January 31, 2005

Declaration of Independents

Via BusinessPundit and A Penny For, we find an excerpt of Category Killers: The Retail Revolution and its Impact on Consumer Culture. It discusses how one independent bookseller Wild Rumpus Books competes with the big boys:

Competent, creative independent retailers don�t need to use resistance tactics in order to survive. These merchants understand that, to compete successfully, they must provide something that customers can�t get anywhere else. To run a specialty store that successfully competes with category killers, you have to specialize to an even greater degree. Small, independent booksellers are another category of retailers that need to find a niche if they hope to survive....

The problem with many small independents is that they got into the business because they loved books�not necessarily because they loved selling books. One bookseller who both loves books and loves selling books in a creative way is Collette Morgan, co-owner, with her husband Tom Braun, of the children�s bookstore Wild Rumpus Books in Minneapolis. In 1992, Morgan, a veteran of the book business, decided to open a store that would be �something a corporate mind would never dream up and that a large company could never sustain; a place that would sell children a good time along with their reading material.�

We'ver previously discussed independent bookstores here and noted one tangentially here.

Posted by Kevin at 2:29 PM

Traffic...

Loads of shoppers, apparently unaware that others were also storming a new Wal-Mart Supercenter with poorly designed signals, are creating tremendous traffic jams in Waterville, Maine.:

Since Wal-Mart opened its new Supercenter on Wednesday, Upper Main Street has seen a surge in traffic jams. Vehicle lines at lunchtime and after office hours reach as far as a half-mile down the thoroughfare....

"There were six or seven accidents inside in the parking lot on the first day," said Sgt. Joseph A. Shepherd of the Waterville Police Department. "We've been getting complaints about the lines, too. There was one man who came in to complain (Saturday) -- and he was upset."

The situation is worsened by the fact that the left-turn lane at the Waterville Commons junction with Upper Main Street can accommodate at most about five cars before it hits the Elm Plaza traffic lights, Shepherd said.

Posted by Kevin at 12:09 PM

$1billion in Goods from India

It's forecasted that Wal-Mart's direct and indirect imports from India will increase to over a billion dollars in 2005:

It is $1.2 billion worth of home textiles, apparel, fine jewellery and housewares from Indian factories and suppliers during 2005, for world top retail giant Wal-Mart.

Last year the company sourcing from India stood stood at $300 million. All of it was directly sourced from factories and suppliers for Wal-Mart�s retail stores globally, inform a company statement.

Posted by Kevin at 12:02 PM

Indian TVs Soon at Wal-Mart

How long before "Made in India" is the new "Made in Japan"?

MUMBAI: India�s second largest TV brand, Onida will be soon available in across Wal- Mart stores across the USA.

Mirc Electronics, makers of Onida and Igo brans of colour TVs has sent a few TVs for testing purposes and a regular supply contract is expected by April, company sources said.

�We have sent a small batch of televisions to them but it is at a preliminary stage and a clearer picture would emerge by the end of March or in April,� official said.
The company has shipped 3,000 units of Onida televisions to Wal-Mart.

They're trying hard to expand their export base elsewhere.

Posted by Kevin at 11:59 AM

January 30, 2005

National Labor Relations Board Allows Vote

NLRB rules that vote to unionize could be held:

The National Labor Relations Board ruled that employees at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. tire department in Colorado could hold a union election.

No date was set for a vote. But if a majority of workers vote for organizing, that would mark the first time in several years that a union has gained a foothold in a U.S. location of the world's largest retailer.


Here's a previous post covering this.

Posted by Bob at 12:31 AM

January 28, 2005

Are WM Associates Paid Too Much?

Anonymous Occupant suggests that the level of customer service at Wal-Mart is too low for the wages received:

Where has customer service gone these days?? They just opened a new Wal-Mart about a mile from our house and my husband and I went there late last night to "check it out"....

ALL the male employees were wearing pants that were about four sizes too big for them. They were grabbing at the crotch of their pants and holding onto "whatever" it is that they think they have... Maybe CRABS!!! I can't understand why a corporation as large as Wal-Mart would allow their employees to dress and act so inapropriate. These are the people they hired to represent them to the public!!!

Oh, And forget trying to ask someone working there where anything is... They just shrug you off and say they don't know...

I tell ya, customer service has gone out the window!! When I was working, we had a dress code and were trained on how to treat the customers.. And that was for minimum wage!!! These people are making $12.00 to start!!! You would think they would be better trained on how to act like they had some common sense and decency. Not to mention self respect.

Unless AO is in a major city, $12 an hour sounds a bit high.

Posted by Kevin at 5:27 PM

An Exclusively Pro-WM Article

Reader Paul Kelleher sends in a news story that is curiously and exclusively pro-WM.

Mark Coyle of the Glendale Star doesn't look for opposing viewpoints at all, and focuses exclusively on the information provided by Wal-Mart and a discussion with the manager of a local WM Supercenter:

One of those success stories can be found at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 5605 W. Northern Ave. in Glendale.

Manager David Hakhamian said he began working for the company in 1988 as a cart pusher. He eventually moved to different areas, including receiving, sales floor, cashier, department manager, assistant manager and co-manager. He has been a store manager since 1994 and has a goal of becoming a district manager someday.

Hakhamian said the negative criticism about the company is not true. He said the wages are very competitive and in most cases, are above what similar retail stores are offering.

"I am a living example of how Wal-Mart allows for growth," he said. "I have seen both sides of the story and I can tell you that Wal-Mart is the place if you are looking for a career where you can stay with a company that will take care of you; Wal-Mart is the place."

Hakhamian said his store has about 580 employees and nearly 85 to 90 percent are full time and qualify for full-time benefits. He said a number of part-time employees are also offered benefits throughout the company.

Scott's letter said that benefits "include healthcare insurance with lifetime maximum. Associate premiums begin at less than $40 per month for an individual and less than $155 per month for a family, no matter how large.

"Other benefits include a profit/sharing/401(k) plan, merchandise discounts, company-paid life insurance, vacation pay and pay differential for those in active military service. More than half of our associates own company stock through our associate purchase plan."

Hakhamian said he is proud to be working for the company that he one day plans to finish his career with.

"During my 17 years with Wal-Mart, I have developed through this company and it has given me the opportunity to move up the level that I am in," he said. "I have had a number of different companies that tried to recruit me, but I knew from the bottom of my heart that this is the place that I want to retire from."

Mr. Kelleher objects that "full-time" is not actually 40 hours a week, and that the benefits quoted are rather vague. Anecdotal evidence suggests to me that in some areas of the country, Wal-Mart does have a short full-time week, but I cannot perceive a general pattern. Even discussants at Democratic Underground have noted that full-time was 40 hours when many worked at WM.

Posted by Kevin at 12:12 PM

More on Ballston Spa

I've received two negative comments on my previous Ballston Spa post, merely for pointing out that most residents want WM. One commenter insisted that I was an ignorant slut, the other implied that his investment in his small business somehow granted him the right to his shopper's purchases.

As I noted, some residents have formed a group (see saveballston.comAlbany Times-Union reviews the arguments, and makes comparisons to other localities:

Community leaders and residents who have witnessed the effect Wal-Mart has had on other Capital Region towns gave it mixed reviews.

Glenville Supervisor Clarence Mosher called his town's Wal-Mart, 11 miles from the possible Ballston site, a good neighbor. Assessed at $14 million, the store has an annual town property tax bill of about $62,700. The company gives money to local charities and is willing to pay for road improvements to ease traffic congestion created by its presence, Mosher said. But traffic and calls to the town's 25-member police force increased when Wal-Mart arrived.

"The courts see 100 bad checks a month coming out of Wal-Mart," Mosher said.

[Al] Norman, who helped stop a Wal-Mart from being built in Greenfield in 1993, said that when communities are considering allowing a Wal-Mart into their midst, they should remember the stores don't only attract shoppers.

"This type of business will tax your resources more than an office complex," said Glenville Deputy Police Chief Dominick Macherone.

Police get a range of calls from the store, Macherone said, including calls on vehicle lock-outs, parking lot crashes, theft and assault.

A 2.5-mile road, Dutch Meadows Lane, was built to accommodate Wal-Mart, but Freeman's Bridge Road, where the store was built, is congested, Mosher said.

Justin Konik, the manager of Aubuchon Hardware on Route 50, 2 miles north of Wal-Mart, said he lost customers when the store opened.

He canvassed his customers, and "80 percent of them say they don't like to shop there, but as successful as it is, someone must be going there," Konik said.

And 100% of WM customers shop at WM, so?

Posted by Kevin at 11:27 AM

What Development Requires...

Amarillo, Texas needs to rebuuild a lake across the street from a WM Supercenter; specifically, they have to drain, dig deeper, and refill McDonald lake. Why? It's not just the fault of WM; it's the condos being built, the WM, the Lowes, and all the other development that are creating more runoff than the lake can currently handle:

Long ago, McDonald Lake was a natural playa that formed from storm water collecting at a low point in the prairie. The lake spanned the area, even west of what is now Coulter Street.

Commercial and residential development in Sleepy Hollow, Puckett and The Colonies pushed the lake's borders in, and each new bit of concrete and asphalt increased the storm water runoff into the lake.

The Colonies subdivision is still being built, and it's only a matter of time before the runoff exceeds the lake's capacity and starts flooding neighborhoods, City Manager Alan Taylor said Wednesday.

"If we do nothing, (it's) very likely," he said. "And even more important, very likely it will take out the (Xcel Energy) substation" at the lake's northwest corner.

Although the city plans to refurbish the lake for recreational uses such as fishing, hiking, picnicking and other outdoor pastimes, that part of the plan will cost $450,000 - a fraction compared to the $4.2 million price to renovate the lake for flood control.

Posted by Kevin at 10:32 AM

Domestic Partner Benefits at WM

This is both humane and a sensible move. It will have little impact on the bottom line, but may get gay rights groups to stop bashing WM:

According to Wal-Mart's (Research) ethics code, "Immediate family members include (whether by birth, adoption, marriage or Domestic Partnership or Civil Union, if recognized by your state or other local law) your spouse, children, parents, siblings, mothers- and fathers-in-law, sons- and daughters-in-law and brothers- and sisters-in-law."

Gay- and lesbian-rights groups praised Wal-Mart...

Still WM is being rather coy about this:
The Wal-Mart Stores Inc. policy change -- disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday -- accounts for the laws in some states that recognize domestic partnerships and civil unions, officials said.

Company spokesman Gus Whitcomb on Thursday declined to say if the change would affect employee benefits, or whether it meant Wal-Mart was taking a position on the issue of same-sex marriage or civil unions.

The Eclectic Econoclast sends in a link to Kip Esquire:
Markets in everything. Wal-Mart competes not only on price, and not only on wages, but on benefits as well. As a sort-of Wal-Mart competitor might have said: "It's a good thing..."
natch...

Posted by Kevin at 10:11 AM

January 27, 2005

Wendy Zellner on WM Banking

Wendy Zellner's Businessweek reports on WM are always worth a read, especially if now if you're a banker:

This relentless push into financial services is starting to send shivers through the banking industry. Few believe Wal-Mart will stop with basic services as it applies its low-price, high-volume formula to yet another business category. And while other companies, from Nordstrom to General Motors, have bank and thrift charters or hybrid Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-insured industrial loan companies (ILCs) in tow, no one trips alarms like Wal-Mart.

ON THE MOVE. Many community bankers are convinced the behemoth won't rest until it has obtained full banking powers. "It's not a question of if Wal-Mart is going to be a bank, it's a question of when," says D. Anthony Plath, a finance professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Clearly, Wal-mart is on the move. Over the past three years, the giant has steadily built alliances with financial-service providers, such as MoneyGram International and SunTrust Banks, enabling it to offer services such as bargain-price money orders and wire transfers. It has bank branches operated by partners in nearly 1,000 of its massive supercenters.

