Not Your Usual Suspects: 10 Global Retailers Worth Watching
10 Global Retailers Worth Watching

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With the specter of inflation seemingly tamed and the prospect of the U.S. Federal Reserve lowering interest rates as many as three times throughout 2024, an increasingly higher level of consumer confidence is already creating a sense of optimism across the global retail sector. Of course, this is good news for U.S.-based behemoths like Autozone, Amazon, and Walmart. But beyond the horizon of these legacy American consumer-focused juggernauts there are a handful of global retailers worth watching, heavyweights not nearly as well known to most U.S. industry insiders – yet ones that may deliver more growth than their U.S. counterparts in the year ahead. These are innovators and disruptors, guided by visionary leaders who will be taking full advantage of the favorable macroeconomic tailwinds that many expect will come to define much of 2024.

Dollar Tree, meet your Chinese doppelgänger. Beyond the glitz of luxury brands, China’s burgeoning consumer class also seeks value. Miniso fills this gap with its charming “Everything for ¥10” stores, offering trendy home decor, accessories, and everyday essentials.

Global Retailers Outlook

After a review with several global retail analysts, I have culled ten international retailers – from Brazil to South Africa, and Germany to India that are worth watching. Each of them is either a dominant leader in their respective markets or an insurgent disruptor upending the status quo. Collectively, they represent nothing short of a handful of hidden gems that are worth paying attention to in 2024.

Although this report is organized as a list, I would be remiss if I characterized this as a ranking; it is hardly fair to compare an upscale South African food and essentials chain with a Brazilian multi-channel behemoth with the Chinese equivalent of Dollar Tree. Yet, all of these companies are brands worth paying attention to albeit for different reasons.

The overall theme: Many of the most compelling stories in the retail sphere lie beyond the usual suspects; these are overseas companies that are quietly carving out their niches in their respective areas of influence and poised for growth.

So, without further ado, grab your passport as we tour ten global retail companies poised to thrive in 2024.

  1. Magazine Luiza, Brazil

When you are in the country of caipirinhas, samba and Neymar, retail goes by one name – and it’s not Amazon or Walmart. Brazil’s Magazine Luiza, affectionally known as “Magalu,” is rewriting the ecommerce playbook not only in Brazil but at a global level. This innovative powerhouse combines a robust digital platform with a network of physical stores, creating a seamless omnichannel experience that resonates deeply with local consumers. Their AI-powered personalization, data-driven promotions, and commitment to financial inclusion have cemented their position as the darling of Brazilian ecommerce. With a thriving loyalty program, expansion into creating marketplace enablement, a new offering of cloud-based services, and visionary CEO Frederico Trajano at the helm, Magazine Luiza is primed for a banner year.

  1. Woolworths, South Africa

Although it has no connection to the iconic American five-and-dime chain whose moniker still graces the famous tower in Lower Manhattan, the African Woolworths is a retail juggernaut in its own right. Perhaps less known internationally than South African supermarket behemoth Shoprite, Woolworths focuses on the premium grocery segment across 11 different African markets from its home market of South Africa to Tanzania, Mozambique, and Ghana. This retailer offers quality fresh produce, gourmet foods, and household items, targeting the continent’s growing middle class. With a focus on sustainability and ethical sourcing, Woolworths is one of the continent’s leading socially responsible companies led by industry veteran Roy Bagattini.

  1. Albert Heijn, The Netherlands

Dutch multinational retail conglomerate Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize also owns a sprawling portfolio of supermarket chains and online grocers across much of Europe, the United States (including Food Lion and Giant Food), and Indonesia. The conglomerate’s bedrock is its powerhouse supermarket brand Albert Heijn (often abbreviated to AH and informally referred to by its customers as ‘Appie’), which has been a strong longtime player in the field. The Netherlands’ leading supermarket chain is known for its fresh produce, private label, and convenient online ordering as well as its gourmet offerings and premium quality products. With a corporate group led by veteran Dutch executive Frans Muller, Appie is one of the world’s most innovative grocery retailers.

