December 31, 2004

Don Boudreaux on Wages

Now Don attacks Ms. Featherstone's lack of economic logic:

One of Featherstone�s claims that I didn�t deal with there is her allegation that Wal-Mart free-rides on government welfare payments. Her argument (which, I recall, is not unique to her) is that welfare payments enable Wal-Mart to pay lower wages. The allegation, in other words, is that taxpayer-funded welfare increases the supply of workers....

Don continues at length... read it all. IMHO he's thinking WAY too hard about Ms. Featherstone's essay. Why? She's not using a logical argument.

IMHO, Ms. Featherstone believes that Wal-Mart's low prices put competitors out of business. Essentially, WM eliminates the high wage competition... and then uses welfare subsidies to hire the desperate employees at lower wages. It's competitors don't do this because, unlike WM, they're moral. As Don notes, evidence is lacking for this theory.

But assume WM does put the competition out of business. How does Wal-Mart manage to hire people when it initially moves into an area, since it must compete with higher-paying better-benfit businesses? Unless one is willing to admit that WM pay is equal to competitors, or that the quality--dependability, experience, language competence, demeanor, etc.--of WM employees is inferior, this is a rather big problem for the WM-eat-dog theory. Asking people to go on the dole mightily disadvantages WM in the labor market--giving competitors a distinct worker quality advantage--,but this seems to be of no consequence to Ms. Featherstone.

I've been reading this anti-WM rhetoric for months. To me, Ms. Featherstone's piece was so... stale.

Posted by Kevin at 10:53 AM

How the Press Treats WM...

Dave Friedman links to ALP (thanks!), and writes the following excellent commentary:

Wal-Mart is famous for protecting its image and its brand and it no doubt is well aware of the existence of this blog. Wal-Mart has also been attracting a lot of scrutiny in recent years from all manner of press, both pro and con. When some big event or controversy occurs (and it undoubtedly will, despite Wal-Mart's attempts to control its destiny) the event or controversy will get wide play in the press and the blogosphere will react quickly to publicize the issue. How does Wal-Mart, or for that matter, any company handle the prospect that bad press is instantaneous, and the uncontrollable cauldron of the blogosphere is largely responsible for the speed with which information travels from conventional media? Conventional media, of course, will contact Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart will have its spin faithfully recapitulated in the mainstream media. But the further the news item gets from its mainstream media source, the less of an impact Wal-Mart's PR machine will have. The blogosphere is the radical conclusion of the premise of disintermediation upon which the internet upended scores of entrenched industries.

Which blog will bring Wal-Mart to its knees?

[Empasis Added]

To answer the last question--most likely, not this one. If WM is to be crushed by a blog, it will be one with deep connections in the Walton family, or in the WM executive hierarchy...

Wal-Mart does manage its brand name as well as it can, but in my opinion it's doing a rather poor job of getting it's "we're not evil" message across. I believe WM opponents--labor unions, environmentalists, feminists, human rights organizations--are (overall) viewed sympathetically by the press; reporters are far more sympathetic to a unique story of worker exploitation than to Wal-Mart's history of lowering the cost of living for millions.

When its opponents scream "poverty wages", quote wage statistics 5 years out of date, lie about the actual benefits available to associates, pretend that scandals at a dozen stores are representative of all 3000, Wal-Mart counters in strong words that fall on deaf ears.

In the nonbusiness press, Wal-Mart is guilty until proven innocent. The way the "Wal-Mart debate" is presented, the charges (like sex discrimination) are just assumed true. In most news stores, Wal-Mart a spokesman is usually given a chance to rebut the paragraph-long charges in a few sentences. Wal-Mart's spin is "faithfully recapitulated," it is usually given a submissive position to its opponents spin.

In short, while the business press is mostly and fairly positive about WM and its economic impact, the nonbusiness press would really like Wal-Mart to go the way of the 5 and 10--if it is not to be unionized.

This is a good place to point out that Wal-Mart corporate has never contacted me, although some store-level employees have. I think WM is smart enough--unlike some other companies--to not interfere with the operation of ALP or my 1st amendment rights...

Posted by Kevin at 10:08 AM

December 30, 2004

Don Boudreaux on "Down and Out"

Don Boudreaux cites Bill Steigerwald in his smack-down of Liza Featherstone's latest (reported earlier here):

And because Wal-Mart indisputably keeps prices to consumers low, by far the most plausible conclusion is that Wal-Mart promotes the economic prosperity of the places it which it operates � it creates better jobs and increases the availability of goods and services. In short, Wal-Mart makes its workers and its customers (and, yes, its stockholders) wealthier.

But in the expos� in The Nation, Wal-Mart�s commitment to serving lower-income communities is treated as dastardly, sinister, almost Satanic. The author -- Liza Featherstone -- however, never explains why specializing in serving the needs of lower-income communities is suspect. Would lower-income people be better served if, instead of Wal-Mart, Nieman-Marcus and Tiffany�s open branches in rural and blue-collar regions of the country?

There are too many problems with this expos� of Wal-Mart to deal with here

That last sentiment was mine exactly upon reading Ms. Featherstone's article. Steigerwald gets the last laugh, though:
Unless it really is a clever put-on, Featherstone's desperate diatribe is the worst article I've ever read in The Nation, which, for reasons known only to my psychiatrist, I've been torturing myself with regularly for almost 15 years.

Posted by Kevin at 8:28 PM

Do WM Ads Change the Nature of Phone Calls?

If you haven't studied the complexity of federal telecommunications regulation, you might find this bizarre:

What has AT&T been doing? Well, it's been issuing calling cards to American troops -- 325,000 of them worth $6 million in calls to those in Iraq and 25,000 to injured service members at hospitals stateside. The donated cards are the same as those sold at stores, so they contain ads from Wal-Mart and SAM'S CLUB. That, though, isn't the exploitation that McCormick is concerned with. The USTA's objection is AT&T's assertion that the inclusion of the ads makes the cards an "information service" rather than a strict telecommunications service.
This let's them avoid a lot in taxes... and a broken regulatory scheme...

Posted by Kevin at 12:19 PM

Girl Finds a Wad of Cash at WM

This is the right thing to do:

The girl, who police declined to identify, found several hundred dollars in the Wal-Mart parking lot Sunday, and she turned the money over to the Durango Police Department after talking with her mother.
She'll get to keep the $$$ if nobody claims it...

Posted by Kevin at 12:11 PM

WM Workers Shoot & Kill Cat (UPDATED)

This is sick, stupid, and disgusting:

EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- Two Wal-Mart employees who police say followed a manager's orders to shoot and kill a stray cat have been charged with federal animal cruelty.

[Christopher Anderson, 29, and Jeffrey Hardin, 21], both assistant managers at the Supercenter, were arrested and released after a court appearance Wednesday.

All managers potentially involved in the incident have been suspended without pay...

Store manager Darrel Weitzel told police he had told some of his employees to get a gun and get rid of the cat after attempts to coax it from the trailer failed, according to a police report.

They used a pellet gun.

UPDATE: Maybe prosecutors jumped the gun, as it's not against the law to kill stray animals on private property in Indiana...

Posted by Kevin at 12:06 PM

December 29, 2004

WM in Turkey (UPDATED)

There's a rumor floating around that Wal-Mart is interested in a sizable stake of Migros :

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) , the world's biggest retailer, declined to comment on Wednesday on reports that it was in talks to cooperate with Turkey's leading local retailer, supermarket chain Migros (MIGRS.IS: Quote, Profile, Research) .

Shares in Migros, controlled by Turkish conglomerate Koc Holdings (KCHOL.IS: Quote, Profile, Research) , jumped 7.5 percent on Wednesday after the Turkish Anka News Agency quoted Koc Honorary Chairman Rahmi Koc as saying Migros and Wal-Mart were in talks.

"We do not comment on this kind of speculation," said Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz.

Wertz said Wal-Mart had no particular policy regarding operations in Turkey but the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company was always interested in growth internationally.


UPDATE: It's true:
Former CEO of the Turkish Koc Holding Rahmi Koc confirmed that US retail giant Wal-Mart is in negotiations with Migros Turk, the Turkish supermarket chain, 'Zaman' paper reported....

Koc Holding officials commented that it is normal for Migros Turk to negotiate with various leading companies of the international retail market.

Posted by Kevin at 3:41 PM

Company on Track Rolling Out RFID

Drudge had a lttle snippet that said Wal-Mart's suppliers weren't going to have RFID ready to go on Jan. 1st. He posted an article that refuted the technology roll-out was delayed significantly, but that no longer seems available. If I remember correctly, 65 out of the top 100 suppliers were ready not the 40 suggested below. The New York Times Article which appearantly caused the commotion is here:


A year and a half ago, Wal-Mart served notice that it expected its top 100 suppliers to be shipping goods to it with new radio tagging technology by Jan. 1, 2005.

While it may still be true, as the saying goes, that the best way to predict the future is to create it, Wal-Mart's experience so far has served as a reminder that creating the future is not all that easy.

With Jan. 1 just days away, the technology is not yet ready to meet the needs of either Wal-Mart or its suppliers. The tags, which are typically about the size of a credit card and contain an antenna and microchip encased in plastic, receive query signals from scanning devices called readers. Using the energy captured from those signals, they broadcast a snippet of code identifying the goods to which they are attached.

To date, most of Wal-Mart's suppliers have not figured out inexpensive ways to automate the printing and application of the tags. Although read rates are improving, no one who uses the technology has systems that can reliably read the information 100 percent of the time in factories, warehouses and stores; Wal-Mart said the rate was around 60 percent in its stores.


The rest of the article is in the extended entry.

Nor is the data currently integrated well enough with other technology to initiate changes in manufacturing or shipping schedules that could actually save the large sums of money that would make the investment worthwhile.