READ IT!

Posted by Kevin at 10:39 AM

Danish Trade Union Divests from WM

UNI is gleeful:

The Danish trade union pension funds are showing the way for all socially responsible investors, said UNI general secretary Philip J. Jennings in welcoming the announcement that they will disinvest from Wal-Mart. Speaking today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jennings warned that walmartization of working life, where workers see their wages fall and social benefits disappear, can seriously endanger social and political stability.

It is immoral that Wal-Mart, which is world's largest company, uses its economic power to push millions of working families world-wide into poverty and despair. The global union movement is stepping up its response to the walmartization challenge, in support of a sustainable economic and social development.

This lingo is really, really annoying. Just what are the specific policies that constitute "sustainable economic and social development"? Without specifics, this is utter nonsense! More here.

Posted by Kevin at 10:36 AM

Please Keep it Civil

Folks, I encourage both positive and negative feedback in the comments, but please refrain from name-calling and the like. Poor behavior by a commenter does two things: 1) makes the blog unpleasant for others to read, and 2) makes the commenter sound really, really dumb.

Posted by Kevin at 10:29 AM

January 26, 2005

AFL-CIO Steps Up the Protests

This time in Kansas City:

More than 6,000 Wal-Mart managers today wrap up their annual meeting in Kansas City, where they reviewed performance and analyzed the coming year for the world's largest company.

But even the most focused managers couldn't miss recent discord that union and social activists have wrought on the giant retailer and the company's campaign to rebut it.

Outside Bartle Hall on Saturday, dozens of area residents � most of them union members �protested Wal-Mart's practices and policies.

�Wal-Mart is emblematic of the thinking that operational efficiency works best for everybody,� said Mary Lindsay, who helped organize the protest. �But there's a downside to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart hurts people, communities and democracy. It's about more than just low prices.�

Lindsay is an organizer of the Kansas City chapter of ReclaimDemocracy.org, a recently formed group that thinks corporations need to be more accountable to citizens.

While criticism of Wal-Mart is hardly new, it has built some momentum as the company has become the defendant in dozens of class-action lawsuits over allegedly unpaid work and a gender discrimination case that could become the biggest class-action lawsuit of its kind. Some former female employees of area Wal-Marts have submitted testimonials about their inability to obtain managerial posts at the company....

One of Wal-Mart's biggest critics is the AFL-CIO, which, along with some of its member unions, is planning a campaign to pressure the retailer into raising its wages and benefits. Reports indicate that the AFL-CIO, led by unions such as Service Employees International and the United Food and Commercial Workers, plans to spend $25 million this year, more than what has been spent against any single company.

Has criticism actually built momentum? Sure, if momentum can be purchased with union money... Also, reclaimdemocracy.org was registered on October 11, 2002 in Bozeman, MT. The entire organization is not "recently formed". According to guidestar.org, it received $35K in contributions in 2002 and $56K in contributions in 2003. The local chapter is gung-ho against WM:
walmart_low_morals.jpg

And here's somebody that usually gets little press:

An official with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which fights unionism, said the AFL-CIO's motive is to get companies such as Wal-Mart to agree to unionize, whether employees want to or not.

�This is a corporate campaign to inflict as much pain as possible on the company until it agrees to unionize without even an employee vote,� said Stefan Gleason, a vice president with the foundation

�It appears that the vast majority of Wal-Mart employees are thrilled to work for a company that provides such good opportunity, pay and benefits. Union organizers have had very little success in persuading even a minority of employees in any particular workplace even to seek an election to unionize.�

Posted by Kevin at 12:15 PM

"Public Eye Award" Given to Wal-Mart

Now this is an award not to be proud of:

Critics of globalisation on Wednesday rounded on the "irresponsible" conduct of four top companies including the oil giant Shell and Dow Chemicals on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

As the meeting of global political and economic leaders got underway at the Alpine Resort of Davos, pressure groups meeting nearby gave their "Public Eye Awards" to the two multinationals, as well as to the US retail chain Wal-Mart and audit firm KPMG International.

But wait, what is the standard of proof needed to win such an award? Apparently, none.

The full nomination can be found here. However, none of the supporting material has anything to do with the alleged abuses detailed here. All the supporting documents discuss WM's activities in the US, while the nomination is made for international sweatshops abuses. News stories of one have absolutely nothing to do with the other. Also, all the accusations are from activities that occurred in 2003 or before, so WM, like Dow Chemical, is actually nominated for refusing to admit guilt for past activities, not new ones.

Of course, WM ,along with 19 others, had no chance to defend their records. WM was nominated by the Clean Clothes Campaign in the Labor Rights category, because of alleged (a word NEVER used by the nominee) abuse in South Africa, Kenya, and Thailand. We already know that WM is evil because it fights the U.S. unions that despise it, but now it's evil because it fights foreign unions.

Still, just what did Wal-Mart do to deserve such accolades? Some pretty nasty stuff:

First of all, there is the case of the 21 Wal-Mart clothes supply factories in Lesotho (South Africa). A normal working day in Lesotho lasts 10 hours. Added to that is compulsory overtime of up to 4 hours daily, which amounts to 14 hours daily. In some factories, the workers are forced to do
double shifts. Most of the workers get a meagre monthly wage of US$54. Moreover, the workers expressed complaints that the factories are chillingly cold in winter and stiflingly hot in summer, since there is no sufficient insulation, heating or air conditioning. In one factory, there are no more than 3 bathrooms for 900 workers. Repeatedly, there have been verbal, physical and sexual harassments. The managers of the factories refuse to enter into negotiations with the trade unions.

Second, there is another case of clothes supply factories in Kenya. Three of them - Kentex, Baraka und JAR - produce for Wal-Mart too. In January 2003, workers expressed complaints towards the authorities on the deplorable working conditions (wages below the subsistence level, pressure on the trade unions, long working hours etc.) and they went on strike for one day. Afterwards, they negotiated with the employers. In a press release, the employers granted the trade unions access to their factories so that they could recruit workers. In addition, they agreed to enter into furthe negotiations on better working conditions. All of a sudden five factories, amongst them Kentex,
Baraka and later JAR, were closed down and the workers were dismissed. The factory managers later employed other workers. They made it crystal clear to them that they would not accept any individual complaints and no trade unions.

Another case concerns the clothes manufacture Par Garment situated near Bangkok. It used to produce for Wal-Mart. The factory was closed down because the owner was in arrears with his credit repayments. He now produces in other factories, far away from Bangkok. He left his former employees jobless and without any compensation.

How much of this is real, and how much is hysteria? I don't know.

But the nomination documents present no evidence whether or not individual cases of harrasment in WM factories were actually addressed. No evidence is offered that Wal-Mart's wages are not competitive for the region; they may very well be insufficient to support a family of four, but workers found them competitive enough to take in the first place. That the working day in Lesotho is 10 hours long is regrettable to some, but probably not all workers; but no proof is offered to back up claims of routing forced four-hour extensions. That Wal-Mart will not deal with local unions even though it is required by law should tell you something about the government of Lesotho; it is that government, not the company that should be in the hot seat.

But note that all the accusations of union avoidance were made by the Lesotho Clothing Union over two years ago, not a nonpartisan observer.

Also, Wal-Mart does close factories in which the unions strike and demand collective bargaining... to insist that Wal-Mart not close down such factories is childish.

Posted by Kevin at 11:10 AM

WM Distribution Center Welcomed

Gas City will be the site of a new WM distribution center, but it could have been in any one of 18 other locations, except that Indiana killed its "inventory tax":

Eckerle said that recommendation was among the motivators for Grant County to become the first Indiana county to get rid of the inventory tax, which had the potential to cost a distribution center a considerable amount of money....

"Mr. Mullis wrote a letter saying that it was a really good idea, so we had folks go about doing that," Eckerle said. "He wrote that the inventory tax was a true impediment to Indiana being a good location for logistical centers because Indiana was one of the few states that had an inventory tax...."

Then Mullis again visited the site in question. It was at that point that Eckerle knew Gas City had the edge.

"He was impressed that the community had done everything that he said they should do," said Eckerle, naming the repeal of the inventory tax and putting a traffic light at the Ind. 22-County Road 500 East intersection as examples. "A lot of this business is basically about listening to customers and delivering what the customer wants, and he was seeing that we were doing all that...."

I don't think WM's antagonists would be welcome in this crowd:
The meeting was interrupted repeatedly by applause from the crowd, including a standing ovation for Leach. Standing before the group, Leach held a glass of sparkling grape juice and said the events on Tuesday brought him as close to speechless as he gets.

"This is going to be the beginning of a new beginning for our whole county," said Leach, who spent Monday evening purchasing all but one of the Wal-Mart gift certificates for auction at the Indiana Wesleyan University Telesale. "If we've got 600 jobs out there, the great majority are going to be people living in Grant County today."

Among the comments from the almost 200 residents and well-wishers on hand were questions about when construction would begin, how officials planned to handle increased traffic near the site and what type of corporate neighbor Wal-Mart would be.

Officials hope the needed zoning and building approvals and the annexation of about 150 acres into Gas City will be complete in time for a September 2005 construction start, said Joe Certain, Gas City's city attorney. As he answered the question, the comment "Tomorrow works into my schedule" came from the crowd.

"This is an investment the likes of which we haven't seen for many, many years," Certain said.

Although she worried about the amount of traffic 600 Wal-Mart employees would create on Ind. 22 and 500 East, MaryEtta Ruley marveled at the size of the company's investment.

"We're talking almost 1 million square feet," said Ruley, who lives on 500 East. "The size of the investment, the jobs. This is not just the start. This is the big thing."

Before the meeting was adjourned, county resident Michael Duke thanked the assembled boards for their work on the project.

"We needed to win here for the county, and this is a very good one," he said. "It will bring good quality jobs into the community."

Posted by Kevin at 10:25 AM

January 25, 2005

Some Ballston Spa Residents want to Exclude WM

This story makes pretty clear that anti-WM activists recognize that a vast majority of Ballston Spa residents want a Wal-Mart supercenter, since those shoppers are expected to flock to WM:

BALLSTON SPA --Residents praised the Village Board Monday night for creating a strolling village, then urged officials to reject the proposed Wal-Mart that could alter the village forever.

Concerned Citizens for Smart Growth, a group that has collected petitions with more than 250 signatures against the store.... has created a Web site, www.SaveBallston.com, with petitions and comments online....

Michael Noonan of Charles Street, who has a photography business in the old chocolate factory, said, 'We don't need a super size. We just need a good grocery store.'

A Wal-Mart could hurt many of the unique specialty shops that have sprung up in the village, Noonan said.

'Places that have made this a special place could be put out of business,' Noonan said. 'It just doesn't make sense to have a monstrosity like that come in.'

'I really like the charm of the village,' said Dave Schlitzer, a resident for 1 � years.

'A big-box store could do 'irreparable damage,' he told the board.

This is about making some people better off at the expense of others, which will happen whether or not WM is let in.

Posted by Kevin at 11:07 AM

Nashua Mayor on the Warpath

As it does in so many places, Wal-Mart causes a stir-up in Nashua politics (rr):

NASHUA - Mayor Bernie Streeter is replacing the two leaders of the Conservation Commission, who both fought against a Wal-Mart superstore on Amherst Street, and has re-nominated a commissioner who backed the idea.

Streeter has tapped longtime member Linda Bretz, who supported the retail giant�s disputed proposal last week, to sit on the board for another three years.

Kathryn Nelson, the board�s chairwoman who opposed the plan, resigned from her position the day after the vote.

Streeter said he decided to replace vice chairwoman Jacqueline Trainer, who also voted against the Wal-Mart plan, because he wanted �fresh air� on the board.

