Tesco to work more closely with overseas suppliers to drive down prices.

Tesco is to double the volume of non-food product sourced globally, taking the total to£2 billion worth of sales within two years.

The ambitious initiative, similar to Wal-Mart's approach, will enable the UK's biggest retailer to push prices down and is likely to mean more intense pressure on rivals at home and abroad.

Tesco sources non-food goods to a value of£1 billion globally from 27 countries. Clothing accounts for 64 per cent, and hard goods, such as ceramics and home furnishings, make up 36 per cent.

Christophe Roussel, Tesco director of international sourcing, is behind the push and outlined his plans to analysts on a visit to Asia last week.

Roussel, formerly head of global sourcing at French giant Carrefour, was poached by Tesco from Sainsbury's a year ago.

A Tesco spokesman said: 'Our buying hubs are working hard around the world to deliver the best-quality products to customers at the lowest price.'

Retail Knowledge Bank research director Robert Clark said: 'In order to compete with the likes of Wal-Mart, Tesco has to go as far down the international sourcing road as it can, because that is exactly how Wal-Mart operates.'

As Tesco continues to expand its global sourcing operations, it expects big cost savings.

The grocer has also revealed aggressive expansion plans for Thailand and Korea in the next four years.

Tesco believes it could have 60 supermarkets and up to 500 Express stores in Thailand by 2008, up from one and 34 respectively at the moment.

In Korea, Tesco expects to have 165 Super Express stores, which are larger than the conventional Express format, by 2008, up from five at present.

Deutsche Bank noted: 'We were surprised by the quality and depth of the Tesco management, both local and ex-pat. Korea in particular is run by a very strong local team.'

- Tesco's Ken McMeikan, chief executive of the Adminstore convenience business and understood to have been lined up to replace Scott Wheway as boss of the grocer's Japanese business, is to jump ship to arch rival Sainsbury's. His new role has not been revealed.