"The progress has been much slower than many people anticipated, and in some cases it's stalled," said Andrew Macey, vice president of the Sapient Corporation, a technology consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass.

Wal-Mart's official position is that it is working closely with suppliers, meeting its goals and learning valuable lessons that will pay off as the technology continues to roll out. But analysts who regularly survey major consumer goods companies said that most participants were cooperating with Wal-Mart out of fear of offending the retailer and were, as much as possible, putting off investments in the technology.

"The big manufacturing companies have advocates for the technology who are very positive, but the people on the floor who are implementing it are much more negative," Kara Romanow, an analyst at AMR Research, said.

Wal-Mart's goal was to wring billions of dollars from the supply chain by using the tags to keep shelves filled with whatever consumers were buying, cut back on shipments of other goods and combat theft.

The mandate was soon defined in narrower, more practical terms as supplying tagged cartons and pallets, not individual items, to a limited number of stores through just three Texas distribution centers by the Jan. 1 deadline.

Wal-Mart said recently that more than 100 suppliers would be tagging bulk shipments to the three Texas centers next month. But only 40 will be tagging everything they send. Of the remainder, two have been so tied up in a complete overhaul of their entire information technology infrastructure that they have put off attempting to introduce radio tagging. Some suppliers will be tagging as little as 2 percent of the goods going to the centers.

"We think the average supplier will be tagging about 65 percent of the volume they ship to the three centers," Linda Dillman, the chief information officer of Wal-Mart, said.

AMR, the research firm, said it had found that companies were investing $1 million to $3 million to comply with Wal-Mart's program, far less than the $13 million to $23 million that AMR had estimated in August would be needed for fully integrated systems that generated useful data.

Some companies delayed getting started for so long that they are now having trouble getting tags, according to the analysts and Wal-Mart. That problem is expected to recede next year as tag manufacturers expand their production lines. An important stimulant to that came last week, when a next-generation standard for tags and readers was ratified by EPCglobal, a nonprofit industry group. Heavyweights like Texas Instruments and Philips that had not made the first-generation tags plan to enter the market with the newer technology.

Although the progress has been slow, it has an air of inevitability. Radio tagging, known as RFID (for radio frequency identification), has been spreading through the economy for decades in applications like automated toll collection, tracking tags for animals and wireless cards controlling access to buildings.

But the technology was not widely publicized until Wal-Mart announced its deadline. Subsequent decisions by other merchants like Target, Albertsons, and Best Buy to push for radio tagging made it unmistakable which way the wind was blowing, at least among retailers.

The movement toward radio tags on consumer products gathered momentum when the Defense Department also set a Jan. 1, 2005, deadline for its major suppliers of a broad range of general merchandise and endorsed the tag and scanner standards being developed by a consortium of retailers and major suppliers like Procter & Gamble and Hewlett-Packard.

In addition, drug companies are expanding pilot projects of applying radio tags to pharmaceutical shipments. The Food and Drug Administration has set 2007 as its goal for general use of the technology. Separately, Boeing and Airbus are working together on standards for tagging the 5,000 or so aircraft parts that are most frequently handled by airline maintenance crews.

Wal-Mart and other retailers, and many manufacturers, are excited about the technology because the tags can store more information than bar codes, and large numbers of them can be scanned at one time. In addition to its top 100 suppliers, Wal-Mart is working with 38 others that have volunteered to be in the first wave of vendors complying with its mandate.

But the pilot testing this year has offered evidence that, before most businesses can justify big investments in the technology, its costs must fall sharply and the scanners must be able to read tags faster and in more varied conditions. To drive down costs, manufacturers want the recently adopted American standards to be made compatible with those being developed elsewhere.

Still, if the size of the challenge became apparent in 2004, so were the ways in which it could be tackled. Wal-Mart and others say that, in 2005, not only will tagging be expanded, but there will also be a sharp increase in the testing of software and business strategies that use the data captured from the tags.

"Companies understand what RFID can do," said Marco Ziegler, a partner at Accenture. "Now, they will find more opportunities to make it pay."

Posted by Bob at 3:23 PM

How Can WM Not "Permit" Unions (in the U.S.)?

We all know that WM has a staunch anti-union stance, but one can carry that characterization too far:

Wal-Mart has been much in the news recently in China, with the government insisting that it do what it refuses to do in the United States: allow all its workers to join unions.
"Refuse" is a stupid term in this context, since it implies that Wal-Mart has decisive control over the unionization process. It doesn't.

In the U.S., Wal-Mart has no legal authority to "refuse" unions, although it can oppose them, and shut down stores in which they gain influence. Also, as far as I know, WM has not been charged with using illegal means to prevent their workers from using labor law to require Wal-Mart to recognize and deal with a union that they join. Wal-Mart does engage in many aspects of "Union-Busting", but contrary to the long-held beliefs of many union members, these tactics are legal.

Posted by Kevin at 1:04 PM

Wal-Mart's Asinine Response to Me

Yesterday, for the first time I used Wal-Mart's online "contact us" form to request information from WM. In particular, I submitted the following detailed request for opening dates for the first 19 Neighborhood Markets:

To Whom it May Concern,

I have been using walmartstores.com for basic research on Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets. I have noted, however, that store opening data goes back only to January 2001.

Would it be possible to be provided basic information--store locations and store number--about the first 19 Neighborhood Markets opened by Wal-Mart in 1998, 1999, and 2000?

I could compile this information from press releases and Lexis-Nexis, but thought that somebody at Wal-Mart must have this information handy.

Yours,

Kevin Brancato
http://alp.truckandbarter.com
Apparently, nobody actually reads the emails sent to them because I received the following asinine response:
Thank you for your message.

You may go to www.walmartstores.com, click on a category under 'Company Information' at the left column to find out more about Wal-Mart.
Or you may simply call our Corporate Office for assistance at: 1-479-273-4000.
Thank you,
Customer Relations

First of all, I told them the information was not on their site, so there's little use in me looking there again. Second, the instructions on where to click are outdated. There is no banner with the name "Company Information" on that page; instead the page has several lists of information about Wal-Mart not containing the information I requested.

Come on, WM, you can do better than this! Forward the email to somebody who might know. Even a simple, "No, we cannot provide this" would have sufficed...

Perhaps it's my fault... from now on I'm considering this blog the equivalent of a newspaper and will insist on dealing with the officers at media affairs.

Posted by Kevin at 11:06 AM

December 28, 2004

How to Oppress Third World Farmers--Please Consumers

An extensive New York Times article has WM and other antagonists oppressing third world farmers by stiffing co-operatives and requiring advanced farming methods:

cross Latin America, supermarket chains partly or wholly owned by global corporate goliaths like Ahold, Wal-Mart and Carrefour have revolutionized food distribution in the short span of a decade and have now begun to transform food growing, too.

The megastores are popular with customers for their lower prices, choice and convenience. But their sudden appearance has brought unanticipated and daunting challenges to millions of struggling, small farmers.

The stark danger is that increasing numbers of them will go bust and join streams of desperate migrants to America and the urban slums of their own countries.

But it's actually supermarkets in Latin America that have upped the standards production and distribution:
To enter the supermarkets of Guatemala's dominant supermarket chain, La Fragua - part of a holding company one-third owned by Ahold - is to understand why Professor Reardon likens them to a Trojan horse for foreign goods.

At La Fragua's immense distribution center in Guatemala City, trucks back into loading docks, where electric forklifts unload apples from Washington State, pineapples from Chile, potatoes from Idaho and avocados from Mexico.

The produce is trucked from here to the chain's supermarkets, which now span the country. Scenes at a mall in Guatemala City anchored by Maxi Bodega, one of the company's stores, suggest the evolving nature of grocery shopping for Latin America's 512 million people.

The bottom line:
Farmers who do not or cannot afford to change fast enough to meet the standards set by supermarkets are threatened.
However, the article wants to imply things are worse than they really are. :
The number of people living below poverty lines in Latin America has risen from 200 million in 1990 to 224 million this year. More than 6 in 10 people living in rural areas are still poor.
While the number of poor people rose by 24 million from 200 to 224 million, the number of people rose 68 million from 432 to 500 million, so the poverty rate decreased from 200/432=46.3% to 224/500=44.8% (presuming we're talking about LA and the Caribbean).

Posted by Kevin at 3:54 PM

WalMart.com Sells Anti-WM Book!

Reader Buck Hicks sends in a link to How Walmart Is Destroying America And The World: And What You Can Do About It by Bill Quinn, for sale on walmart.com. The abstract:

Since Wal-Mart opened two superstores thirteen miles from Grand Saline, Texas, half of the retail businesses in Bill Quinn's once-thriving hometown have closed. But dismantling the American dream wasn't enough for this retail Goliath, and now Wal-Mart is aiming for world domination. If you've ever wanted to fight for the little guy, now's the time -- and this feisty Texas grandpa will show you how.
The book has a delivery date of 4/28/05...

UPDATE: They've taken the page down at walmart.com, but lucky for you all, I anticipated their reaction and created an Adobe PDF copy of the webpage earlier today!

Does this prove that somebody at WM corporate reads this blog???

Posted by Kevin at 2:03 PM

WM: Grinch of the Year

Who else but the AFL-CIO and Jobs with Justice would exult in using a necessarily flawed online poll to conclude that Wal-Mart the grinch of the year:

Retailing giant Wal-Mart won the 2004 Grinch of the Year award, an annual contest to highlight the corporation that most harms workers and their families sponsored by Jobs with Justice. Runners up include Comcast, Angelica Corp., Continental General Tire and Cintas.