�A board like that needs some fresh air occasionally,� said Streeter, denying that there was any connection to the deliberations about Wal-Mart. �How they voted, frankly, is not my concern.�

Posted by Kevin at 10:57 AM

Comparing WM to a WM Supercenter

How does a Wal-Mart supercenter differ from a regular WM? That's not an easy question to answer:

BAXTER -- The Wal-Mart Super Center on Glory Road opens Wednesday morning.

There are notable differences in the new superstore compared to the "old" Wal-Mart. The 30 check-out lanes include eight self-serve options where customers can scan their own purchases and pay themselves. Customers can use coupons and pay by cash or credit card. Kirk Helmberger, Wal-Mart store manager, said the self check-out lanes have been popular at other stores.

Helmberger, who has been with Wal-Mart for about 15 years, said noticeable changes are wider aisles and much more room compared to the old store that was crowded with merchandise....

The new store features television screens hanging above the aisles in several locations that are part of the Wal-Mart TV network....

Helmberger told staff members he was proud of the work they did in transforming the store from four walls and poles into the finished version with wide, neat aisles, a full grocery store with produce, deli, bakery and a live lobster tank. The lobsters are flown in from Maine....

Independent businesses are inside the superstore -- McDonald's, Regal Nails, PCA Studios, Smart Style salon, and Wal-Mart is operating a Fun Center arcade. The store includes a Tire Lube Express, pharmacy, one-hour photo and a connection center with cell phones and satellite televisions/radios and several service plans, and H&R Block is in the store for the tax season.

Posted by Kevin at 10:52 AM

WM Sells Old Store Before Building Nearby Supercenter

It's pretty clear that Wal-Mart prefers to sell its vacant big boxes to stores that do not directly compete with its general merchandise or food sales. In fact, when it finds a suitable buyer, it sells right away:

Construction has yet to begin on Demopolis's new Wal-Mart Supercenter on Highway 80, but that hasn't stopped the company from already selling the current building housing the local retail giant...

Exactly who or what has purchased the location remains a mystery as of press time, however. Calls to the Wal-Mart realty office in Atlanta asking for confirmation had yet to be returned, and the Rockwood Exchange site does not divulge the identity of the buyer.

Posted by Kevin at 10:46 AM

January 24, 2005

Ithaca Wants WM to Pay "Living Wage"

Activists in Ithaca want Wal-Mart to pay a living wage of $8.44 an hour plus health insurance. Wal-mart insists its wages are competitive with other retailers in the area. Somehow, the activists think they're making progress, when in reality they are hugely misguided...

Rock-bottom starting salary at the Ithaca store is $6.50 per hour, although that level is reserved for people who come with little or no experience, manager Dave Jacobson said....

"I can tell you that many of the folks in a store will probably be close to the $8 range," Masten said.

Health insurance deductibles range from $300 to $1,000, Masten said. At a $1,000 deductible, a single worker can buy insurance for about $40 per month, or about $155 per month for a family plan....

"We tried to impress on them the importance of the living wage concept," said Living Wage Coalition organizer Carl Feuer.

Feuer's group is calling on Wal-Mart to pay a living wage, chiding the corporate giant as "a company that can afford to do better."

Coalition fliers cite academic studies showing that nationwide, the firm's average wage for full-time cashiers is $13,883, and $15,537 for full-time sales associates. Feuer points out that a company which made $9 billion in 2003 can afford to pay a living wage and should do so.

"They do pay higher starting wages in other places," Feuer said, citing Secaucus, N.J., where one store pays a base wage of $9 per hour. Feuer wonders why Ithaca, with its high cost of living, doesn't draw a higher starting rate.

Jacobson said the company did a wage survey of other Ithaca-area retailers, and found that the $6.50 base wage stacked up well -- higher, mostly -- than the competition.

Feuer must be either an incredibly dishonest person, or does not understand actual economic conditions elsewhere. Ithaca does not have anywhere near the cost of living as Secaucus. In Ithaca, NY one can find several four bedroom single-family homes for around $150K. In Secaucus, NJ the same home will cost you $400K.

Check yourself at realtor.com.

Posted by Kevin at 11:07 AM

Ithaca Store Manager Profiled

The Ithaca Journal goes on at length about local boy done good. It's a good read:

Ithaca is familiar territory to Dave Jacobson, personally and professionally.

Jacobson, 38, was born in a house that once stood not very far from the new Wal-Mart store he now manages, and he lived on Esty Street for many years....

He graduated from Ithaca High School in 1984, later spending four years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Given the class action discrimination case against women is based on six women who claimed they were never given the same upward opportunities as Jacobson, perhaps we should see what it takes to move up in Wal-Mart:
The trip took almost a decade, but it saw Jacobson climb the corporate ladder fairly quickly.

"I asked the man who hired me what I had to do to get ahead in this company," Jacobson recalled. That was when he was a part-time stocker in the hardware department in Vestal.

The advice worked. He put his nose to the grindstone, and within 18 weeks was in a management position.

"And I asked the next supervisor, 'What do I need to do now?'" Jacobson added.

Soon, he was promoted into the firm's assistant manager program, graduating to a post as assistant store manager in Sayre, Pa. He returned to Vestal after being promoted to co-manager, and was then promoted to store manager in Hudson, south of Albany....

What are his responsibilities?
The company, Jacobson said, gives him the freedom to do what he thinks is right as a manager. He passes that philosophy down to those with whom he works.

"I make 95 percent of the decisions that go on in the store," he said. "And if someone comes to me and asks, 'What should I do here,' I often say, 'What do you think you should do?'"

Posted by Kevin at 10:51 AM

More on the WM Union in China

Remember that China is liberalizing its markets faster than its political institutions, so when Chinese law helps Wal-Mart workers form a "union", you had better understand who is actually in charge. Strangely enough, this is not recognized by socialists in the US:

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions announced in November that Wal-Mart, which employs 20,000 workers at its stores in China, has agreed to allow a union to represent them if its "associates"--its euphemism for employees--show that they want one...

Chinese law requires that all companies, whether private or state-owned, allow the establishment of unions. But the law has not been vigorously enforced in foreign-owned companies until recently.

The author urges those in social democratic countries not to oppose the national union:
The ACFTU has taken on a huge task in trying to organize Wal-Mart, as U.S. unions have already found out. It takes genuine international solidarity among the workers of many countries to force these transnational corporations to sign a union contract. That should be at the top of the agenda of unions in the U.S.--not a campaign to defame China's national union organization.
In other words, it's union power that matters, not individual consent or local control over bargaining. Very honest.

Posted by Kevin at 10:41 AM

January 23, 2005

Go Read Mad Anthony

I've been remiss in linking to Mad Anthony's superb takedown of the view that Wal-Mart sales were off because people are responding to anti-WM activism. Libertarian Girl thinks most WM shoppers don't even realize there's a controversy...

What's interesting is that WM has chosen to respond to its antagonists, indicating that an image problem could yield lower sales. But anecdotal evidence suggests that people really don't care about the controversy, even if they know about it...

Posted by Kevin at 11:49 AM

"Not Applicable" is not a Number

April Knights is personally amibalent about walmart.com's holiday performance:

I hate Wal-Mart. Again. I was thinking how convenient it was to get Wal-Mart gift cards for Christmas... Most of my order arrived in two different shipments, including three DVDs and a book I couldn't find anywhere--Borders, Barnes & Noble, school library system, public library system--so I was all, "Yay Wal-Mart." Which was stupid. Because the other two books I ordered were supposed to be here a week ago and still haven't arrived, and the info in their confirmation e-mail and on their website is decidedly cryptic. Tracking number for the shipment is "Not Applicable." What the fuck is "Not Applicable" in this context?
Indeed.

Posted by Kevin at 11:41 AM

Lord of the Things

In 2002, Business 2.0 provided a nice rundown of Wal-Mart factoids, including two about theft:

Estimated value of goods Wal-Mart employees steal from Wal-Mart stores each year: $1 billion

Estimated value of goods stolen by shoplifters: $700 million

Many of the others are seriously dated...

Posted by Kevin at 11:35 AM

Costco.com Sells An Original Picasso

Last year, Tyler Cowen noted that Costco was selling some fine artwork:

"non-dignified" intermediaries are entering the market and offering the goods at cheaper prices, thereby separating the artwork from the attached aura of the sale. Let's root for the artwork, not the aura.
Now, Costco has sold an original and authenticated Picasso on costco.com:
An original Picasso crayon drawing sold this week for $39,999. At Costco....

the Picasso drawing, authenticated by Picasso's daughter Maya Picasso with a photograph of a handwritten and signed declaration provided to the buyer. The Picasso was the most expensive artwork offered on costco.com to date, a Costco spokeswoman said.

Last year, Tutwiler [a consignment art dealer] sold another Picasso drawing through Costco for about $35,000. The dealers ship the artworks directly to their customers.

What Costco provides is all the comforts of modern retail:
[L]ike all Costco products, Picassos may be returned for a full refund if the purchaser is not completely satisfied. "We do the same typical Costco guarantee that the artwork is in good condition, that it is authentic, and for any reason whatsoever, a buyer may return it with no questions asked," Roeglin said...
And here's the kicker:
Manny Silverman, owner of the Manny Silverman Gallery in Los Angeles, had only one question about buying art on costco.com: "I guess I'm just wondering if Wal-Mart can beat their price," Silverman said.

Posted by Kevin at 11:17 AM

Small Retailers Turn to "Guerrilla" Tactics

Great headline and story in the Times Leader:

To differentiate themselves in the mass market, many smaller retailers are employing unconventional quick-hit techniques known as guerrilla marketing.

�The metaphor, of course, comes from guerrilla warfare: What do you do when you�re outnumbered and outrun?� said Orvel Ray Wilson, senior partner of the Guerrilla Group, a competitive-marketing consultation business in Boulder, Co.

For Adriana Molina and Maria C. Sarmiento, that means selling something that cannot be bought anywhere else: colorful custom �Kuma� bears. (Kuma is Japanese for bear.) The toy bears are positioned as art objects.

Molina and Sarmiento, both 35 and originally from Colombia, opened a small toy store called Kuma Central in Miami�s Design District in December.

�We want to create a specialty store that Wal-Mart doesn�t compete with � products you can only find in here,� said Molina, who manages the business. �Toys and art. It�s something you don�t see anywhere else in Florida. All Kuma products are sold at the store and online at www.kumacentral.com.

The dominance of Wal-Mart is leading to an interesting new world of commerce... a very strong network of

January 21, 2005

Is Wal-Mart Evil?

Random Fuzzy Comments thinks so:

Yes, to reiterate, Wal-mart is evil. As in, evil incarnate. With firey pits of hell and stuff. You see, I worked there too, so I know. However, I was lucky enough to leave instead of them finding a stupid reason to get rid of me. They're firing all the good people and keeping all the sucky ones... I swear, after Sam Walton died, the company's going deeper into Hades. His sons are so screwing it up, I bet their dad's spinning in his grave on a daily basis.

Posted by Kevin at 8:29 PM

TERRORIZED!

We recently noted that a second Canadian Wal-Mart has been unionized, and that WM will most likely contest the procedure. Nathan Newman has more about the simple process used, and sums it up nicely:

Quebec requires companies to recognize a union whenever a majority of workers sign cards requesting one:
For now, I'll remain agnostic whether this levels the playing field or tilts it heavily in the union direction.

However, Nathan is off his rocker to suggest that 40% of American workers "are so terrorized that they can't act on that desire to be in a union." It's this type of antagonistic language that demonstrates why I personally want nothing to do with unions, and makes me sympathetic with those companies that (legally) "union-bust". For, if those 40% (a number generated by an AFL-CIO survey in 2002) were to join a union tomorrow, a large part of the 50% who don't want to join a union would be legally compelled to do so.

