Two retail giants have formed a partnership.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which recently reaffirmed its commitment to China, today launched Alibaba’s Alipay Wallet payment system in 25 Wal-Mart stores in Shenzhen, with more stores to follow suit. Alibaba, China’s largest Internet company, has said Alipay Wallet has more than 270 million active users.
“We launched Alipay Wallet in 25 Shenzhen stores, including our Sam’s Club, with plans to expand to other stores in the future,” said a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. “Alipay will help us serve our customers better by allowing mobile payment in seconds. Increasingly, our customers want convenience and the ability to shop however, whenever and wherever they want.”
Wal-Mart has been struggling in China but views the market as key to its future growth. Last week, the discounter’s chief executive officer Doug McMillon said at an event in China that the retailer will open 115 stores there over the next few years.
Wal-Mart’s history in China has been fraught at times. Many of its difficulties surround food operations and the retailer has been accused of mislabeling meat and compromising food safety. Wal-Mart in December 2014 revealed it was cutting 250 jobs in China to improve efficiency, while saying it would open a distribution facility in the country.
Meanwhile, Alibaba has been facing continued criticism from regulators in China and the U.S. over its business practices, especially what appears to be an endemic presence of counterfeits and gray-market products on its consumer-to-consumer marketplace platform, Taobao.com.
Alibaba could take a lesson from Wal-Mart in the reputation department. Wal-Mart, which in the past was considered one of the worst corporate citizens, appears to be gunning to be one of the best.
The retail giant will start disclosing to investors what it spends on lobbying on a state-by-state basis. The previously undisclosed announcement was uncovered by Reuters. The move will make Wal-Mart one of the first companies on the Dow Jones Industrial Average to reveal this type of information and could put pressure on others to follow. Wal-Mart spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying efforts at the state level, which is where the Bentonville-based behemoth supports lawmakers that can further its agenda.
The issue of the company’s involvement in politics and the calls for transparency came from activist shareholders. In the past, their calls may have gone unheeded, but since McMillon became ceo in February, the company has softened its stance on a number of key issues. Wal-Mart in April increased the minimum wage of its hourly associates to $9 compared to the federal minimum wage of $7.25, and in February plans to raise the pay of its lowest-paid workers to $10 an hour. Gap Inc. was the first U.S. company to announce wage increases.
Lee Scott made sustainability a signature issue during his tenure as president and ceo from 2000 to 2009. As the world’s largest retailer, he set about leveraging Wal-Mart’s global reach in three areas: renewable energy, zero waste and sustainable products.