Posted by Kevin at 1:39 PM

Wal-Mart Wiki

There's a long-term war being fought by anti-WM activists against objective standard bearers in the Wal-Mart entry in Wikipedia. Basically, people are rightly contesting the neutrality of the entry on Wal-Mart. Here's the talk page of the WM entry, where people discuss the errors and revisions.

In fact, the article Criticism of Wal-Mart, meant to give a place to opposition, is also disputed.

(I personally spotted one factually inaccurate assertion in a quick read-through, but I refuse to maintain a wiki).

Posted by Kevin at 11:38 AM

December 27, 2004

Media's Subdued Response to Good WM Sales

Do you remember the ruckus that ensued when Wal-Mart did not hit November sales targets, even though sales increased? This blog received much attention for insisting that the media, other bloggers, and anti-WM advocates were blowing this way out of proportion.

Wal-Mart was not on its deathbed then; it isn't now. People did not "wake up" on Thanksgiving and begin massive retail disobedience.

We noted that Wal-Mart was expecting a late rush of shopping, which is the official reason that they did not release sales data for the day after Thanksgiving. Sales did not increase as much as WM wanted, and a print advertising blitz ensued.

Well, that late rush came as expected--overall same-store sales for the five week period starting 11/27/04 are expected to be around 2% over last year:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which had faced tepid sales earlier in the season, said early Monday that December sales would come at the midpoint of its reduced December forecast. It added that sales on the Sunday after Christmas were above expectations.
.

It is important to emphasize that this "same-store" metric is not always representative of the whole, but will a solid representation most of the time. In total, WM opened up 286 new regular and supercenters stores through November 2004--about 24 a month, if none were opened in December--roughly 10% (286/2960) of the whole:


new stores.gif

Current Wal-Mart sales data is available here.

Posted by Kevin at 4:31 PM

AJC on Empty Stores

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an interesting take (rr) on WM dumping its old locations to build Supercenters:

With all the hand-wringing that can occur when Wal-Mart decides to move into a community, however, the biggest impact in many cases is not when it arrives. It's when it leaves.

Wal-Mart stores are huge � upwards of 100,000 square feet for a regular store, twice that for a Supercenter � and when the company abandons one of those big boxes for a hotter market, it can hurt a community. That is increasingly happening as Wal-Mart leaves its old stores to build giant Supercenters, often just a few miles up the road.

The company points out that it is re-leasing or selling its vacant stores faster than ever � in many cases before it even vacates the premises. In those instances, the new tenant moves in within a year of Wal-Mart's departure. But many towns have seen vacancies last for years.

Wal-Mart is certainly not alone in this. The list of companies that have abandoned big boxes in metro Atlanta in recent years is long and growing: Upton's, Bruno's, A&P, Kmart, Service Merchandise, Cub Foods and many more. But Wal-Mart is the biggest of the big-box retailers, so it is at the forefront of the debate. It has more stores that are empty, or due to be empty within weeks, than most businesses have stores: nearly 300 nationwide.

It's not the empty box that's a problem to communities, it's the other stores who were depending on the "traffic" provided by the big box. But again, the article has no recognition at all that these empty stores cost Wal-Mart $$$--probably a lot more money than they "cost" the community. Still, it does profile Tony Fuller, head of Wal-Mart realty:
In the middle of all this stands a tall, soft-spoken Arkansas native named Tony Fuller.

He got his start selling shoes at a Wal-Mart in Jonesboro, Ark. Now he's a vice president of the company � and his ascension is not unique. Wal-Mart promoted 9,000 hourly workers into management positions last year.

Fuller now runs the day-to-day operations of a major Wal-Mart subsidiary, although most people probably have never heard of it.

It's called Wal-Mart Realty, and it's a big player in commercial real estate. Outside the industry, it tends to fly under the radar, because it has only one customer: Wal-Mart. All that Wal-Mart Realty and its 500 employees do is sell and lease vacant Wal-Mart stores....

The major question is whether WM is willing to lease or sell to competitors after it has decided to move. But most anti-WM activists don't understand that WM's new policy of selling to everyone just means that it only vacates stores that will not become threats if competitors fill them. Besides, if WM is moving out of a store, it is most likely an underperforming store; why would competitors want to move in?
Fuller said the deal with Home Depot shows that Wal-Mart Realty is aggressively marketing its vacant properties, even to competitors. "We'll do a deal with anyone," he said.

But some people who have dealt with Wal-Mart during relocations say that's not so.

Melanie Chen was Roswell's economic development director when Wal-Mart left the Holcomb Bridge site (she now works for a nonprofit organization in Atlanta). Firstly, Chen said, Home Depot is not a direct competitor with Wal-Mart.

"If Wal-Mart is calling Home Depot a competitor, then they're basically saying that everything in the retail world is a competitor," Chen said, echoing others. "There's not much overlap there."

When a real competitior, such as Costco, showed an interest, Chen said, Wal-Mart wouldn't deal. "They have one big condition: It cannot be a competitior," she said. "That much was clear to me."

When the Holcomb Bridge store was shut down in 2000, Fuller said, Wal-Mart Realty was transitioning into its new policy of leasing to anyone, so that property might have been an exception, he said.

"That was around the time when you saw the tide changing," he said. "I'm not going to try to kid anyone that we've always been doing it that way."

But even now, some people don't think Wal-Mart will sell or lease to direct competitors. "You won't see them turn [vacant stores] over to a Target or a Costco," said Norman, the author and activist.

Fuller said there might be some situations where Wal-Mart Realty did not lease to a particular retailer, but on the whole, he said, "We are much more aggressive today about doing those deals with our competitors, direct competitors." For example, he said, the company has leased or sold stores to Kroger, which compete with the food operations at Wal-Mart Supercenters.

Folks, remind me to write a review of Al Norman's new book; it's not good...

Posted by Kevin at 11:47 AM

The Number of Wal-Marts by State

WM_locations_WM_WATCH.gif

The above map was taken via Wal-Mart watch. However, the data used to create it appears out of date, since there are more stores now than then:

At January 31, 2004, we operated in the United States 1,478 Discount Stores, 1,471 Supercenters, 538 SAM�S CLUBs and 64 Neighborhood Markets. Internationally, at January 31, 2004, the Company operated units in Argentina (11), Brazil (25), Canada (235), Germany (92), South Korea (15), Mexico (623), Puerto Rico (53) and the United Kingdom (267). We also operate through joint ventures in China (34). Additionally, we hold a 37.8% interest in Seiyu, a Japanese retail chain which operates approximately 400 stores throughout Japan.
Only 32 NM's are in the data...

But, these same data were used three weeks ago to answer a question on Google Answers; for $10 and another $10 tip, the old data were and placed into an Excel spreadsheet summarizing the number of Wal-Mart's, Supercenters, Sam's Clubs, and Neighborhood Markets in the US, as of an unknown date.

Posted by Kevin at 11:21 AM

December 23, 2004

Dave Meleny on Wal-Mart in China

Dave Meleney leaves a superb comment to this post. Read it!:

Wow!

Shopping in China has been changing rapidly, a full openness to WalMart and Home Depot will send it all into hyperspeed. When I was doing small home repairs there 15 years ago I had to go to an amazing number of shops to get a few plumbing items. Most stores were manned by listless government employees who'd often say: "Mayo" (we don't have any) to any request, even when the goods were right in front of you. And where the private stores were very eager to please but wouldn't think of western habits like standing behind their products. Someone spending half a years salary on a bike better check it out very, very carefully...

Now they are jumping fully into a competitive model where exchange doesn't require establishing personal relationships, where every ounce of fat is constantly being pared from the distribution process, and where the producer knows what products left the store shelves that very night.

A culture that has largely skipped the wired phone and gone straight to cell technology, that is producing several times the engineering graduates of any other country in the world, and that now is mainlining Sam Walton's urgently efficient ethos is soon going to be coming up with hi tech innovations that revolutionize the way our children live. Instead of getting SARS and new forms of flu from Guangdong province, we'll be getting cutting edge biotechnology and cars that don't have accidents. No wonder that Ford Motor and Kay Jewelry, are starting to worry that WalMart may do to them what it did to Toys-R-Us. The true nature of the revolution is starting to become more evident.

Posted by Kevin at 12:03 PM

WM Gun Background Checks Exceed Federal Requirements

Here's some more relating the recent lawsuit over a suicide committed after WM sold a mentally unstable woman a shotgun.

First, I should note that according to a CNN online poll, a lot of people think that gun background checks should include a mental history, even though that is currently illegal.

Second, Wal-Mart sold the gun because the background check came in clear. If the background check had not come back, WM would not have sold the gun at all. WM's actions should be taken in context of its actual Wal-Mart policy on background checks, which is tougher than federal standards:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Wal-Mart, the nation's biggest gun seller, is strengthening its policy on background checks of firearms buyers beyond the requirements of federal law.

The retail giant directed its stores to hold up sales in which the time limit for a background check had expired because of concern criminals could still get guns, spokeswoman Jessica Moser Eldred said.

Potential gun buyers nationwide undergo a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The dealer can sell a gun, though, if the check isn't completed within three business days.

Managers at Wal-Mart's 2,600 American stores must wait until the check is made, no matter how long it takes, before selling a gun, according to the memo signed by company executives. The memo was dated May 31 and the policy is now in effect.

The policy applies only to rifles and shotguns, since Wal-Mart does not sell handguns.

Third, a while back WM halted selling rifles and shotguns in California. Strangely enough, the AP used the image of a revolver--which WM doesn't sell--to accompany its story.

wal-mart-revolver.jpg

Fourth, here's Walmart.com's online shotgun store, if you're still Xmas shopping, although you will have to pick up the guns and ammo in the stores.