Would that be justice? I think not.

Posted by Kevin at 3:31 PM

Caledonia Township Union Members Protest WM...

and local media lap it up:

Gary Isham, with Carpenters Local 706, says Wal-Mart can hire anyone it pleases, but people don't have to shop there. "Well, they certainly do have that right but if they want us to spend our hard-earned dollars...in their stores, they have to be more sensitive to the folks that live here in this community.
Actually, it employs members of your geographcial community, just not members of your voluntary club, who when not unemployed make at least $35 dollars an hour (PDF) in wages and benefits (for commercial construction). Apprentices start at $12 an hour.

Posted by Kevin at 1:50 PM

The Wal-Mart Discover Credit Card

Wal-Mart Discover is apparently just another flavor of the Discover card

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville said Friday it has partnered with GE Consumer Finance and Discover Financial Services to issue a new credit card.

The new card, Wal-Mart Discover, is expected to be available to customers by March, according to a Wal-Mart news release.

The card features no annual fee and can be used both inside and outside of Wal-Mart stores. Customers also will be able to receive 1 percent back from GE on all purchases, Wal-Mart said.

It was made possible by a recent lawsuit:
It's Discover's first major card deal since October, when the Supreme Court let stand an antitrust ruling that forced Visa and MasterCard to stop preventing member banks from issuing rival cards.

That made it possible for Discover and American Express to seek partners to issue their cards in the United States.

Will it come with a smiley face on the front? Isn't that what co-branding is all about?

Posted by Kevin at 1:32 PM

WM Wakes Up

In Tech Central Station, Ryan Sager has a quick review of who Wal-Mart is fighting against:

First, there is the labor movement.... Wal-Mart has taken over one-fifth of the nation's grocery market -- supermarkets being one of the last union strongholds outside of the government -- has brought the matter to a head. Partnering with local small businesses, the unions are exerting tremendous pressure on city governments to say no to Wal-Mart.

Aiding and abetting the unions in their fight against Wal-Mart are the various urban "experts," Starbucks-phobic grad-student types and other elitists who wouldn't be caught dead in a discount store....

Yes, there is more than a little bit of elitism and self-interest behind much of the opposition to Wal-Mart. That's not to say that there are no reasonable concerns to be had about the retail giant. It does change the character of the towns it enters. But change in the form of lower prices and more jobs is nothing to be afraid of -- especially in cities with no mythical Main Streets to lose in the first place.

Mr. Sager had a recent column about WM in The New York Post, which generated fascinating responses; he blogs at Miscellaneous Objections.

Posted by Kevin at 10:33 AM

WM No Longer in Race for Daiei

We just told you that WM is a top contender to take over Daiei. Well, it seems Japan wants domestic ownership of Daiei, so Wal-Mart is out of the running:

Wal-Mart's bid for Daiei may have been hampered by its mixed success in turning around another Japanese retailer, No. 4 Seiyu Ltd., in which it is a major shareholder.

Wal-Mart's candidacy had been backed by trading house Sumitomo Corp., U.S. investment fund Cerberus, and U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs (Research).

Posted by Kevin at 10:27 AM

Massena WM Closed Due to Structural Failure

It's the weather...

The Wal-Mart store in Massena remains closed after bolts on a roof beam sheared off. Wal-Mart officials say the structural damage occurred Tuesday afternoon. The store was closed after an inspection revealed that bolts connecting an expansion beam to a column had broken. Officials say the beam wasn't in danger of falling. Company official at Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas believe recent weather fluctuations that saw temperatures range from near 60 degrees last week to well below zero this week may have caused the damage

Posted by Kevin at 10:22 AM

May & Federated to Merge?

More This might be more buzz than anything else... but USA Today seems to be depressed:

Whether or not this merger actually takes place, the possibility serves to highlight a nationwide concern that the department store - as American consumers have come to know and now ignore it - might be going the way of the Oldsmobile.

There are bright spots. The luxury end of the sector - particularly Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus - is going gangbusters. Some discounters, such as Target, are having a heyday. Even one of the industry's middle class - J.C. Penney - is on a roll.

But those are mostly exceptions.

The department store industry is fast becoming an eight-track player in an iPod age. Annual department store sales have declined for the past four years - to a low of $213.9 billion in 2004 from a high of $233.6 billion in 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau reports - even as retail sales overall grew each year.

Posted by Kevin at 10:20 AM

WM Associate Kidnapped in Parking Lot

Caught on videotape:


TYLER, Texas -- A clerk abducted from a Wal-Mart Supercenter was sought Friday by East Texas law officers who said a surveillance videotape showed a man lurking around the entrance before the victim was attacked as she tried to drive away from the store's parking lot.

Megan Leann Holden, 19, of Henderson was reported missing Thursday morning when she did not return home from her shift.

More Detiails...

UPDATE: She's been found, murdered, and a suspect is in custody:

A woman who was abducted from a parking lot while leaving work at a Wal-Mart was found shot to death Friday, police said. A suspect was in custody in Arizona.

Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle confirmed the body of Megan Leann Holden, a 19-year-old college student from Henderson whose kidnapping was captured on videotape late Wednesday, was found.

"It is apparent that she has died of a gunshot wound," he said, declining to give details.

A surveillance videotape "shows Megan getting into her truck and the (man) running up behind her and either hitting her or pushing her," police spokesman Don Martin said earlier. "Then the vehicle drives off."

The body was found in Martin County in West Texas, Martin said.

Said Swindle: "At this point in time there's no doubt this was a total stranger abduction."

Authorities in Willcox, Ariz., were holding Johnny Lee Williams, 24, for investigation in the missing woman's case, said Carol Capas, a spokeswoman for the Cochise County (Ariz.) Sheriff's Department

Posted by Kevin at 10:17 AM

January 20, 2005

WM Buys Search Ads for Walmartfacts.com

Via PR Fuel, we learned of a great article by David Berkowitz on Wal-Mart's use of web advertising to get people to walmartfacts.com:

Last week, the retail giant launched WalmartFacts.com to tell its story, backed by a massive print campaign. To help drive traffic to the site, Wal-Mart purchased paid search ads through Overture. A search on Yahoo! for "walmart" brings up a sponsor result saying: "Walmartfacts.com: What drives Wal-Mart? Want the facts? Go to walmartfacts.com."...

I called Wal-Mart to find out more about their paid search campaign. The representative couldn't answer strategic questions but shed a bit of light in her own way. "We did a media buy," she said. "We bought whatever we bought."

Then she said something more incisive. As to why they did the paid search campaign at all, she responded, "We wanted folks to be able to see the new site. When launching a site, it's just a smart tactic."

I agree that this is a smart tactic.

Posted by Kevin at 3:40 PM

A New Wal-Mart Blog Rips the Walton Family

Why I Love Wal-Mart...NOT! is written by Rob Bateman a "former part-time Wal-Mart employee" in the automotive department. Apparently, he didn't like working at Wal-Mart, and thought little of his customers, but he insists that he disliked Wal-Mart even before he started working there!

Interestingly, he tries his best to make the Walton's look bad, as a way to get you not to shop at WM. First, he notes that Bill Gates has given $27billion to charity (an impressive 54% of his wealth). Second, he notes that the Walton family has given only $1billion (out of a $98 billion pot).

But wouldn't it be a little wiser to look at what Sam Walton wanted, and what the Waltons still have planned (when Helen Walton dies), which is to give away up to $20billion in stock to reform education in the U.S., making them the second biggest donor behind Gates.

For more information on the future charitable givings of the Waltons, check out this article and Flash graphic posted by USA Today on March 11, 2004.

Posted by Kevin at 10:53 AM

Community News

Upper Midleft notes the uncanny similarity in many of the Wal-Mart press releases in the "Community Impact" section of walmartfacts.com:

SAN DIEGO, CA With a focus on new jobs, charitable support and every day low prices, three Wal-Mart stores in San Diego County celebrated grand openings today, May 19.

BROOKINGS, S.D., Oct. 18, 2004 - With a focus on new jobs, charitable support, and every day low prices, the newly relocated Wal-Mart Supercenter in Brookings, located at 2421 6th St., will celebrate its grand opening at 7:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 27. Doors will open at 8 a.m.

BRADENTON, Fla., July 14, 2004 - With a focus on new jobs, charitable support, and every day low prices, the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Bradenton will celebrate its grand opening 6:50 a.m., Wednesday, July 21. Doors will open at 7:30 a.m. The store is located at 6225 East State Road 64.


It goes on. And on. And on.

Try it yourself...

Posted by Kevin at 10:13 AM

January 19, 2005

A Visit to a WM Supercenter

I've met many people who have this reaction upon entering a WM Supercenter:

We've experienced Super Wal-Mart. Holy Shit. It was a sensory overload of commerce. I had a headache by the end and had to put my head between my knees in the van.

Posted by Kevin at 8:42 PM

2nd Unionized WM in Canada

Despite the public language, there is no such thing as momentum in union certification battles:

In a Jan. 17 decision, the Quebec Labor Relations Commission accredited Local 501 of the UFCW to represent the roughly 200 workers at a Wal-Mart store in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, the union said.

The decision came after a majority of the employees at the Saint-Hyacinthe store, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Montreal, signed union cards.

The union said it will send a letter to Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, on Thursday to set dates for bargaining and expects to deliver contract proposals to the company within three weeks.

"The momentum is picking up," Local 501 president Yvon Bellemare said in a release. "Wal-Mart workers now realize that if they want a union in their store, Wal-Mart can't stop them."

But a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada said the retailer is considering all options to block the decision, including legal action against the Labor Commission.

A "dark day in Arkansas" indeed.

Posted by Kevin at 8:38 PM

Taking Photographs in Wal-Mart

Dan Gillmor, advocate for citizen-journalism, notes that Wal-Mart policy is to require permission for anyone who wants to take photographs inside one of their stores:

Wal-Mart's policy that all photos taken on its property must be approved in advance includes breaking news coverage, company spokeswoman Christi Gallagher said.

The company requires the media - or anyone else - to get approval before taking pictures in Wal-Mart stores or on Wal-Mart property, she said.

Asked if journalists photographing unexpected news, such as a fire, need the same permission, Gallagher said they do.

After hours, a journalist should call the company's 24-hour corporate hotline before taking pictures, she said.

We've noted people taking photos and video before, and The Computer Vet has some very nice ones from 2002.

A reader at Dan's links to the discussions at dpreview and PhotoPermit.

Promoters of citizens' media implicitly believe the costs of Wal-Mart's no-photo policy are greater than its benefits. However, they never actually list or discuss its benefits...

Posted by Kevin at 1:43 PM

Farmers Must Emulate Wal-Mart?

Would you take business advice from a former Congressman?

HOUSTON � American farmers may need to pay attention to Wal-Mart business practices as they look for ways to survive in a global economy.

�People either love Wal-Mart or hate it,� says former Congressman Charlie Stenholm, �but (the company) is tremendously competitive. The working men and women who get good prices like it. Competitors who can�t compete, don�t.�

Stenholm, who recently signed on with a Washington D.C. law firm as an agricultural advisor after losing the congressional seat he�s held for 26 years to Texas re-districting, spoke at the recent Conservation Tillage, Cotton and Rice Conference in Houston and encouraged farmers to do everything possible to improve efficiency and to conserve resources.

The marketplace, he says, will play an increasingly important role in on-farm decisions. He says farmers can look to Wal-Mart and airlines for models of how and how not to run their businesses.

Posted by Kevin at 11:06 AM

Classic Concerns about WM Supercenter Impact in Rural Area

Kathy Wagstaff of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution relates the concerns of local residents (rr) as WM and others sully pristine wilderness with shopping options:

When Jack and Mary Ann Lockaby moved their family to Cherokee County in 1975, Eagle Drive was a dirt road, and children could run through the woods to Lake Allatoona without seeing a house or a person.

