WAL-MART GLOBAL Procurement, the newest division of retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, is searching for merchandising talent from Hong Kong, China and overseas. Professionals from Hong Kong with foreign-language skills are especially in demand. Wal-Mart Global Procurement directly sources products from suppliers in China and other countries to provide goods for its stores worldwide. Anticipating double-digit growth annually, the 800-strong team can look forward to a busy period of recruitment. 'We anticipate more than 15 per cent growth per year in direct imports for the next several years,' said overseas people director Brian Walker. 'As the business grows, our need for merchandisers and other key positions to support the business needs grows as well.' The division has eight merchandising openings specialising in areas such as apparel, furniture, houseware and toys. Five managerial positions are also open in various departments including quality assurance, investigation and loss prevention. And staff in logistics, quality assurance, and factory certification will be recruited over the next few months. Mr Walker said the greatest number of openings would be in merchandising, and this meant opportunities for Hong Kong professionals to work in the division's four China offices. 'Given the long history and experience of the procurement industry in Hong Kong, we can fill our merchandiser and merchandising manager roles with quality candidates from that market,' he said. 'There are also occasionally some specialty roles that we open to Hong Kong applicants.' Multicultural and multilingual merchandising veterans would make ideal candidates. 'Since merchandising associates must interact with both Chinese suppliers and western retail buyers, candidates must be experienced merchandisers who are not only bilingual, sometimes trilingual, but also have a good understanding of how to work and interact in Asian and western business cultures,' Mr Walker said. Examples include two merchandiser openings which require candidates to speak Spanish and German respectively. Candidates from the mainland and overseas will also be considered, and compensation packages will be adjusted to match the local market. 'For positions open to Hong Kong candidates we pay a salary and benefits package commensurate with the Hong Kong market. We add some additional benefits such as a foreign service premium and a modest housing allowance to help attract top talent to Shenzhen,' he said. Besides experience and cultural skills, candidates also need to fit in with the company culture. 'A good cultural fit includes attributes like a cheerful and respectful outlook, strong customer focus, and a desire to learn, grow and improve on a daily basis,' Mr Walker said. Founded in 2002, the division has 800 of its 1,200 staff worldwide, working in its China offices, in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Dongguan and Putian. Besides primarily handling merchandising, it also carries out quality control, factory certification for suppliers of goods, and supply chain functions. According to the China Daily, Wal-Mart sourced US$12 billion worth of products in the mainland in 2002. Mr Walker said the division's growth was driven by Wal-Mart's global business development. The United States-based corporation, which topped the Fortune 500 list for the third consecutive year this year, announced plans to open, move or expand more than 50 discount stores, 220 Supercentres and 35 Sam's Club stores in the US, and 130 units outside the US this fiscal year. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, annual exports from the mainland last year increased 34.6 per cent from 2002, reaching US$438.5 billion. 'Hong Kong and southern China are basically becoming the beginning of the supply chain for many of the world's markets,' said Anthony Thompson, manager of sales and marketing, engineering and supply chain at executive search firm Michael Page International. what's on offer Wal-Mart Global Procurement is searching for talent as it expects double-digit annual growth. Openings will continue to exist in logistics, quality assurance, factory certification and merchandising. The greatest number of openings will be in merchandising. Experienced merchandisers from Hong Kong are highly sought after because of Hong Kong's long history and experience in the procurement industry. Compensation packages commensurate with the Hong Kong market will be offered to attract top talent.