Posted by Kevin at 11:59 AM

"Not One Damn Dime Day"

Political and consumer activism will mix on Inauguration day:

MACON,GA.- Since our religious leaders will not speak out against the war in Iraq, since our political leaders don't have the moral courage to oppose it, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Damn Dime Day" in America.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day," those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.

During "Not One Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target.

Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store.

Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter).

For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down.

The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it.

Hmmm... this really is a pathetic form of protest. Bush does stuff you don't like, so you punish WalMart? If you really thing the government is doing terrible things, then you should have a mass protest by not paying your income taxes for that day... Eventually, you will be fined, arrested, and jailed--of course--but if you're not willing to go the Thoreau route, how much to you really believe in your cause? Anyway, some people think the retail boycott is a great idea... (note the URL).

Posted by Kevin at 10:29 AM

More Scum at WM

I. It is my untested theory that WM does bring more crime to an area, but it also lowers crime elsewhere. Why? WM is so large that perps believe that disgusting conduct will go unnoticed:

(KSL News) -- Police are trying to find the witness to an incident of sexual abuse at a Salt Lake WalMart.

Officers arrested Alan Michael Naisbitt last Friday. They say he approached an 11-year old in the 1300 South WalMart area and touched her inappropriately.

A witness saw what was happening and cornered Naisbitt until authorities arrived. But the witness left before police could interview him. And now they want to talk with the man.

He's in his early 20's, about 5' 10".

II.WalMart also brings out the men too stupid to realize that leaving a 3 year old in a car for 20 minutes while he shops at WM is a terrible idea:
The man accused of leaving his little boy locked in a freezing cold car is due in court Wednesday. Police found the 3-year-old in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Shelby Township, while his father shopped inside.

Lt. Stephen Stanbury, of the Shelby Township police, told 7 Action News, "It may not state specifically in the law that you cannot leave your child in the car alone, but too many bad things can happen when you leave a child unattended."

This is why Shelby Township detectives have arrested a father who allegedly left his 3-year-old son alone in a parked car while he went shopping Sunday night at Wal-Mart.

Lt. Stanbury stated, "He said that he was only running into the store for 20 minutes."...

Police were so worried that they shattered the car window to get the toddler out.

The father is really pitiful:
7 Action News viewers got their first look Wednesday at the man accused of leaving his son in a freezing cold car while he shopped inside of a Wal-Mart. Eysian Liu was arraigned on capital abuse charges and could face up to 4 years in prison.

The father was in tears in the courtroom, and in his broken English, he was able to make it clear to everyone present that
he was sorry.

Liu told the court, "I'm so sorry that I caused this problem."

40-year-old Liu is charged with child abuse, after authorities say he left his 3-year-old son in a locked car outside of a Shelby Township Wal-Mart when it was just 2 degrees outside.

Liu told the magistrate that he is a Canadian citizen, who has worked hard as an engineer to support his wife and two children.

After entering a not guilty plea on the defendant's behalf, the magistrate asked Liu's wife if she thought her husband would harm their children.

Liu's wife replied, "I never even dare think about it. He is really a good father. He made a stupid mistake, but he is a good father."

The judge allowed Liu to be freed on a $5000 cash bond, and also allowed him to be back with his children, as long as his wife is present at all times.

Posted by Kevin at 10:22 AM

December 22, 2004

Christmas Cheer at WM

Here are 3 small and large donations from Wal-Mart to local communities and beyond:

1. WM matches all donations made to the Salvation Army outside of its stores.

2. WM donates an artificial Christmas tree with red and green lights showing injuries due to drunk driving.

3. WM gives $6500 in cash to local groups in Montgomery, AL.

Posted by Kevin at 12:41 PM

December 21, 2004

Down and Out by Liza Featherstone

When we last took account of Liza Featherstone, her book The Landmark Battle for Workers' Rights at Wal-Mart was receiving mixed reviews. The Nation tries to spice up their own and Ms. Featherstone's sales by giving her space in the January 2005 issue to discuss why Wal-Mart opens up stores in "poorville":

Betty Dukes is right. A 2000 study by Andrew Franklin, then an economist at the University of Connecticut, showed that Wal-Mart operated primarily in poor and working-class communities, finding, in the bone-dry language of his discipline, "a significant negative relationship between median household income and Wal-Mart's presence in the market."
I'll have a lot more to say about this later....

Posted by Kevin at 4:24 PM

Wal Mart Sued Over Suicide

This sad example demonstrates that more privacy can have negative outcomes:

DALLAS, Texas (AP) -- Near the end of her short life, Shayla Stewart, a diagnosed manic-depressive and schizophrenic, assaulted police officers and was arrested for attacking a fellow customer at a Denton Wal-Mart where she had a prescription for anti-psychotic medication.

Given all those signs, her parents say, another Wal-Mart just seven miles away should have never sold her the shotgun she used to kill herself at age 24 in 2003.

Her mother, Lavern Bracy, is suing the world's biggest store chain for $25 million, saying clerks should have known about her daughter's illness or done more to find out.

The case, filed earlier this month, has reignited a debate over the confidentiality of mental health records and the effectiveness of background checks on would-be buyers of guns.

"We know that if they had so much as said, `Why do you want this?' we would not be having this conversation because Shayla would have had a meltdown," said her stepfather, Garrett Bracy.

The Bracys said Wal-Mart's gun department could have checked Wal-Mart's own security files or the pharmacy department's prescription records before selling her the weapon.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Christi Gallagher declined to comment on the lawsuit.

But pharmacy prescription records are confidential under a 1996 federal law, so stores cannot use them when deciding whether to sell a gun.

Also, Wal-Mart did a background check on Stewart, as required under federal law, but through no fault of its own, her name did not show up in the FBI database. The reason: The database contains no mental health records from Texas and 37 other states.

Update 12/22: Overlawyered has the skinny, natch:
Problem 1 = Federal law prohibits revealing pharmacy records in running firearm background checks.

Problem 2 = Texas law prohibits the publication of mental health records without the patient's approval.

Problem 3 = How does an attack on a third party result in any evidence that someone is suicidal?

Posted by Kevin at 4:05 PM

December 20, 2004

WM, a Monster let Loose in China

Today's best read--Sarah Schafer in Newsweek International:

In recent years Beijing had allowed foreign retailers to open stores in China, but only for chains with sales of more than $2 billion. That rarefied global group included only Wal-Mart, Carrefour of France (which Wal-Mart is rumored to be interested in buying) and the Metro Group of Germany. Last week Beijing opened the door to smaller players, and lifted rules that had confined the three giants to a limited number of cities and forced them to work with Chinese partners.
Just what will the monster do? Nothing less than revamp the entire Chinese business culture...
Wal-Mart is in effect trying to replace a Chinese business culture built on personal relationships with its own modern supply network, built on information technology. There's a long way to go. For every Huada, there are still many others that don't understand the proprietary software Wal-Mart uses to link with suppliers, and can't stop padding the bills to make room for bribes. Yet many analysts think Wal-Mart can prevail in this culture clash

Posted by Kevin at 4:05 PM

WM and Taxes in Chicago

The incredibly underrated and under-read Stephen Karlson links to this piece in the Chicago Tribune (rr) about Chicago's tax problems:

Falling wages? No sweat. Ald. Edward Burke (14th), longtime chairman of the Chicago City Council Finance Committee, is sponsoring an ordinance that would require big-box discount stores such as Wal-Mart to pay their employees a "living wage" of $9.43 an hour . Sure beats the cheesy $5.15 an hour federal minimum wage.
That wouldn't really have such a dramatic effect--since, if I remember correctly the average hourly wage at WM in Chicago is over $9. However, there are other problems.

Need health insurance? If the big discounters don't add medical coverage to their benefits packages, Burke's Law will tack on another $3 an hour so workers can buy their own coverage.

Say you don't work for a big retailer? No problem. All should benefit from another Burke-backed requirement: 40 percent of all merchandise sold in the big stores must be made right here in the USA.

This does not bode well for the windy city. Note that if they insist that all those goods must be made in the USA, then China will have to become the 51st member of the Union.

Anyway, Chicago is a high tax region--and the taxes will be getting even more punative. However, people respond to high taxes by living and shopping (at WM) elsewhere:


The real bleeding, though, involves sofas and bedroom sets, refrigerators and DVD players, PCs and iPods. A research outfit called MetroEdge estimates Chicago residents spent $6.5 billion last year on stuff purchased outside the city. Wal-Mart alone figures Chicago residents dropped about $500 million at its 35 suburban stores.
Stephen notes, humorously:
Solution, according to Mr McCarron: make Chicago its own country, and build an Iron Curtain around it. Particularly strong sanctions for those who shop at Wal-Mart.

Posted by Kevin at 12:56 PM

iLo -- WalMart Brand Electronics

When brand-name companies cannot provide goods at the price point desired by WM, WM can try to go off-brand, but it prefers to sell the same product labels as everyone else. However, now it will be starting it's own brand, iLo:

Wal-Mart isn't the only big name to launch its own electronics brand or pay more attention the lucrative space in recent months. Best Buy launched Insignia, a house brand for televisions, PCs and devices such as portable DVD players this fall. PC makers Dell, Gateway and Hewlett-Packard have also all mounted efforts to tap the consumer electronics market this holiday season with their own flat-screen televisions and music players.

Although Wal-Mart isn't attempting to replace the brand-name products it already carries, it is positioning iLo as a lower-priced alternative. It's also willing to offer some types of electronics, such as DVD recorders, that companies such as Dell haven't been interested in.

Wal-Mart enjoys a fairly unique position as an electronics supplier. It caters to a broad audience of consumers with more than 3,000 stores in the United States and maintains tight relationships with Asian electronics manufacturers, which it can use to turn out its iLo gear.