Thirty years later, the Lockabys, along with son Keith, are still living in a small house near the corner of Bells Ferry Road on Eagle Drive. Instead of being surrounded by trees and solitude, the family is surrounded by bulldozers, surveyors and sewer lines.

"Some people call this progress," said Keith Lockaby, 44. "But I don't know."

The "progress" promises a change in the way people live, work and drive in south Cherokee. A transformation has begun at the intersection of Ga. 205 and Eagle Drive with a new 30-acre, 211,461 square foot Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The store is scheduled to open Wednesday and will employ about 450 people. It includes a grocery, retail shop and automobile center.

Posted by Kevin at 11:03 AM

Writing Letters to Editors

The Wal-Mart controversy can get very heated, but its best for all sides to keep this simple piece of advice at heart: keep it short, man! Nobody wants to read a 1,000-word dissertation on why you think Wal-Mart isn't right for Papillion.

I think there's good reason the editors chose WM for the example...

Posted by Kevin at 10:57 AM

Putting Affordable Housing Next to WM?

Many residents complain when a Wal-Mart moves near them, but Wal-Mart doesn't complain when new residences are built next door:


A developer with plans to build 49 townhomes across the highway from Wal-Mart...

The Overlook project is located on a 6-acre parcel of land on the east side of U.S. Highway 550/160 south of town, across from Wal-Mart...

Emil Wanatka, an agent for Tarpon West LLC, hopes to build on the success of the Parkside Terrace townhome project in South Durango by offering reasonably priced housing close to downtown.

"We see this as providing good-quality attainable housing to people who can live close-in to the amenities of Durango where existing infrastructure is already in place," he said.

Wanatka hopes to price the two- and three-bedroom units starting at $225,000. The fourth quarter median selling price for townhomes in Durango was $259,000.

If built, the Overlook would be a residential project in a sea of commercial buildings....

There is a pedestrian crosswalk at the Wal-Mart intersection, and sidewalks along the frontage road to the Overlook property, Wanatka said. He believes the project's location is an asset.

"The Wal-Mart center provides a great amenity - there are restaurants, an eye doctor, groceries, a liquor store, a movie-rental business ... and with improvements to State Highway 3 and the frontage road, access to town is very convenient," he said.

Posted by Kevin at 10:54 AM

Wal-Mart in an Obituary

I do not wish to disrespect this man, but I know that many people will be revolted by the inclusion of Wal-Mart in his obituary:

ARMSTRONG, Tyrone Andrew, 54, of Beechgrove, Tennessee died Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at the VA Hospital. A native of Durant, Oklahoma he was the son of the late Arward Andrew and Louise Robinson Armstrong. He was an associate at Wal-Mart and a Vietnam Veteran serving in the United States Army 1969-1982.
Thank you for serving your country. Rest in peace.

Posted by Kevin at 10:49 AM

Wal-Mart Needs a Blog

I agree with Rick Bruner, Wal-Mart needs a blog, not just full-page advertisements and a new web site.

Posted by Kevin at 9:31 AM

Wal-Mart's Joint Chinese Venture with CITIC

Wal-Mart is now set to be a dominant player in the Chinese retail market:

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., will team up with CITIC Pacific Co. Ltd. to open hundreds of stores in China over the next five years, the Beijing-backed conglomerate said Wednesday.

Posted by Kevin at 7:20 AM

January 18, 2005

And the Feds Keep Giving...

If you were a Wal-Mart executive, would you turn down the free money continually flowing from local and federal authorities?

PRINCESS ANNE - Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s newest planned distribution center could receive up to $1.3 million in federal aid following approval of a Community Development Block Grant application by Somerset County Commissioners this month.

The bulk of the grant - $810,000 - would help fund Wal-Mart's purchase of land for the proposed center on Revells Neck Road in Westover. Currently, the land is owned by Mitchell Bonneville Jr., who operates a borrow pit on the site.

Why exactly are the Feds giving out money to fill holes in the ground?
Excavation typically leaves a shallow to moderately deep hole in the ground. If left in that condition, these pits can be a site of severe erosion and sediment runoff to adjacent streams and wetlands. They also can become breeding sites for mosquitoes. Borrow pits have notoriously been used as garbage pits in some neighborhoods. In other words, borrow pits can be an unattractive nuisance and an overall eyesore.
While WM might be getting $1.3 million, the Feds gave out $1.3 billion in similar State-based block grants in 2004.

(H/T Drudge)

Posted by Kevin at 4:51 PM

H. Lee Scott's Letter to Americans

The Box Tank has the full page H. Lee Scott advertisement in PDF format.

Posted by Kevin at 11:12 AM

Former WM Store Empty - Not WM's Fault!

Many people accuse WM of keeping former stores empty so that the competition won't enter. While the logic is tenuous at best, here's an example of how even third-parties have a hard time redeveloping after a WM expands down the road:

Although no lease agreements have been signed, there continues to be interest in the former Wal-Mart building in the Huck Finn Shopping Center....

The building which once housed the Wal-Mart store has sat empty since Wal-Mart's new supercenter in the River Bend Shopping Center, located just west of the Huck Finn Shopping Center, opened in April 2002.

In December, when it was announced that the Huck Finn Shopping Center, including the former Wal-Mart building, had been purchased by Equity Investment Group of Fort Wayne, Ind., Dennis Callison, director of acquisitions for EIG, indicated that consideration would be given to dividing up the building's 95,000 square feet of space to accommodate two or three retailers.

Posted by Kevin at 10:56 AM

WM Goes After Another Japanese Retailer, Daiei Inc.

Already taking stronger control over Seiyu, WM is poised to take Daiei out of the hands of the Japanese government:

The winning bidder for the government- led rescue of Daiei Inc., Japan's third-largest retailer, may be the group that can invest most, analysts say....

Under the plan the IRCJ announced Dec. 28, the sponsors must be prepared to invest at least $588 million in Daiei....

Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, has been trying to expand in Japan since it entered country in 2002 with a 6 percent stake in Seiyu Ltd., Japan's fourth-largest merchant.

Aeon and Ito-Yokado, Japan's No. 1 and No. 2 retailers, may not have Wal-Mart's financial stability to back Daiei as they struggle to bolster earnings amid nine straight months of falling retail sales...

Daiei, which runs 63 supermarkets and 182 general merchandise stores, said last month it will close 53 unprofitable outlets.

Daiei aims to cut its debt to $3.8 billion by February 2010, targeting $426 million operating profit -- sales minus the cost of goods sold -- in that year...

An optomistic forecast...

Posted by Kevin at 10:52 AM

18 Year Old Runs for Board, Likes WM Impact

Occassionally you read stories of high-schoolers running for office. This one is rather more pro-development than I was expecting:

WEST CITY-- Like many 18-year-olds, Christopher Kays will vote for the first time during the upcoming April 5 general election. However, what will separate Kays from other first-time voters is that the very first vote he casts will be for himself....

Kays was quick to answer when asked about his reasons for running and what he hopes to accomplish if elected.

"First of all, I think everybody should be concerned with what is going on in their community, their state and their country," Kays said. "But I want to see West City keep the ball rolling. We just picked up a Wal-Mart Supercenter, but I don't want West City to be known for just that. There is so much land in West City that can be developed for commercial or residential sites; we need to keep moving forward looking at that."

I had to read that twice....

Posted by Kevin at 10:46 AM

Freed Killer Goes to WM

This kind of reminds me of Shawshank Redemption, when Brooks was freed into a world centered around automobiles:

Thirty-six hours after his first taste of freedom, former award-winning prison journalist Wilbert Rideau of Louisiana encountered a series of Rip Van Winkle experiences Monday.

A trip to Wal-Mart. Cell phones and e-mail. It's all new and strange, he said, after 44 years behind bars.

Posted by Kevin at 10:40 AM

Bag Man Having Time of His Life

Many people have emailed me wondering why I never posted about the Wal-Mart greeter who was fired for modifiying this photo, by sticking his own head on the body, and then showing a printout to customers.

Well here it is, by popular demand.

bagman.jpg

Folks, I've known about the original photo for 6 months, and found it rather gross for my taste. Anyway, the guy who was fired has no regrets, because the media has been phoning and knocking on his door constantly.:

Muscatine, Ia. - In retrospect, Dean Wooten says, maybe getting fired from Wal-Mart was a blessing in disguise.

For one thing, he had time to volunteer, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army almost a dozen times over Christmas. For another, he's been able to use the down time to add a new swarm to his beekeeping operation.

But mostly, he says, people sure seem to be enjoying the reason for his firing.

That photo. The computer-generated one of him appearing to be wearing nothing but a Wal-Mart sack.

"I thought everybody would get a laugh out of it," Wooten says.

They sure have.

Still, he wants to go back to WM; he loves working there! Shhh, don't tell the unions!
Wooten said he doesn't agree with the judge's decision to deny him unemployment benefits, but he has no beef with Wal-Mart. In fact, he said, he misses his co-workers. Store officials have told him he can reapply for his greeter job again in six months, and he intends to.

"I just loved that job," he said. "Every morning, I'd say, 'Good morning. Enjoy your shopping at Wal-Mart.' And when they left, I'd say, 'Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart.' I loved meeting the people."

Posted by Kevin at 10:31 AM

January 17, 2005

WM Manager Confronts Reporter in Parking Lot

Lee Oliver has a very short video (link) of a Wal-Mart manager allegedly committing battery on him:

Port Saint Lucie
(Florida)-- January 8th 2005. While responding to an EMS call at the Wal-Mart Superstore on Highway US 1 in Port St. Lucie, Florida, photo journalist Lee Oliver was allegedly assaulted by the stores co-manager known (at this time) only as Phillip. What began as investigating a story of a collapsed customer (later, facts proved that it was merely an employee who felt ill.) Mr. Oliver entered the store to request permission for an on-camera interview but was denied and asked to leave the store. Mr. Oliver left immediately without incident. After leaving the store Mr. Oliver began shooting what is known as background footage of the ambulance in the parking lot. Whilst filming the ambulance he was approached by the co-manager known as Phillip. Phillip asked Mr. Oliver to turn off the camera then grabbed the lens of the video camera. Mr. Oliver asked why Phillip was was so adamant regarding the cessation of filming, but received no answer. The co-manager briefly released the camera, however when Mr. Oliver identified the co-manager by name and title, Phillip responded by quickly grabbing the top of the cameras lens-hood and forcefully pushed it forward into Mr. Olivers' eye. This action caused bruising to Mr. Olivers' right eye and caused damage to the video camera.
IMHO, Philip's actions were wrong, but not "assault." Clearly, the man was foolish, had no right to stop Mr. Oliver from filming in the parking lot, and should have not touched his equipment. But personally, if that's "assault," I've been assaulted worse over 100 times by people bumping into me accidentally. The police were right; touching the camera forcefully was (allegedly) battery (link):

Battery is the intentional touching or striking of a victim against his or her will causing the victim harm.
Battery is a first degree misdemeanor in Florida (link) punishable with up to a year in prison, although I think if convicted the man would receive only a fine.

Also, I'd like to see the claim Mr. Oliver has made with the insurance company, and whether or not that claim has been reviewed, because from the video it doesn't appear that the camera was actually damaged (it's hard to tell).

In addition, how do the inactions of WM's insurance company imply that "Wal-Mart either does not take alleged attacks by managers seriously, or that there are so many complaints that it takes quite a while to get back to all of the alleged victims." ?

As for WM, it MUST do better job than this apparently lackadaisical response, especially when dealing with indy media.

