership with supplier Ting Hsing, and trading as Hymall (see BBC coverage). It has expanded quickly and expects continued rapid growth, announcing in December 2006 in increase in its share of Hymall from 50% to 90% and the development of own-brand products in China (read more). As of April 2012, Tesco has 124 stores in China.
China is a major market for international retailers, with a rapidly changing economy and potential market of 1.3 billion people (see a BBC profile). The market leader is Chinese chain Hualian, Carrefour has 70 hypermarkets and WalMart intends to enter China (see a Guardian article). In January 2006 Sir Terry Leahy told The Observer that China was Tesco’s major focus for expansion. Its average store size is a massive 77,000 sq ft, significantly more than in any other country except Malaysia, and around six times the UK average. Like its rivals, Tesco is pushing China’s emerging grocery retail market towards the large-format, car-based hypermarket model. Tesco currently plans to open a further 16 stores in China.
Tesco’s Chinese operations rely on a localised format (see a Guardian article), and it has been criticised for selling live frogs, fish, and turtles in store (see the Tescopoly page on animal welfare). In November 2011, workers blockaded a Tesco store in a dispute over wages and redundancies.