Purpose – This paper aims to explore the nature of divestment within the context of retailer internationalisation. Design/methodology/approach – It focuses on the activities of the Dutch food multinational retailer Royal Ahold (Ahold). Drawing on 37 in-depth interviews with investment banks and executives, this paper provides a number of insights into Ahold's international retail divestment activities within the context of a broadly successful international investment strategy. Findings – It offers some new insights into the multidimensional nature of international retail divestment construct in terms of the operational as well as more subtle and less visible non-operational international retail divestments. It is concluded from this study that, rather than portraying strategic and opportunistic approaches as binary opposites, a retail firm may have varying degrees of approaches to international retail divestment, and these may not necessarily be isomorphic across different countries. Research limitations/implications – The paper explores international retail divestment from a rather broad perspective, although it is hoped that these parameters can be used to raise a new set of more detailed priorities for future research on international retail divestment. Practical implications – This paper raises a number of interesting issues such as whether retailers initially take divestment seriously and the degree to which this is actually possible during market entry. Originality/value – As called for in the literature, this study examines divestment in the broadest possible fashion, thus addressing a major gap in our understanding of the whole internationalisation process.