Posted by Kevin at 1:01 PM

H. Lee Scott in New York

When the CEO and CFO of Wal-Mart decide to offer interviews in New York, big media decided it would give away free adverts to the pro-WM side:

For an executive who rarely talks with the media, it was a hectic 24 hours. After granting interviews to USA Today and the Associated Press, H. Lee Scott Jr., Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s generally low-profile chief executive, sat down for on-camera interviews yesterday with ABC, CNN, Fox and CNBC.

Anyone who somehow missed the TV blitz could have opened one of 100 newspapers across the country, from the Wall Street Journal to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and read a full-page advertisement bearing his signature. Or they could have visited a new Web site, www.walmartfacts.com, to read yet another statement from Scott.

I saw several of these interviews, and was dutifully unimpressed; Mr. Scott comes off to me as quiet, solid, competent, and completely toothless--which is the image he wanted.

News Hounds notes that Fox gave an extraordinary amount of time--commercial-free:

The company has been accused of such things as discrimination, human rights violations, paying miserably low wages, destroying local environments, locking employees inside its stores, invading residential neighborhoods, creating traffic congestion, noise and light pollution, contributing to urban sprawl, and censoring the books, DVDs and videos it sells.

None of that mattered until Walmart was surprised by lower than expected 2004 holiday sales numbers. Now it's hitting the road, trying to convince the public that it cares.

Fox News was happy to lend a hand on Thursday (January 13, 2005) by giving the first 13 commercial-free minutes of Your World w/Neil Cavuto to Walmart's CEO, Lee Scott....

Nonetheless, I was touched to see these two corporations working together.

Here's a partial transcript of the Cavuto interview. And here's full video of Scott on CNBC (warning, requires IE with Flash).

Also of note is a Q and A with H. Lee Scott. I think he's best here:

Q: Why do you attribute the frustration to associates?

A: They know the wage they make. They know they're full time or, if not, working the hours they want to work. They know they have health insurance. They know they have discounts. They know they have 401(k)s, profit sharing.

If anything, the negative press and the criticism take away the opportunity to feel as good as you can feel about your employment.

Yes, with 1.2 milion Americans employed by the company, it's truly shocking how few of them are vocal against the company. But he's not glossing over the difficulties a new WM can bring to a "town":
But Scott said he does not dismiss concerns that people express when Wal-Mart wants to open a new store.

"I think there's lots of questions when Wal-Mart comes to a town that need to be answered. Not all of those questions are frivolous," he said.

Scott said he planned meetings with a variety of groups not associated with government to help explain Wal-Mart's employment practices, environment-related policies and how it deals with its suppliers. He would not name the organizations, saying did not want the groups to feel they were being used to garner media attention.

Personally, I think Mr. Scott is being had by organizations he has no chance of swaying; do the union sharks smell blood?

Posted by Kevin at 11:37 AM

MLK Day

A colorless equality was MLK's dream, not socialist tyrrany:

The concept is everyone that works benefits equally from what the world has to offer. If the home you want is valued at 1,000 hours of work. Then after one year you could buy the same home working at Walmart that the President of Walmart could, using the same credits.
Instead of requiring equal pay and benefits for all employees, which would destroy any company, Wal-Mart has an office of diversity relations with a black VP Esther Silver-Parker:
As vice president of diversity relations for Wal-Mart Stores, Esther Silver-Parker is responsible for diversity efforts related to Wal-Mart's supplier development program and its philanthropic and community relations programs. She also strengthens Wal-Mart's relationships with diversity leaders and organizations in the communities it serves....
The Wal-Mart diversity office was created in November 2003; before that WM never needed to use nonsensible corporate jargon about "workplace diversity", it just employed people regardless of color. But now WM is officially fully committed to a diverse workplace, with the corresponding programs and the like. Here's the fact sheet on diversity at WM.

Posted by Kevin at 10:56 AM

More on Not One Damn Dime Day

We previously noted the attempt by some activists to create a nationwide protest of Bush's Iraq policy by not spending a cent in retail stores on inauguration day. Now, Seth Leibsohn has another take:

I support your and all your friends' rights to your boycott, that too is a very American thing. I disagree with the merits of the boycott. But, while we disagree, can we at least agree that it is a wonderful thing to behold a country where one can peaceably protest and boycott? Iraq, I believe, will be such a country in toto very soon. For the last 25 years, it was not.
Here's a summary of links about NODDD; also, apparently some people argue that the protest will be ineffective, inciting an entry into Snopes:
As a functional protest, this one is equally off the mark. Although a boycott can be an active form of protest (even though boycott participants are in effect doing nothing, they're following a course of action that directly affects the object of their protest), boycotts succeed by causing economic harm to their targets, thereby putting them out of business or at least requiring them to change their policies in order to remain in business. But the target of this boycott isn't an entity that has the power to bring about the desired resolution (i.e., the government) � those who will be economically harmed by it are innocent business operators and their employees. These people have no power to set U.S. foreign policy or recall troops from Iraq, but they're the ones who would have to pay the price for this form of protest, incurring all their usual overhead costs (e.g., lighting, heat, refrigeration) to keep their businesses open and paying employees' salaries, all the while taking in little or no income. (And no, it doesn't all even out in the end � restaurants, for example, aren't going to recoup their lost business through boycott participants' eating twice as much the next day.)
What an extraordinarily sensible response...

Posted by Kevin at 10:33 AM

Who's the Retailer in India? Not WM

India's very own Sam Walton, Kishore Biyani, closely manages Pantaloon and Big Bazaar:

India�s own Sam Walton (the legendary promoter of Walmart) is quick to seize any advantage. Which is why the denim manufacturer who quit the trade because �it wasn�t creative enough� commands over 1.3 million sq ft of retail space. But even size hasn�t made a difference to Biyani�s vaulting ambitions and he�s on an even faster trajectory of growth. He�s booked over 4.5 million sq ft of space across the country, and will utilise 3 million sq ft by this year�s end in 23 Indian cities....

Even Biyani concedes, �We have a store opening virtually every fortnight; Ihave lost count now of how many I have opened.�

But don�t let Biyani fool you. He keeps a close watch over his empire with the assistance of his two brothers, who are directors in the company.

He might have over 6,000 employees and 300 managers, but the buck stops only with him. Every time a store opens, managers have to rush daily reports for the first 45 days, and it isn�t unusual for Biyani to be fixing any lacunae either over the phone or personally in the store.

Excellent article and personal profile... also, note the Kolkata region... if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere...

Posted by Kevin at 10:21 AM

January 14, 2005

WM Nursery Rhyme

The Washington Post ran a feature last November asking for modern "edgy nursery rhymes". WM took an honorable mention:

To Wal-Mart, to Wal-Mart,

my town's only store.

I swear that there used to be others before.

(Seth Brown, North Adams, Mass.)

Posted by Kevin at 12:55 PM

Shopping at WM is Like Smoking Crack?

Peter Chianca writes well but doesn't like WM very much:

Not that Wal-Mart has nothing to offer - there is that cheap film processing. And the cheap DVDs. And the cheap socks, gloves and pajamas. And the cheap ... Well, let's face it, it's all fairly cheap. But so is crack the first couple of times you get it. (And at least with crack you don't have to wait for 20 minutes before realizing what you're on isn't a line for a register, it's a pileup behind a cart that got caught between a stack of TVs and the giant singing Santa Claus.)
Don't take him literally...

Posted by Kevin at 12:51 PM

WM: Marxists vs. Misesians

William Anderson of the Mises Institute argues against David Batstone and David Chandler writing in Sojourners. The topic: Henry Ford's $5 a day minimum wage--in 1913--which I have previously calculatd, comes out to about $10 an hour in 2003 dollars. The latter write:

Nearly a century ago, Henry Ford planned for his employees to be his best customers. Challenging the conventional wisdom that the best way to maximize profits was to tailor your product to the wealthiest segment of society, Ford decided to market his black Model T as "America's Everyman car."

For Ford, mass production went hand-in-hand with mass consumption. He established a simple benchmark for worker compensation: His workers should be able to buy the product they were making. Ford promised a $5-a-day minimum wage for all his workers�twice the prevailing automobile industry average.


Anderson responds:
In economic parlance, Ford decided to pay an "efficiency wage," that is, a wage that substantially raises the employee's opportunity cost of quitting or losing a job. Payment of such a wage makes sense only when it results in substantial cost-cutting elsewhere, and in Ford's situation, that was exactly the case. The company's costs associated with turnover and training had become overwhelming, so by increasing pay and cutting working hours, Ford was able to realize substantial savings that were greater than the added amount of daily wages he was paying.

To put it another way, Ford was not engaging in an act of humanitarian charity, and, as Folsom has pointed out, that view came from Ford himself. The idea that his decision to raise wages somehow "helped lay the foundation for a rising middle class in America," as Batstone and Chandler claim is ludicrous, but entirely understandable when one fails to realize that living standards within a society rise only when productivity increases.

UPDATE: Our vulgar-idiot-of-the-day award goes to a commenter on this version of the Marxist article. I won't reprint the comment here, click on the link if you're interested.

Posted by Kevin at 11:55 AM

January 13, 2005

Walmartfacts.com

In case you missed it in the post below, WM's new website, Walmartfacts.com is chock full of interesting information--some original, some banal. To me, the information presented feels carefully selected, but far less so than the info on WM's opponents' websites. For example, WM opponents frequently discuss full-time employees quoting stats that include wages for full and part-timers. However, WM is clear that they're talking about full-timers only:

Currently, 74 percent of Wal-Mart�s hourly associates in the United States work full-time. That is well above the 20 - 40 percent typically found in the retail industry. Our average hourly wage for regular full-time associates in the U.S. is $9.68 an hour, almost double the federal minimum wage. Wal-Mart�s average full-time wage in urban areas is slightly higher than the national average. For example: Chicago, $10.69; Austin, TX, $10.69; Washington D.C./Baltimore, $10.08; Atlanta, $10.80; and in Los Angeles, $9.99.
I guess this all depends on your idea of urban! Just one thing: there are no Wal-Mart stores of any vareity inside of Washington, D.C. (check for yourself!), although they're peppered in the suburban D.C. metro region! And there is one WM just inside the outer ring of Baltimore, and several just outside... I'm sure WM opponents are just as innacurate with their use of "urban"...

Posted by Kevin at 10:54 AM

WM on the Offensive

Can a corporation buy a better "image"? WM thinks so, and will be spending big-bucks to counter its opponents' media advantage:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's biggest retailer, launched a national advertising campaign Thursday in an effort to burnish an image that has been tarnished by claims about its hiring practices, stance toward labor unions and actions against smaller competitors.

The company is running a full-page advertisement in more than a hundred newspapers, touting the number of jobs it plans to create in 2005, its employee-benefit packages and the diversity of its workers. The company also has started a Web site to support its campaign.

The ad, which is running in newspapers such as USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, says the company plans to create 100,000 U.S. jobs in 2005 and that 74 percent of its hourly employees work full-time.

"For too long, others have had free rein to say things about our company that just aren't true," Chairman Lee Scott said in a statement. "We've decided it's time to draw our own line in the sand."

First, all I can say on the matter is, "It's about damn time."

Second, let me be clear about ALP's mission: We are interested in describing the actual role of WM in the economy. ALP is driven first by curiosity--not policy or ideology. WM does not fund this site! Neither do unions! Except for Google advertising revenue--a total of $38 as of this morning, I have received no money to blog about WM. Neither has anybody else at ALP. Granted, I am an advocate of the free-market, but my cobloggers and commenters are whatever they want to be.

Third, when I can get a copy of the ad, I'll scan it in and post...

Fourth, we find out in the press release that WM has started a new website called Wal-Mart Facts, which includes a photo gallery and a video gallery.

Posted by Kevin at 10:26 AM

January 12, 2005

Is Wal-Mart a Buy?

squawk_box.gifCNBC TV Squawk Box is running a poll on whether WM stock is a buy, sell, or hold:

Wal-Mart's stock has done little over the last year, rising less than 1%.