But Wal-Mart, which carries well-known consumer electronics brands including Panasonic, Sanyo and Sony, aims to use iLo to plug gaps in product availability or pricing in its selection, said Karen Burke, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

Here are the current iLo products. Is iLo the new Realistic?

(h/t: technocrat)

Posted by Kevin at 9:54 AM

WM has $498 Linux Laptop

Last week we noted that WM will be selling a $200 Linux OS desktop. Even more impressive is the $500 Linux OS laptop just announced:

Walmart.com (WMT) said it is breaking the price barrier for a laptop with a complete operating system and office suite by marketing a Linux-based machine for $498

Posted by Kevin at 9:43 AM

December 17, 2004

Inexpensive Orchids

The drop in Orchid prices is not all WM's doing, but is an example of what creative destruction actually delivers:

Orchids have become an affordable option for the holiday mantle, too, says Karen Houghton, a decorator and the owner of Karen Houghton Interiors in Nyack.

"Something I've noticed is that orchids are so reasonable today," she says. "They used to be $60 to $75, but now they're available at stores like Target, WalMart and Home Depot for $15 to $25."

File this under anecdotal evidence... along with this unofficial reprint of an Aug 4, 2004 New York Times article on the production of cheap Orchids, excerpted below:

Rising from what was once a muddy expanse of sugar cane fields here are huge greenhouses and the concrete shells of what will soon be a flower exposition hall, a genetic modification laboratory and more - the first steps in Taiwan's plan to dominate the world's $2 billion orchid industry.

If the Taiwan effort is successful, orchids could lose their image as the high-priced but finicky princes of the floral world and become lesser nobility, almost as inexpensive as poinsettias. The favored flower for debutantes' corsages a generation ago, orchids are already starting to appear in rows of $15 potted specimens at mass merchandisers like Home Depot, and seem poised to become even cheaper.

With their mysteriously complex shapes and colors and their exotic and inaccessible homes in swamps and tropical forests, orchids were the darlings of wealthy collectors in Victorian days. They were hunted across the globe by adventurers who not infrequently gave their lives in pursuit of very rare varieties that even today can sometimes bring thousands of dollars.

Large commercial greenhouses have robbed orchids of some of their elite cachet since then. Now, if Taiwan is successful, there could be orchids for the masses. Seeking a cash crop to replace sugar, which is plagued by falling prices, Taiwan is hoping to double its orchid business, and the government plans to bring heavy public spending into the previously private world of growing orchids....

As in many industries, the spectacular economic expansion in China has cushioned orchid growers somewhat from rising competition. In January, Chinese buyers bought up practically every live red orchid in Asia and Europe for Chinese New Year, paying breathtaking prices of as much as $30 a plant at wholesale, said Andrew Easton, an executive at Kerry's Bromeliads in Homestead, Fla.

But the long-term trend in orchid prices is clearly downward, even as quality improves. Mr. Easton remembers paying $80 in 1958 for a small purple cattleya.

"Now,'' he said, "I can get an orchid as good as that one for $25.''

Posted by Kevin at 10:46 AM

WM Canada Picks Radiant

This is a fantastic contract for Radiant:

Radiant Communications Corp. (www.radiant.net), one of Canada's largest independent providers of IP-based data communications and Internet services, announced today that Wal-Mart Canada has selected the Company's IP telecommunications network for their online, digital, photo processing services.

"In order to provide our customers with the best online photo processing service for their digital photos, we require an IP network provider who delivers a high level of service," said Tony Hugens, Wal-Mart's Business Development Manager PhotoCentre On-Line.

Wal-Mart Canada selected Radiant for high-speed DSL services in all 30 of its district offices, as well as its in-store photo labs. Wal-Mart conducted a successful, 15-store, pilot program for online photo processing services in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.

Posted by Kevin at 10:38 AM

Quote of the Day

Paula Kline of Somerset County says, "Any store that comes to this area that is making money somebodys gonna have something bad to say about them."

--WJAC TV - Proper English be damned!

Posted by Kevin at 10:35 AM

Bernard Kerik, WM, & Hiring Illegal Immigrants

Jacob Hornberger wonders why the people who pounded on WM for hiring contractors who used illegal immigrants are silent on the charges that Bernard Kerik hiring an illegal immigrant nanny:

Amidst all the hubbub over Bernard Kerik�s decision to remove himself from consideration as director of Homeland Security owing to his reported hiring of an illegal-immigrant nanny, no one, including the press, seems to be asking an important question: Why aren�t the feds seeking a criminal indictment against him? After all, hasn�t it been a federal felony offense since 1986 for any American to hire an illegal immigrant? Didn�t the feds charge Tyson Foods officials with hiring illegal immigrants just last year? Haven't they also targeted Walmart executives for possible indictment for the same thing?

So, why no federal criminal indictment for President Bush's cabinet nominee Bernard Kerik for hiring an illegal immigrant?

Of course, we know why Kerik really withdrew...

Posted by Kevin at 10:32 AM

Improvements in Seiyu (WM in Japan)

The Financial Times has an excellent article on Seiyu, the Japanese discount retailer Wal*Mart owns 37% of:

At aSeiyu/Wal-Mart staff meeting, Masakazu Hattori, a senior merchandising director holds up an 80cm Christmas tree - the perfect size for space-constrained Japanese households.

According to the company's "Smart System" tracking software, the tree is selling fast at only three of Seiyu's 406 stores. At the others, not a single tree has been sold.

Mr Hattori excuses himself from the meeting and rings some stores. It turns out that at those where the tree has been selling well, it has been displayed decorated with lights and ornaments. At shops where none has been sold, it has stood unadorned and puzzled consumers have simply bypassed the strange-looking plastic plant.

The Christmas tree incident underlines an important point, says Jeff McAllister, chief operating officer of Wal-Mart Japan. Powerful as its IT systems are, they serve only as a preliminary step in uncovering the causes of problems.

Also very interesting is how the customers get to the stores:
"Today, since the majority of customers walk or take their bike [to our stores], if it rains, it has at least a 10-15 per cent impact on sales," says Mr McAllister. "[Predictive technology] will give us critical information, based on historical data, when it rains, here is what the customer buys and then ensure we get the product to the store in advance."

Posted by Kevin at 10:23 AM

December 15, 2004

Hel*Mart

Looking for anti-WalMart gear for that special someone this holiday season? Hel*Mart has what you're looking for. Now, I'm not a believer, but I still found this a poor combination of imagery and activism:


jesus_would_not_shop_there.jpg

Btw, some of their shirts are made in the USA; the one pictured above is made in the US and Mexico!

(Note that ALP is NOT affiliated with Hel*Mart; also, I have posted the image through fair use provisions of copyright, not with Hel*Mart's permission).

Posted by Kevin at 3:13 PM

Walmart Executives Fired

UPDATE 3/26/05: Thomas Coughlin has been fired.


Reader Reid Davis sends in a scoop:

BENTONVILLE � A number of Wal-Mart executives have been terminated, a company spokesman confirmed Tuesday night. "Several executives in the Wal-Mart Home Office have been terminated from the company in the past several days," said Jay Allen, a company spokesman.

Three sources told The Daily Record that among those let go was Jim H. Haworth, executive vice president of operations for the Wal-Mart Stores Division.

Allen declined to confirm any names.

Allen also declined to state the reasons the executives were terminated, citing privacy issues. He would not say whether the terminations were because of a recent incident or a long-term investigation. "Our management team, well, you regret losing people, but the team is deep enough the operations will not be impacted (by the recent terminations)," Allen said.

The firings have no connection with Tom Coughlin�s pending retirement, Allen said. Coughlin is vice chairman of the board of directors of Wal-Mart.

He will retire Jan. 24.

They have more names, but without further confirmation, journalistic ethics prevent the paper from releasing them.

UPDATE 12/16/04: Some more information is available from Bloomberg:

``There's an enormous amount of pressure building up at the executive and upper middle management levels to make the company more like a global fortune 50 company,'' said Richard Hastings, chief economist at Bernard Sands LLC, in Charlotte, North Carolina. ``They have been a home-grown, home-spun company. They're trying to make sure they look to the future and that future has to include fewer law suits, less negative press, and the rebound in sales momentum.''

Haworth was among officers who addressed analysts and shareholders at the company's annual meeting in June. He appeared on stage with about a dozen other officers to provide updates on the company's various divisions.

And The New York Post names some names:
Ken Reese, director of operations for Wal-Mart's Tire & Lube Express; Terry Pharr, a senior vice president; and Chad Madison, who worked for the company's Neighborhood Market stores, were also said to have lost their jobs, according to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal.

Posted by Kevin at 11:47 AM

December 14, 2004

Development Permit Abuse

I've written before about the abuse of zoning and development permits to try to keep Walmart out of an area. In fact, the real reason WM wanted a vote (that it eventually lost) in Inglewood, CA is that the local politicians were abusing the regulatory process. Now comes another case where a development permit for one site requires WM to lease another building elsewhere:

Not even Wal-Mart is happy with the Planning Commission's recent approval of a 226,868-square-foot Supercenter and nearly a dozen other retailers in southwest Lodi.

A firm associated with the retail giant was among two to appeal the commission's Dec. 8 approval of the project's environmental report, use permit and tentative parcel map to City Council, said Community Development Director Konradt Bartlam. Doucet & Associates, a Roseville-based civil engineering firm, is contesting two conditions tacked on by the commission, including one that requires Wal-Mart to lease its existing store before it can receive a building permit for the Supercenter.

Like it or not, this type of authority does not really rest in the hands of the planning commission. It's seems like an overt abuse of the power granted to them.

