Why Walmart Failed In Germany

It's a place where you can buy your weekly grocery order and get your prescriptions refilled in one visit. It's a place where you catch up on the local gossip with your neighbor in the cereal aisle or watch a fellow shopper in ill-fitting pajama pants buy a single rotisserie chicken. For all its ups and downs, Walmart is no doubt a genuine American institution. Originally a simple five-and-dime general store in Bentonville, Arkansas — a place that still exists as the official Walmart Museum – Sam Walton's store has a long history. While you can find a Walmart superstore just about anywhere in the United States, you're probably not going to hear the name if you head over to Europe.

That doesn't mean Walmart didn't try to expand over in Europe, however. In the final years of the '90s, Walmart attempted to bring old-fashioned American productivity, low prices, and efficiency to the German public (via New York Times). Unfortunately, Walmart had to say auf wiedersehen to its grand plans in the country by 2006. Just what exactly happened that made Walmart abandon its plans? 

Germans simply didn't understand Walmart culture

While we are not vastly different than our neighbors over in Germany, it's safe to say that our customs and culture are not totally alike. Germans are stoic, friendly people who strive for the best in their lives (via LiveScience), so one would expect that Walmart could thrive as a company that aims to meet all their customer's needs in one store. The reality is that Walmart, with all of its American values, simply didn't fit into German culture. As reported by The New York Times, the worker unions typical in the country were not embraced by the company.

The Global Millennial detailed three more reasons for the failure of Walmart in Germany. The first reason was that Walmart's "employee motivation training" like team-building exercises outside of the store may have come across as too regimented or too silly. Another issue was that German people were uncomfortable with Walmart employees smiling at them so much. Smiling awkwardly at the cashier in line may have been strange for people who typically reserved smiles for close friends and family. The third reason was due to conflicts with Walmart's ethic codes, which required employees to monitor each other in case of misconduct.  

Whatever the reasons, it was clear that the corporation's American customs did not align with the culture in Germany. Perhaps one day, Germans and Americans can bond over what foods you should never buy at Walmart.