What's your take on Wal-Mart shares? Tell "Squawk Box" what you think. Register your vote on the left, and e-mail "Squawk Box" to explain your thoughts.

Thomas Schoewe, the company's chief financial officer, is Squawk's guest host Thursday

The current results are not too promising for WM...

Posted by Kevin at 8:34 PM

When Will the Criminals Learn?

Conducting petty theft at Wal-Mart might seem like a good idea to those hard pressed for cash; that is, unless you think of robbing a 79 year old woman like Faye Sayer:

It was Monday, Faye was shopping at Wal-Mart in Exeter Township when a man walked up and stole her purse. So, Faye went after him, grabbed the suspect by the lining of his coat, and didn't let go!

"I was yelling 'somebody's got my purse, please help' and nobody came. So I hung on to him until I fell down."

She held on long enough for Wal-Mart security to arrive and hold the man until the police arrived

Fool.

Posted by Kevin at 8:28 PM

Deer Take Notice

Apparently, building Wal-Mart supercenters all over the land has not harmed the deer population in the slightest; regardless of what you put on their territory, deer will adapt.

Posted by Kevin at 8:24 PM

Independent Bookstores Struggle (& Succeed!) Against Giant Chains

The key to making a profit from an independent bookstore is NOT to compete on price with the big chains and superstores, but on service, quality, and experience:

For owners of independent bookstores, their work is often a labor of love. Struggling to compete with super-sized bookstores, discount retailers and the Internet, many neighborhood bookstores have found they are competing in a much broader marketplace than when they opened shop.

�It has been a struggle,� said Jane Stroh, owner of The Bookstore in downtown Glen Ellyn. �But I think it has been a struggle fro all independent businesses in the face of large corporations.�

Stroh, who bought the store in 1997, said her decision to operate a small bookstore was one she made for the joy and love of books.

�If I were looking to make a lot of money, I wouldn�t do it,� she added. An employee of The Bookstore since 1985, Stroh went in with her eyes open, well aware of the complications of competing in the book market.

�The competition isn�t other (independent) booksellers, we work together,� she said. �National chains are certainly competition, but a lot of us have made it through.�

I have a love of independent booksellers, and patronize their stores. I can tell you personally that you DO compete against one another, as well as Wal-Mart.

Posted by Kevin at 8:21 PM

January 11, 2005

Filling Empty Shells

Via The Filter and The Box Tank, Julie Christensen's Big Box Reuse:How Communities are Reusing the Big Box. I particularly like the WM that became an indoor raceway.

Posted by Kevin at 2:02 PM

WM Prepares to Enter Russia Through Turkey

When I noted that WM planned to buy into Migros Turk, a Turkish big-box chain, I failed to note that it is one of the largest retailers in Russia.

Doing business in Russia means one thing: extensive bribing of public officials at every level. That's how stuff gets done. Hence, times are good for officials as there is a booming commercial real estate sector in Russia.

Despite the growing number of projects in the capital, however, experts say development activity is gradually shifting to the regions, where returns are higher and competition is much lower.

"Retail chains are growing much faster than the Moscow construction market," said Maxim Gasiev, head of retail at Colliers International.

"This was the beginning year of true regional expansion," Kershaw said. "The year was average for Moscow, but truly exceptional for the regions."

In March, IKEA opened its first Russian store outside Moscow and St.Petersburg -- in Kazan -- and is planning to open stores in 10 other cities with a population of more than 1 million.

Turkey's Ramenka, which owns Ramstore supermarkets, in addition to opening several stores in Moscow, entered the St. Petersburg market in 2004 and is now also present in such regional cities as Krasnoyarsk, Rostov-on-Don, Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod.

Ramenka is 50% owned by Migros Turk, so WM would be buying into an expanding successful hypermarket business...

Posted by Kevin at 1:47 PM

January 10, 2005

Defending the Urban Core

The New York State Progressives summarize numerous efforts by local governments and activist groups to delay, reform, and quash Wal-Mart's entry into the Urban core:

As Wal-Mart arrives at its last unconquered market � urban America � city residents are fighting back to protect their communities by blocking or modifying big-box developments, sometimes through reforming economic development subsidies.

Reforms won or proposed by grassroots groups in Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, San Francisco, Hartford and smaller cities make it clear that Wal-Mart vs. urban America is a big new chapter in the fight for accountable development.

Question: I do not want to denigrate the serious efforts of sincere people, but I must as how many, and what percent of, "city residents" actually "fought back"? Their efforts are real and important, but it is a dramatic oversimplification to imply that they are spearheaded by truly grassroots groups. Those opposing Wal-Mart form a network exhibiting both weak and strong ties, encompassing formal organizations and ad-hoc assemblies. Money, power, information, activist tactics, press contacts, and legal help can and do flow between nodes of this network...

Posted by Kevin at 11:48 AM

Wal-Mart Clone in Finland

Finland for Thought recently posted on Wal-Mart in Finland, which is all about the nonreaction of Finns to a WM clone:


Wal-mart in the United States and Prisma/K-Citymarket are identical, they both are gigantic... But the two countries appear to have different attitudes towards them�

Americans have a �love-hate� relationship with Wal-Mart. They love to shop there, but hate to give their money to an evil huge corporation who causes smaller stores to close its doors.

�but I don�t see the same reaction in Finland.... Why isn�t Prisma & K-Citymarket looked in the same light as Wal-Mart in the U.S.?

Let's examine that last question; is Wal-Mart actually considered evil by most Americans?

1) In the U.S., right-wing radio personalities do not talk about Wal-Mart at all. (That's my experience, please correct me if I'm wrong). The attack on WM is an attack almost always from the left, including the religious left. And it is up to "the left" to substantiate claims that most Americans dislike WM or have a love-hate relationship with it. I'll grant that some do--let's say ten million do. That is 3% of the population--not most Americans. The onus is not on WM to show that people like it. It is not surprising that many small businesses, The Nation, PBS, Bill Moyer, and unions all agree that WM is bad; their own ideological and/or financial interests are opposed to WM's success. That WM protests at city council meetings are dominated by anti-WM activists is not at all surprising; what is surprising is that so many potential shoppers show up to defend WM. Either way, these anecdotes say nothing comprehensive about the median of American sentiment regarding WM. As far as I know, no serious study has demonstrated that there is an increasing anti-WM feeling among the population.

2) Here's a quick nonscientific poll of American sentiment. Technorati tracks around 5.8 million blogs. In the past 90 days, 53 bloggers have written "I love Wal-Mart" 123 bloggers have written "I hate Wal-Mart". You say, aha! That's over 2 to 1 against Wal-Mart. True, but 5.8 million bloggers have not written either. That's a ratio of 5,800,000 to 200 or 29,000 to 1. Alternatively, there were 33,000 posts that used the word "Wal-Mart" in the last 90 days; assume each of those blogs posted about WM only once, then for every blog that wrote about Wal-Mart, 175 didn't. Regarding WM, indifference dominates the American temperament.

3) Frankly, most Americans are not in a love-hate relationship with any political party, corporation, union, charity, church, government, etc. That does not describe the American temperament, which I would say is more aptly described by "most Americans just live their lives". It is not true that most Americans "hate to give their money to an evil huge corporation" that closes smaller stores. Wal-Mart does not close smaller stores by merely opening its doors; Americans who prefer to not shop at smaller stores force smaller stores to shut down by shopping at WM.

4) In general, Americans do not hate evil huge corporations. Granted, a vocal minority does. But most Americans love their cars (produced by evil huge multinational corporations), and many are strangely fond of their Japanese-American-German auto brand; most Americans eat at evil huge international food chains like McDonalds.

Finally, the extremely strong role of trade unions in Finland--to the point where the have a major impact on economic decisions, means there is little union muckraking in Finland regarding the WM clone. In 2000:

The trade unions in Finland play the key role in preserving the interests of big business against those of their members. The SAK, the largest trade union federation, which mainly organises manual workers, has 1.1 million members out of a total workforce of around 2.4 million people. The STTK white-collar union federation has 655,000 members, and the federation of academic professionals' unions has 375,000 members. Taken together this gives a figure for union membership of around 80 percent, similar to the rest of Scandinavia, and far in advance of most other countries in the world. Many unions also have significant student, unemployed and retired memberships.
The real hatred for WM in the U.S. is the labor-left's disgust at WM's success at keeping away unions, and competition with unionized stores...

Posted by Kevin at 10:54 AM

January 8, 2005

Today's Interesting Links

I'm busy today, so we'll lump the rest of the links into one post:

1) Motley Fool: Wal-Mart Paints Bull's-Eye on Itself

Yesterday, Wal-Mart admitted that it allowed people to take possession of firearms without knowing whether the buyers were criminals.

The dots are plotted. All that's needed now is to find an instance in which a gun sold by Wal-Mart between 2000 and 2003 was, or eventually is, used in a crime. At that point, I'd expect the trial lawyers to start connecting the dots.


2. Bowling Green Daily News: Ex-Wal-Mart location to get new tenants

A major redevelopment project under way at the former Wal-Mart building on Scottsville Road will provide as many as 10 new retail spaces...

The old dilapidated Wal-Mart building has been unsightly to passing motorists for nearly a decade, according to the building�s new co-owner and developer Mark Williams of Williams Properties.

�I think if you took a survey, most people would agree it was an eyesore,� he said. He explained how the new development will rejuvenate the commercial center adjacent to Greenwood Mall.

�We�re putting in a new roof, a new parking lot. It will be a first-class establishment when we�re done and you won�t even be able to tell that it used to be Wal-Mart.�

The ambitious project is not a new concept.

�My partner Jim Martens and I have done similar projects with three old Wal-Marts, this will be our fourth,� he said.

3. Appeal-Democrat: Judge won't halt Wal-Mart project

Saying he found no immediate "irreparable harm," a Yuba County judge on Friday declined to issue a temporary restraining order to stop construction of Wal-Mart's Supercenter in Linda....

The Linda store has been open for more than year, yet "not once did Yuba County Citizens for a Quality Environment or any of its members utter a single concern about any alleged environmental impacts from either the construction or the operation of the store," she wrote. "Despite their apparent lack of concern, (they) now vigorously oppose the expansion of the store into a Supercenter."

Kopper has developed a "cottage industry" of filing lawsuits challenging Wal-Mart Supercenters, she wrote. His other cases are against Wal-Marts in Yuba City, Anderson, Redding, Gilroy and Stockton, Briggs said.

Posted by Kevin at 12:28 PM

America's Vanilla

At Chicken Soup for the Vegan Soul, we find that Wal-Mart is not above silly renaming:

At Wal-Mart, they call vanilla ice cream "America's Vanilla" now, because French Vanilla must have bothered someone. It's not much more subtle than "Freedom Vanilla." Pretty soon, they'll have petitioned Bonne Maman preserves to change their name to Soccer Mom jelly.

Posted by Kevin at 12:20 PM

January 7, 2005

The Box Tank (UPDATED)

Please note the recent & excellent posts about Wal-Mart on The Box Tank--in particular the one about Wal-Mart as Total City and the one discussing the various store styles and designs that WM has cooked up for those who have complained about the standard blue box.

UPDATE: Make sure to see the picture of WM, Mountain Style

Posted by Kevin at 5:06 PM

WM Newspaper Ads Successful

Editor & Publisher gleefully notes that WM's print advertising yielded good results:

Wal-Mart's belated strategy of advertising in newspapers to boost sales appears to have worked.

In rare interviews granted to The New York Times, Wal-Mart executives said they saw immediate results when placing ads in newspapers after a bleak Black Friday.