Posted by Kevin at 11:37 AM

WM Underwear Theives

Don't even try stealing underwear from WM:

BURLINGTON - Maybe it's something in the air.

A South Point woman was arrested late last week after allegedly trying to steal more than $500 in underwear and cosmetics from the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Burlington....

That same day, Cory Baughman, 22, and Maria Baughman, 22, both of Huntington, W.Va., were charged with theft after they allegedly attempted to steal a pair of shoes and several pair of underwear from the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Posted by Kevin at 11:32 AM

Bush, Bin-Laden, and Wal-mart???

This guy is not an anti-WM activist--he's just nuts:

Such questions hardly matter to Bush and his friends, for they live in a world based not on facts, but on faith. Bush himself is the perfect mirror image of his nemesis (or is he his secret ally?) Osama Bin Laden. While one true believer sits in his cave in Waristan, working with his followers on the One Way, eager for death and martyrdom, the other is borne aloft by the Christian right of America, full steam ahead to Armageddon, who egg him on to revive the Middle Ages and launch the crusade of the "good". Wholesale death courtesy of Walmart, all in the name of God and Country, smiting the Islamic "evil". The curse of jingoism, to which America seems periodically drawn, is back with a vengeance, fully robed in Biblical cloth. And this time, it is blooming from the depressed centre, while the elitist coasts are squeezed to the sidelines, reduced to mere spectators in their own country. Meanwhile, China sits silently, watching and gloating.
You see, this theory is incomplete: isn't China in cahoots with WalMart?

Posted by Kevin at 11:29 AM

Predator Lures Girls to Wal-Mart

Some people use WM in the most foolish and evil ways:

A mid-Michigan teacher is facing charges after allegedly inappropriately touching 2 teenage girls in Jackson County. Police say 47-year-old adult education Teacher Barry Baron of Haslett was arraigned on 2nd and 4th degree criminal sexual conduct charges.

Blackman Township Police say Baron approached 2 teenage girls Saturday night and offered to take them shopping at a Walmart in Blackman Township. After going to the store, the girls were able to get away and call the police.

Posted by Kevin at 11:24 AM

December 12, 2004

Wal-Mart Looking at Shipping Line

Via Glenn, I find this post by the Politics of CP. It point to an article in the Arkansas Gazette which says that the company may be looking at acquiring APL, American Presidents Line. The company is currently owned by a company in Singapore, Neptune Orient Lines( On a side note, I remember when APL was bought out as it involved a suspicious order coming across my desk. Note to wannabe insider traders, don't attempt to buy position limit long call options a few days before the company is bought out. It's fricken obvious when a stock whose options don't trade on average more than a couple of dozen a day suddenly gets an order for 5000 or when the customer desk asks what the position limit is. This happened a few times and I would have loved to have jumped on it but it wasn't worth the potential hassle).


It is rumored that the company may be considering a purchase of a major container shipping outfit. Word out of Northwest Arkansas is that Wal-Mart is eyeing American President Lines (APL) for acquisition.

APL is one of the largest logistics and container transportation companies in the world. It has offices in over 80 countries, including 30 offices in China. APL's parent company, Neptune Orient Lines (NOL), is headquartered in Singapore.

In 2002, APL was named Wal-Mart's International Ocean Carrier of the Year. According to a company press release from 2002, "APL has been working closely with Wal-Mart for three years and provides services to Wal-Mart in 37 countries, shipping everything from electronic goods, footwear and garments, to household products and furniture."

With more imported goods making it onto Wal-Mart's store shelves, the retail giant will have to make sure it can get its goods out of production and into stores faster and cheaper. Acquiring a company like APL would give the company more control of that process. While transportation costs have spiked recently, sea freight unit costs have fallen by over 70 percent during the past 20 years.

Wal-Mart has invested heavily in its own logistic business. It currently operates one of the largest and most complex domestic shipping organizations in the world. It boasts more than 60 distribution centers throughout the U.S., a private fleet consisting of 36 transportation office terminals in 28 states, 5,600 tractor trailers in 48 states and 6,900 truck drivers.


This has implications for the west coast as the article points out. Reports out of Los Angeles-Long beach has that port struggling to keep up with the influx of goods coming in:

There is a lot of that going on at the nation's busiest port these days, as a glut of imports from Asia, a shortage of dockworkers and breakdowns in the harbor's infrastructure have created a tangled backlog in the midst of the peak holiday season.

The crowding is not expected to significantly delay Christmas shipments as additional hiring is starting to pick up the slack. But as the national economy continues to outsource manufacturing jobs, the explosive growth in imports is taxing the capacity of the nation's ports and its road and rail system, transportation officials said.

"That's really swinging the whole transportation system around. It's just overwhelmed the infrastructure and it's catching up and surpassing us," said John Bromley, a spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad Co. Hit with a large number of early retirements, Union Pacific recently began limiting the number of rail cars available to haul containers, creating delays beyond those at the ports.

In San Pedro Bay, dozens of ships are anchored, waiting as long as a week to be unloaded, up from the norm of less than three days. Cargo containers pile up in terminal yards waiting to be placed onto trucks or trains, as drivers like Vaca spend much of their day in line before leaving to navigate crowded freeways and more delays.

"We've been seeing double-digit increases in cargo every year. Everyone in the industry saw this coming, but we didn't prepare for it," said Steve Stallone, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers.

With volume increasing more than twice as fast as had been projected and other West Coast ports ill-equipped to handle a large influx of goods, Los Angeles-Long Beach, the largest U.S. container complex, is having to bear the brunt. Many of the ships coming from Asia are too big to make it through the Panama Canal to Eastern seaports. So the ships come in droves to Los Angeles-Long Beach and wait.


If the rumor is true, than the Washington Post article gives a solid rational as to why Wal-Mart is considering such an aquisition. In fact, it would just be an extension of the current logistics operation. If you thought the union flip out over Wal-Mart now, just imagine what would happen if this deal goes through. Some may remember the labor dispute a couple of years ago at the L.A.-Long Beach port, the big issue was over the introduction of productivity enhancing measures being introduced. These weren't even cutting edge at the time. What would happen if Wal-Mart insisted on the latest innovation at the ports they do business.

My hunch is though that this probably has as much to do with the companies international expansion plans and the creation of a seamless organization globally.

Posted by Bob at 5:06 PM

December 11, 2004

Another Vote on WM

It was national news when Inglewood, CA had a vote turning away WM; the news was less potent when Chicago, IL agreed to let a WM open up. But there's almost nothing about local activists in Sandy, UT who have filed a petition with the city to get a referrendum on the ballot to block a supercenter:

Residents in Sandy are rallying to stop a super-sized Wal-Mart from coming to their town and now, they have a deadline to do it.

When the city council voted to change zoning rules to allow big box retailers to build on the site of a gravel pit, a group of citizens filed a referendum petition with the city.

Yesterday, the city returned petition packets.

The group has until January 7th, to gather roughly nine-thousand signatures in order to take the issue directly to voters and let them decide.

If this were Queens or Cambridge, this would be all over the national media.

Posted by Kevin at 2:21 PM

Clydesdales at WM

Another example of how WM becomes a town focal point--the Budweiser Clydesdales show off in a WM parking lot in Dahlonega, GA:


DAHLONEGA - A crowd gathered at the Dahlonega Super Walmart shopping center on Wednesday to see the Budweiser Clydesdales, which are in the town this week to participate in the town's Old Fashioned Christmas Celebration, scheduled on Saturday.

The horses are staying at the Cottrell Ranch where they arrived on Monday.

"We've got them here for the week, and there's all kind of things going on," Said Mike Cottrell, "Tuesday Grace Episcopal School from Gainesville came up here and saw them at the ranch." On Thursday, Long Branch Elementary will visit.

"Friday," he continued, "They're at an open house at the ranch, and Saturday they're going to be in Dahlonega from 4 to 7 for the Old Fashioned Christmas." Cottrell said that the Clydesdales' visit was organized by his wife, Lynn Cottrell, "She's the one who needs all the credit."

"It was actually a joke," admitted Mrs. Cottrell. "My husband and I were on the Christmas Committee for Old Fashioned Christmas, and...they were just like, 'It would be neat.' It's just one of those things you see at Christmas, and they don't have to say anything. It's just the background, and just to see the horses and the wagon...So I took the idea and ran with it. And they're here!"...

She continued, "Budweiser has five teams throughout the United States, and they have three full time teams. This is a full time team and they stay on the road eleven months out of the year."

Posted by Kevin at 2:06 PM

walmart.com Outage

Last Wednesday, walmart.com experienced outages and sluggishness:

Walmart.com spokeswoman Amy Colella acknowledged www.walmart.com experienced availability problems Wednesday morning, but she characterized them as "minor issues" that affected the site briefly and have since been resolved. "We confirmed that customer transactions weren't affected and the site is now up and running," she said.

She declined to be more specific about what caused the problem, which she described as "isolated."...

Checks by two IDG News Service service staffers in two different U.S. locations at around 3:40 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time found www.walmart.com unavailable. Several minutes later the site seemed to be working normally again.

The performance problems at www.walmart.com seem much less serious than the ones that affected Amazon's Web site Monday. Godskind said.

Sluggishness or outages at online storefronts are critical for online retailers, particularly during the holiday season, hurting not only sales volume but also customer satisfaction and confidence.

UPDATE: Walmart.com adopted a new software/analytics tool to help it deal with peak loads:
By using RealiTea to view the clickstreams that may lead to the system-unavailable messages, retailers are able to identify where the need to tweak their infrastructure to support higher traffic volumes to keep pages loading as intended, Galat says.

Retailers will also use the analytics tool to monitor shopping carts and other crucial site features, he adds. The RealiTea system can be set to alert a merchant, for example, whenever 10 or more shoppers per hour abandon a shopping cart after having carted $100 worth of products.

