Israel reportedly seeking to woo retail giant Walmart

Israel reportedly seeking to woo retail giant Walmart

Davos meeting made clear to behemoth that Netanyahu would ‘ease regulatory burdens wherever possible,’ adviser says

A Walmart in Teterboro, New Jersey, on October 26, 2016 (AP/Julio Cortez)
A Walmart in Teterboro, New Jersey, on October 26, 2016 (AP/Julio Cortez)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly met with a senior Walmart executive at the World Economic Forum last month to discuss the possibility of opening a branch of the low-cost US mega-retailer in Israel.

The prime minister told executive John Furner the Israeli government was willing to aid Walmart in its entry to the Israeli market, Bloomberg News reported, citing Netanyahu’s economic adviser Avi Simhon.

“We made it clear we are ready to ease regulatory burdens wherever possible to make the market more accessible to them,” said Simhon. “The door to Netanyahu’s office is open.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting on January 25, 2018 in Davos, Switzerland. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

According to Simhon, who was present at the meeting, Netanyahu and the Walmart executive also spoke about potential investments in Israeli technologies.

Contacted by Bloomberg, Walmart declined comment on the report.

The multinational corporation runs 11,700 branches, including 6,291 international stores spanning 28 countries, but Israel is not one of them.

In November, Israeli reports said US e-commerce behemoth Amazon is preparing to launch retail sales activities in Israel and is in talks to rent 25,000 sq. meters (260,000 sq. ft.) of storage space in central Israel to provide the local market with products.

Amazon is working in Israel via local and foreign teams to scout the market and study local consumer trends, services and logistic and distribution networks.

Information about the US giant’s activities had reached local retailers who fear that Amazon’s entry into the market will boost online sales and hurt traditional stores, the Calcalist business daily said.

Even if Israel is a small market – with just 8 million citizens – the country is an OECD leader in online acquisitions per capita, according to data released by PayPal.

Israelis spent some NIS 11.8 billion ($3.4 billion) in internet spending in 2016, and are forecast to spend some NIS 14 billion this year, Calcalist said. That is because many items acquired online are cheaper than the same bought in Israel.

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