  1. WHSmith, UK

Hailing from across the pond, WHSmith is a British retailer that has somehow managed to make lemonade from a space normally replete with lemons – books and related bibliophile items. This British heritage brand has successfully adapted to changing times, offering not just books but also stationery, gifts, and travel essentials. Led by the steady hand of its CEO, Carl Cowling, WHSmith succeeds by keeping a focus on convenience, curated product selection, and loyalty programs, while not shying away from navigating the digital landscape.  Its ability to evolve is impressive and projections for growth in 2024 are circa eight percent, buoyed by travel retail.

  1. Zalando, Germany

Europe’s answer to Amazon, Zalando, is a fashion and lifestyle ecommerce giant catering to diverse tastes and budgets. This German powerhouse offers apparel, footwear, and accessories from a wide range of brands, coupled with convenient delivery and return options. With expansion into new markets and a focus on mobile shopping, Zalando is poised to lead the European fashion scene in 2024 and beyond. Zalando founders Robert Gentz and David Schneider will continue to lead the company as Co-Chief Executive Officers providing valuable continuity in the C-Suite although they have just lost their former head of D2C Carsten Keller, who was one of the leading drivers of the business.

  1. DMart, India 

If you are not already familiar with India’s “Grocery King,” then this might be the year to get acquainted with a chain of budget-conscious retailers serving the planet’s second-largest population. Ignatius Navil Noronha is the CEO of Avenue Supermarts which owns the famous grocery chain Dmart. This brand curates everyday essentials at highly competitive prices and its innovative branding and marketing are not only winning wallet share but it is emerging as one of India’s most beloved consumer brands. It’s a store that industry analysts have heralded for its streamlined operations, convenient locations, and robust growth pipeline. DMart has been so successful in recent years that it has made Noronha’s net worth rise above a billion dollars.

  1. Mercado Libre, Uruguay

An ecommerce empire spanning 18 countries, Mercado Libre is a digital behemoth for Spanish and Portuguese-speaking markets. From phones and pianos to cars and casas, Mercado Libre has expanded its digital roots and is quickly moving into the world of omnichannel retail, setting up a battle for the ages with competitors such as Magazine Luiza in Brazil (see #1 on our list). Tech fuels Mercado Libre’s moves, from AI recommendations to speedy deliveries. With the Latin American ecommerce boom just unfolding, Mercado Libre led by longtime exec and Chief Operating Officer Stelleo Tolda has a steady path to growth. 

  1. Wesfarmers, Australia

CEO Rob Scott won a Silver Medal in rowing in the 1996 Olympics and he has channeled this same level of focus and determination into making Wesfarmers into something of a juggernaut in the Australian retail space since his appointment to the key leadership post in 2017. This diversified retail giant is a household name in Down Under, owning everything from Bunnings hardware stores, Kmart and Target department chains to the Chemist Warehouse beauty chain. With a keen focus on customer needs and operational efficiency, Wesfarmers has consistently delivered solid growth.

  1. Jumia, Germany

Although headquartered in Germany, Jumia is Africa’s ecommerce pioneer. It has been a true trailblazer having spun up significant ecommerce shopping and logistics services across many of the continent’s biggest markets, including Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda. This pan-African marketplace connects online shoppers with a vast array of products, from electronics and fashion to groceries and home goods. With a mobile-first focus and strategic partnerships, Jumia capitalizes on Africa’s booming ecommerce landscape. It’s led by long-term company executive Francis Dufay.

  1. Miniso, China

Dollar Tree, meet your Chinese doppelgänger. Beyond the glitz of luxury brands, China’s burgeoning consumer class also seeks value. Miniso fills this gap with its charming “Everything for ¥10” stores, offering trendy home decor, accessories, and everyday essentials. This Japanese-inspired chain thrives on its adorable branding, curated product selection, and rapid store expansion, promising steady growth. Led by founder Ye Guofu, who has become a billionaire since starting the Chinese leviathan, Miniso is aiming to break new records as it looks to expand its Asian footprint.

End Notes

Of course, this global retail outlook could have included scores of other exceptional retail stories emanating from elsewhere in Latin America (Mexico in particular has several interesting plays), Europe (France, Spain, and Turkey in particular) as well as Saudi Arabia, Japan and Southeast Asia.

Nonetheless, this initial batch of 10 global retail plays should provide more than enough stamps to fill up at least a few pages of any American retailer’s passport in terms of potential new brands to follow.

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