Analysis of those customers� shopping sessions might reveal, for instance, that several of them abandoned the cart after clicking on information on inventory availability. Further analysis might then find that the inventory system itself was not properly updating product-availability information, Galat says.

Posted by Kevin at 2:01 PM

December 10, 2004

BEKA won't sell to Big Boxes

beka blocks.JPGBusinesspundit links to a Businessweek article examining why the small business art supply and wooden toymaker BEKA refuses to sell to big box stores:

BEKA, a St. Paul (Minn.)-based independent toymaker specializing in wooden blocks and art supplies, is dealing with the same issues as its retailer customers -- and many of the same fears. With the increasing clout of big-box stores, BEKA President Jamie Kreisman says diversifying the product line and staying loyal to the specialty market are his key defenses....

Q: Have you ever considered selling to Wal-Mart or another big-box retailer?
A: For me personally, it would take changing the way we operate. The mid-tier market provided a large volume for some manufactures, and now they've turned to Wal-Mart now that the middle tier is disappearing.

Remember that the current wisdom is that supplying WM can destroy a company, like Vlasic.

Posted by Kevin at 12:47 PM

$200 Linux Box at WM

Via a press release:

Xandros, the leading developer of easy-to-use Linux solutions, today announced that Wal-Mart.com is carrying a fully loaded Linux desktop computer with the pre-installed Xandros Desktop Operating System (OS) for only $199.98.

Built by Microtel and available at Wal-Mart's online store,* the new desktop PC offers a complete suite of pre-installed software for home, school, and small office desktop use. The PC provides an affordable alternative to all other PCs on the market today. The $199.98 price tag includes a free subscription to the Xandros Networks news and update facility which features a huge inventory of open source and commercial software that can be downloaded and installed with a single click.

The $200 box can be found here at walmart.com. IMHO, by current standards it's a rather paltry setup, but that's what you get for an entry-level machine.

Posted by Kevin at 9:42 AM

WM Sued for Lack of Parental Advisory Label

Those who are wondering why WM will not stock certain books in its stores might be interested in this new lawsuit:

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A southern Washington County couple who bought an Evanescence compact disc and DVD at a Frederick, Md., Wal-Mart filed a class action suit in Maryland on Thursday because the CD did not have a parental advisory label about explicit language, according to Washington County Circuit Court records.

Melanie and Trevin Skeens, of Kaetzel Road, are asking for either the CD to be removed from shelves or a warning label put on it, said Jon D. Pels, their Bethesda, Md., attorney. Pels is a partner with Pels, Anderson & Lee LLC.

They also are asking for up to $74,500 for each class member, people who bought the CD in Maryland, according to the lawsuit and Pels...

Wal-Mart officials had no immediate plans to pull the CDs from the stores' shelves, Whitcomb said.

The lawsuit states Wal-Mart "holds itself out as stocking music that does not contain explicit language" and alleges the discount chain knew about the song's explicit lyrics because they were dubbed out of a free sample on Wal-Mart's Web site.

Posted by Kevin at 9:37 AM

December 9, 2004

RFID Blog!

On her RIFD blog, Anita Campell has an interesting post on how suppliers are rushing to meet Wal-Mart's RFID requirements:

CIO Magazine's "Tag, You're Late" suggests that many suppliers subject to Wal-Mart's RFID mandate are not ready to meet the mega-retailer's January deadline. They'll do the least amount they can in the near term to meet Wal-Mart's requirements.

This is no surprise to most observers. But seeing the story being reported through anonymous sources is very telling about those sources' state of mind...

It's going to take longer for businesses to start seeing the benefits of RFID than some of the early, optimistic predictions suggested. And the path to realizing those benefits will be littered along the way with missed deadlines, rocky initiatives, and deflated expectations.

I want to link to almost every post, as the entire blog is exceptionally well organized, prepared, and written.

Posted by Kevin at 11:09 AM

December 8, 2004

Capuchinomics

I'm going to link to this piece in Capichinomics (Investment Advice Inspired by Monkeys !?!), because it contains almost NOTHING I agree with. Basically, it accuses a monopolistic Wal-Mart of setting off a spiraling deflation because its Always Low Prices have made consumers refuse to pay more for goods. Ah, contradictions...

Anyway, here's one cut:

The mere thought of competing with Walmart is enough to make competitors close up shop and move, perhaps to another country. In retailing, WMT is a hungry dog that devours every other dog that comes its way.
This is just silly. Do you really want to read the whole thing?

Posted by Kevin at 11:27 AM

December 7, 2004

Teachers Union President Just Makes Stuff Up About WM

The President of New York State United Teachers, Thomas Y. Hobart, doesn't want you to shop at Wal-Mart:

Wal-Mart, for example, continues to set new lows for employee working conditions and benefits.
Now, he just made this up, and pretended it was a fact. Any of his union's teachers should flunk him. Does he really have evidence for, or even sincerely believe, that conditions and benefits at Wal-Mart itself have gone to "new lows" from previous years? Does he understand how much better working at WM is compared to working at many mom and pop stores WM puts out of business? Or how much working conditions have improved, and continue to improve for the lowest wage earners, worldwide?

He continues:

Despite the pretty television ads, Wal-Mart workers still face tremendous difficulty getting health insurance. When they can get it, often it's far too expensive to be affordable. Monthly premiums for the limited number of Wal-Mart employees eligible for health insurance often run as high as $264 a month. Try paying those premiums on an $8-an-hour cashier's salary.
I agree it's hard for many to pay their portion of the premium, and sometimes a "tremendous difficulty"? But why are people going to work for WM knowing that they are underpaid? WM is not forcing people to work for them; they do not have draft power. They pay wages and benefits that people voluntarily take; that's what's really scary to Mr. Hobart... Or does Mr. Hobart think WM employees are stupid? All (OK, most!) WM employees, even part-timers, qualify for health "insurance" coverage through WM once they've been there a set amount of time.

As a union man, Mr. Hobart insists that health coverage be paid for by employers. But there's little economic sense in that! In fact, it's a good part of the reason why healthcare is so expensive today. If employers paid for housing, food, or entertainment directly, does anyone doubt that housing, food, and movie markets would look vastly different, as people tried to use all their "benefits"? Once people stop paying for things themselves, usage and then costs go up.

Posted by Kevin at 12:20 PM

WM to enter NYC

They will start in Rego Park, Queens:

The company announced on Monday that it would open a new store in Rego Park on the already shopping traffic-heavy Queens Boulevard -- its first in New York City.

Wal-Mart officials said ground will likely be broken for the 135,000-square-foot store in 2007 or 2008, Newsday reported in Tuesday editions. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company plans to open up the new location as early as mid-2008.

Bring on the opposition! or maybe not:
Whether the neighborhood will welcome Wal-Mart - whose stores have run into opposition in towns from Maine to Mexico - remains to be seen. Big discount stores have been met by stiff resistance in other parts of the city, but this one may be different.

"If they were coming somewhere in Manhattan, you probably would have very active community boards resistant to it," said Robin Abrams, a retail real estate broker with Manhattan-based Lansco, who was not involved with the Wal-Mart deal. But "in Rego Park, there's already been a lot of growth, a lot of big box stores. So I don't know what kind of resistance you'll get there..."

Wal-Mart has drawn opponents in other urban areas based on congestion and on its reputation for paying low wages, blocking unions and driving independent retailers out of business. Earlier this year, a bitterly divided Chicago city council voted to approve one Wal-Mart store but not a second location.

Histon said Community Board 6 will be as impartial as possible. "We don't have any opinion on Wal-Mart or any other company," she said.

The store will be a single level, Dargie said, but it departs from the usual model because it will be enclosed in a multi-level building. Wal-Mart's typical store, a one-level gray box, dots the landscape of suburban and rural areas.

In cities, though, Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers have been forced to become more flexible. Home Depot, for example, designed a multi-level store when it chose to rent space in the old Hasbro building on 23rd Street in Manhattan. Target has tried to stay visible to trendy Manhattanites through marketing stunts such as temporary stores.

UPDATE:The Queens Chronicle has the local details:

Many Christmas shoppers at the Queens Center Mall, which would be a neighbor to the Queens Wal-Mart, saw the company�s aggressive expansion, even into Queens, as a positive development. �I think it�s good for the community, the more competition, the better,� said James Dennis, who recently joined the Marines. �They have a much bigger selection than other stores and cheaper prices.�

Tom Bryson, a retired postal worker, agreed. �I think it�s good. There will be more places to shop and more jobs,� he said.

Even Jasbir Kukreja, who manages an accessory store one block away from the proposed site, is in favor of having the retail giant as a neighbor. �Let everybody come,� he said. �More shoppers can only be better for business. Maybe the bigger stores will be afraid, but it won�t hurt us.�

A spokesman for Queens Center Mall declined to comment.

Still, not everyone welcomed the news. Managers and employees at some neighborhood stores expressed concern that Wal-Mart would destroy smaller competitors. �Opening a Wal-Mart here would ruin all the little stores. It would ruin our business,� said Eddie Dwyer, who works at Pets Pad Plus on Woodhaven Boulevard.

Posted by Kevin at 11:57 AM

December 5, 2004

Questioning Child Protesters

From a protest of WM in Lynn, MA:

"Wal-Mart is the largest corporation in the world. It uses globalization in a negative way. It employs workers all over the world and exploits them by giving them extremely low wages," said Raphy Kasobel, a 10-year-old student at the Workmen's Circle Shule, a Jewish Sunday school in Brookline. "Wal-Mart makes great profits at the expense of others."
For some reason, the journalist didn't dare ask her:

1) why so many of those exploited workers all over the world want to work for WM, and find that almost all Walmart suppliers have far better working conditions than any employer based in their own country. [Hint: Why don't they just stay in the rice fields and be happy peasants?]

2) whose fault it is that some people are so poor that they are willing to work in sweatshops. [Hint: Which failed political philosophy governed China for 50 years?].

3) why she doesn't insist that the federal government take away those nasty profits, and give them to the exploited non-American workers. [Hint: Just how would this benefit American union members?]

4) why she doesn't want the shareholders of WM to be forced to transfer ownership to the workers? [Hint: Would it be too obvious that this is just socialism?]

Posted by Kevin at 4:15 PM

Cocaine at WM

We previously noted an ecstasy bust in a WM parking lot. Now comes the cocaine:

[L]aw enforcement officers set up surveillance in the Wal-mart parking lot in Brookfield to watch the transaction between the three suspects take place.

Officers seized approximately 18 ounces of cocaine with a street value of about $48,000.

WM is often accused of increasing crime in areas near the store. Does it actually increase crime overall, or just concentrate it in a smaller area?

Posted by Kevin at 4:03 PM

WM & Sex Offenders

In 2000, two young girls were molested by two WM employees, both of whom had previous records as sex offenders. Now, the North Carolina government is considering requiring all large businesses to check applicants against a sex offender database:

Wal-Mart won�t say how many convicted sex offenders it has kept out of its South Carolina stores since it began doing criminal background checks about a month ago on all new hires.

Wal-Marts in 46 states, including South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, are now doing the checks, Wal-Mart spokesman Gus Whitcomb said last week.

South Carolina stores have been doing them about a month, he said, but he would not say how many applicants had been rejected because of the background checks.

The Arkansas-based retail giant also won�t say whether any people already employed were found to have sex offense records and were removed from their jobs.

Because Wal-Mart hasn�t been forthcoming, a Charleston legislator said last week he has not ruled out filing a bill requiring all major retailers in the state to do background checks on prospective employees....

�I�m going to take a wait-and-see approach,� said Limehouse, a Republican. �If I feel things in South Carolina are moving in the right direction in terms of Wal-Mart � where most of the problems appear to be � then I might not file this bill.�...

Limehouse said he believes known sex offenders, particularly those convicted of offenses involving children, should not be allowed to work in Wal-Mart stores.

�With a sex offender, once they start, they do not stop � especially an adult who preys on children.�

While the very high recidivism rate for sex offenders has no chance of being lowered, refusing employment to those who have finished their jail term and probation could lead to enormous legal and ethical problems for the NC criminal justice system.

Just where will sex offenders permitted to work? Minor (small) retailers? Nowhere?

That's not a feasible solution, unless all convicted and released sex offenders are to be given welfare checks to cover food, clothing, and shelter expenses. Otherwise, this really implicitly extends to life the punishment for sex offenses, which, if done formally through statute, might be considered a punishment that's too severe...

Posted by Kevin at 3:48 PM

December 4, 2004

WM to Sell "Made in China" Submarine (Humor)

The incomparable Scott Ott has today's crucial WM news:

Wal-Mart today announced a deal to market the new 'Made in China' ballistic missile submarine through its 4,900 retail stores, adding a "big-ticket item" to help boost sales just in time for the holidays.

"It's Wal-Mart's first truly intercontinental strategic nuclear delivery system," according to a company news release.

Posted by Kevin at 1:20 PM

The 'Walmart' of Trinidad

I thought this might be an interesting story, but I realized that it was all just hype:

Chief executive officer of Pricechopper, Jefferson Sooknarine, has said that the merger between the international company and Cariflex is "to become the Walmart of Trinidad" and it was his intention to give Cariflex new life and new hope....

Sooknarine added that with this initiative there were to be several rules, among them that eight per cent of all profits go to employees while 15 per cent would go to charitable and religious organisations. He said his aim is to transform Pricechopper Cariflex into a more successful company.

This is truly bizarre. This short history of Cariflex indicates that the company has always been in the printing business, not retail sales. And they're not talking about this Pricechopper; they're talking about the one that makes wristbands.

Exactly how do they compare with WM?

Posted by Kevin at 10:24 AM

Ukrainian Revolution vs. Shopping at WM

Mary Beth Danielson judges American and Ukrainian values based on recent events--Ukrainians protesting election fraud, and lower than expected sales at WM:

I think these two stories lay out a hard question.

Which nation is stronger? The one with so many shopping choices we can't see straight? Or the one where hundreds of thousands of educated citizens took to the streets to forcefully, non-violently, and resolutely demand the one clear choice they made? There's no simple answer, but I think the question is worth asking...

I've bought one present so far this season, a plastic toy for my toddler nephew. I bought it at a store whose corporate offices are in a city far from here - and the toy was made in China. Exactly HOW does this purchase make our nation and community a more robust place to live? By employing the clerks and stockers at the store who earn less than $10 per hour and have sparse benefits? By making richer the people who own stocks? Are stockholders, in general, the kind of people who will flood city streets to demand reform when reform is needed? You know what I wonder? I want to know how to foster citizens as brave, committed and empowered as the citizens of Ukraine. (If someone wants to buy me a ticket to Ukraine, I'll go ask them how they do it.) I think the key lies somewhere in the work and power of choosing....

Do we want our teenagers to spend their energy choosing among 17 kinds of shampoo? Or do we want them to know the difference between capitalism and democracy, that the two things are not the same?
.

[Emphasis added]

Posted by Kevin at 10:13 AM

Promoting walmart.com in areas with no WM

I like this promotional strategy:

Wal-Mart mailed fliers in several large markets last week that do not have a Wal-Mart store, including New York, Chicago, Baltimore, San Francisco and Boston. The fliers promoted specials available only online or by calling an 800 number. "Walmart.com" appears prominently on every page of the four-page mailer but nowhere is a Wal-Mart store mentioned.

Since this year was the first time Wal-Mart offered online specials for the Thanksgiving weekend, the fliers' goal was "to inform customers who don't have easy accessibility to a Wal-Mart store that they can easily shop Wal-Mart through Walmart.com," Walmart.com spokeswoman Amy Colella said.

Posted by Kevin at 10:05 AM

December 3, 2004

More Free Advertising about WM Advertisements

WM wants you to know that its prices really are still low:


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc., hurt by sluggish sales over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, launched Friday a rare advertising blitz focusing on price cuts in newspapers around the United States.

The No. 1 U.S. retailer took out full-page color ads in newspapers in as many as 50 markets to promote its price reductions on products ranging from portable DVD players to stuffed Elmo toys. The ad campaign follows poor November sales reported by the retailer Thursday.

Wal-Mart does not typically advertise in newspapers, preferring to promote its products in its monthly circulars and on some television spots.

Media analysts said the ad campaign could be good news for newspaper publishers, who have struggled with an unsteady advertising market, if it marks the beginning of a longer term strategy by the retail giant to advertise more regularly in print.

Posted by Kevin at 1:32 PM

December 2, 2004

More Free Advertising for WM

People just won't let up on WM's lackluster Black Friday, to the point that the AP is now giving people warning that WM will have an expanded advertising campaign to remind people of its low prices. Really:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., stung by a lackluster start to the holiday shopping season, said Thursday it is launching a new advertising campaign to remind its customers of its low prices.

The world's largest retailer is starting the price-focused ad blitz Friday in newspapers, television and radio, said spokeswoman Mona Williams, and feature two dozen key items, mainly toys and electronics, on which the company is cutting prices. ``That's what people are buying,'' she said.

See also this Adam Christian compilation of responses to Daniel Gross' negative assessment of WM:
Of the probable causes of Wal-Mart's decline cited by Gross, the saturation model won out resoundingly among fraysters over the "limits of cheapness" theory.
Christian links to this Simon Head New York Review of Books article:
The exploitation of the working poor is now central to the business strategy favored by America's most powerful and, by some criteria, most successful corporation. With the re-election of a president as enamored of corporate power as George W. Bush, there is every prospect that this strategy and its harsh practices will continue to spread throughout the economy.
Can you guess Mr. Head's politics from this conclusion?
Posted by Kevin at 8:52 PM

Sheboygan vs. WM

wm_forehead.jpgAt every proposed new WM, the most vocal members of the local community show up to object. This time, it's Sheboygan, WI:

Tuesday night, opponents packed the town firehouse.

They said a 24-hour Wal-Mart supercenter would cause traffic, safety and environmental hazards.

"Wal-Mart is not a good fit, is not wanted and is not needed in the back yards of the town of Sheboygan. Do not rezone. Do not change what our town is all about," Sheboygan resident Dan Graves said.

I had to steal the wonderful photo from the linked website before it disappeared...

Posted by Kevin at 11:17 AM

December 1, 2004

Ecstacy at WM

Glenn Reynolds is hot on the trail of marijuana and prostitution at target.com through Amazon. Walmart does Target one better, by outsourcing provision of ecstacy to third-parties in the parking lot:

Macon County Sheriff's Deputy Terry Atkins received reliable information from an informant on Tuesday, November 23, that Mitch Cliburn, age 18, of RBS Road, was transporting ecstasy tablets to the Wal-mart parking lot in Macon County for re-sale to another individual.

Deputy Atkins and Captain Darrell Taylor proceeded in a marked patrol unit to Walmart. Chief Deputy Robin Gregory and Detective Jimmy Hardin proceeded to Walmart also in a marked patrol car....

[Cliburn] was placed under arrest and transported to the Macon County Jail where he was placed on $30,000 bond. He was charged with possession of schedule I narcotic and possession of schedule I narcotic for resale.

At least there's no extra charge for shipping.

Posted by Kevin at 12:55 PM