Posted by Kevin at 2:03 PM

WM Settles Gun Lawsuit

As noted earlier, WM no longer sells firearms in CA. That might change in the future, as it settled a lawsuit by paying the government $14.5 million:

The settlement of the largest of its kind since Lockyear's office created its firearms division in 1999. Wal-Mart agreed to stop sales of firearms in California last year; the settlement calls for the retailer to reform its practices if it resumes the sale of guns....

Lockyer said that in agreeing to the settlement, Wal-Mart "cooperated in trying to respond to our demands that they observe our laws so that ex-felons, mentally ill and other prohibited [people] don't get weapons."

Posted by Kevin at 11:19 AM

2 Fast Company Articles

Fast Comany mentions Wal-Mart in two recent articles:

1. Solving Poverty Profitably

American and European businesses have to go back and look at their own roots. Sears was created to serve the poor. Singer sewing machines innovated with a scheme to make consumption possible by allowing customers to pay $5 a month instead of $100 at once. The world's largest company today, Wal-Mart, was created to serve poor people.

2. How to Fix K-Mart

Bill Chidley, chief creative officer, Design Forum

"The radical approach would be an altruistic retail concept. If we shop at Wal-Mart to be good fiscal managers and at Target to be hip, maybe we could shop at Kmart to give something back. Kmart becomes K for care, K for community. I'll put up with tiles that don't match, and I won't care if I pay 25 cents more for Tide if I know 20 cents is going to the high school."

Posted by Kevin at 11:15 AM

RFID = Too Much Data?

Our previous posts on RFID (1,2,3,4,5) failed to note the important role the Department of Defense is having on current RFID implementation:

Wal-Mart isn't the only organization with a January 2005 deadline. Although the U.S. Department of Defense has been working with RFID technology for more than a decade, the department has selected two pilot depots - one in California and another in Pennsylvania - to use the technology to hasten getting equipment, food and clothing to war theaters.

"Everybody's putting on those tags because of mandates by the Department of Defense and Wal-Mart," says Dr. Can Saygin, assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering at UMR. "But companies don't know what to do with the data because the tags are going to tell you they are there every split second. If you start storing the data, you're going to need a lot of memory and capability to process the data and make sound decisions."

This is a serious problem, if you intend to store all that data permanently, which seems rather pointless to me.

Posted by Kevin at 11:09 AM

Opposition to Queens, NY WM Heats Up

As we noted here, Wal-Mart wants to enter Queens by revamping a run-down site in Rego park. Well, some people will have none of that:

A group of labor leaders, small businesses and politicians gathered yesterday at New York City Hall to denounce Wal-Mart Stores' plan to build its first store in the city. The rally's participants accused H. Lee Scott Jr.'s giant chain of labor violations, unfair business practices and driving local competitors out of business.
The article notes that Target, Home Depot, and Costco are already in the area... In my mind, this means it will be EXTREMELY difficult to craft legal language to prevent WM from entering...

Posted by Kevin at 11:02 AM

January 6, 2005

Best Buy vs. Wal-Mart

Business 2.0 is profiling the unique sales culture at Best Buy and how it is being tweaked to compete with Wal-Mart. The article is available to subscribers only, but here's an excerpt:

The colder reality is that Wal-Mart (WMT) is coming. About a year ago, the retail behemoth began a massive push into the higher-end consumer electronics that have been Best Buy's most lucrative domain. As always, Wal-Mart is ruthlessly cutting prices -- the same formula that the company, with 2003 sales of $256.3 billion, has used to steamroll rivals in virtually every retail category it's ever entered.

According to the article, Best Buy's approach centers on uptraining "blueshirts" (those people you see on the floor) to focus on providing complete solutions to customer needs as a way to increase the total dollar amount of each sale. Some analysts call the strategy risky--arguing that low-level employees (who aren't paid on commission, by the way)--will not be up to the task.

I give Best Buy a little more credit than that, and Wal-Mart a little less.

As an employee of a high-end audio electronics manufacturer, I wonder how successful Wal-Mart will be in meeting its goals. High-priced electronics purchases are moments to savor for most buyers. The Wal-Marts in Phoenix metro and its suburbs are noisy, crowded, and unpleasant.

And now that I think about it, the last five trips I made to Best Buy I was personally greeted at the door and an associate in the store always asked if I needed assistance.

Posted by Brett at 12:12 AM

January 5, 2005

Maggie Bree Says: Pay Attention People!

Maggie Bree (who lives in in South Nashville, Tennessee) blogged a blog post today concerning Wal-Mart building a new super store in or near her backyard.

Interesting read; includes several e-mails between her and a city council member who responded, but is someone who seems prone to fat fingering (or, Fat Finger Disease) as well as other typo's, especially since they have not figured out how to use spell check yet.

An example of one such fat finger in the city councilor's e-mail is: Wak-mart. Must be a Freudian slip on their part I guess. Yet it certainly is a good name for that particular big box chain, if you ask me anyway! [smile]

Read Maggie's post, here.

By the way, it is Maggie's Birthday today! (here): Happy Birthday Maggie!!!

[came across her blog via Kevin Barbieux, The Homeless Guy blog; believe it or not, it is also Kevin's Birthday today as well (here); what a small world! Happy Birthday Kevin!!!]

Posted by Morgan at 5:45 PM

Selling Booster Seats in NC

A new state law requires children under 8 and/or 80 lbs to ride in a booster seat; this has North Carolina parents scrambling to comply with the law:

A new state law that requires children under age 8 or 80 pounds to ride in car seats has caused a run on the equipment in stores around North Carolina.

A dozen or more stores in the Charlotte region sold out of car seats early this week. A Wal-Mart in Gastonia sold 71 on Tuesday alone.

"They are just flying off the shelves," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Suzanne Haney. "We are getting shipments, but they are selling as fast as they are coming in."

The new law that took effect Jan. 1 aims to protect children who are too large for a car seat but still too small for seat belts. The booster props up the child so a vehicle's seat belt fits properly. Violating the law carries a $25 fine and $100 in court costs as well as two driver's license points.

Posted by Kevin at 2:10 PM

ALP Featured on Arkansas Times Blog

It's nice to get a nod from the mainstream media, even if only on a blog:

Wal-Mart obsessives probably know about this website already. Always Low Prices does a little reporting and commentary and rounds up items from the world press about Arkansas's huge retailer. A quick glance indicates it's relatively agnostic on Wal-Mart -- a chronicler rather than an unrelenting critic or sycophant. But you can't say the same about people who post comments on blog materials. Some of those comments delve into company gossip and innuendo. Not that we'd ever read such stuff.
I'd post gossip to, but I'm not good at it.

Posted by Kevin at 11:50 AM

How to Steal from Wal-Mart

Is your local Wal-Mart lax enough to let this happen?

One man made off with more than some early morning deals New Year's Day, stealing thousands of dollars worth of jewelry from the Walmart in Springfield [, Oregon].

Store surveillance cameras caught the thief in action, both as he stole the jewelry and later when he returned with several friends.

No word on how much or what was taken. Sergeant Mike McCarthy, with the Springfield Police, says he's surprised at the boldness of the theft. "Usually not so brazen to do it when there are employees walking around. Obviously they could look over and see him and say 'hey he's not supposed to be behind the jewelry counter'."

Obviously they didn't.

Posted by Kevin at 11:46 AM

Hannaford Squeezes Out WM

An interesting letter to the editor in the Augusta, Maine Kennebec Journal:

Elderly people and others who live in the area can safely walk to the Willow Street store without fear of being run down trying to cross the street at the rotary. Unless I am off base, I thought the Hannaford management was all about serving the needs of the public. There is already one super-size Hannaford off Western Avenue. Do we really need two super-size Hannafords in Augusta? Are they trying to run Shaw's, WalMart, and Sam's Club out of business? If there really is such a need for another Hannaford store, why not locate it somewhere else where it makes more sense?

Hugh E. Sipowicz

Augusta

Actually Hannaford is just as greedy as the rest of us, Hugh. And it would definitely like to run WM out of business.

Posted by Kevin at 11:42 AM

WM Tsunami Relief

The Wal-Mart foundation gives $2 million to the American Red Cross for Tsunami relief efforts:

Wal-Mart announced today the Wal-Mart & SAM'S CLUB Foundation will make an immediate $2 million contribution to the Red Cross in specific support of the Tsunami relief efforts. The company will also establish collection points in all of its Wal-Mart stores (Nachrichten), Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, SAM'S CLUB and distribution locations in the U.S. Customers and associates will be able to make cash contributions at marked containers in each store or club and also online at walmart.com and samsclub.com.

In addition, to assist customers attempting to help family and friends in the affected areas, Wal-Mart has reduced the cost of wiring money via MoneyGram in its stores to individuals in the region. Wal-Mart also will allow free wire transfers for customers who send an Express Payment to the Red Cross Tsunami Fund.

Posted by Kevin at 11:37 AM

Healthy Gains in Sales

Reporters are now writing that WM Christmas sales were "healthy" in 2004, since they've finally realized what Wal-Mart counted on all along:

The last-minute surge in sales was helped by the shopping spree with the use of gift cards that make up 8% of the total sales this year and can be booked by retailers only after they are redeemed. The holiday period sales that account for 23% of retailers� revenue for the year showed solid results. A drop in oil prices as well as other reassuring macroeconomic data drove consumers into stores.

Earlier analysts issued less optimistic forecasts. MasterCard Advisors, a consulting unit of MasterCard International, projected an increase in holiday consumer spending of 8.1% compared to last year, while the National Retail Federation projected a 4.5% increase. The difference in numbers is explained by the fact that MasterCard Advisors includes in this calculations both online sales and sales of gift cards, while NRF only accounts for only a part of online shopping and excludes gift cards.

Posted by Kevin at 11:34 AM

January 3, 2005

Impact of no WM Supercenter Near the White House

Did you know that the closest WM Supercenter to the White House is 48 miles away--in Fredericksburg, VA? That helps explain why in the DC Metro area, WM is not in the top 5 of grocery sales, and in fact is almost completely absent:

At stake for the supermarkets is the $8.2 billion a year that area shoppers spend on groceries. For shoppers it will mean more choice and, the newer chains say, more competition on price and service. For workers, it poses a challenge to organized labor because only Giant, Safeway and Shoppers Food Warehouse are unionized.

Giant Food LLC, with 130 stores, controls 42 percent of the local supermarket business. Safeway Inc., with 107 stores, has 26 percent of the market. Shoppers Food Warehouse Corp. is a distant third with 39 stores and 13 percent of the market. The market figures were compiled by Food World, a Columbia-based trade publication.

The article doesn't even mention Wal-Mart, even though Wal-Mart has been the number 1 grocer in the US since 2002.

Posted by Kevin at 9:40 AM

WM December Sales now at 3%

Same store sales for the December period are 3% higher instead of 2% higher. ALP readers will not be shocked, since we informed you that Wal-Mart itself announced before Thanksgiving that they were expecting a later shopping season in 2004:

Wal-Mart Stores said it now expects December sales to be at the high-end of its previous forecast, boosted by better-than-expected sales in the weekend after Christmas.

Posted by Kevin at 9:32 AM

Texas Grocer Competes with WM

In its sprint to become the nation�s biggest grocer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has built hundreds of "supercenters" across the country and, along the way, forced others to dance to its tune.

But in Texas, a private family grocery chain is teaching Wal-Mart a thing or two about the food business.

Charles E. Butt and his HEB supermarkets have found a formula for not only surviving, but thriving in the same markets as Wal-Mart by playing off a simple creed: "We�re the local guy," Butt says.

From Texas-shaped tortilla chips to a special rubbing alcohol for keeping South Texans cool in the sizzling summers, HEB Grocery Co. has made catering to local tastes an obsession that has paid off with growing market share.

HEB�s 304 stores and $11 billion in annual sales are dwarfed by Wal-Mart, which has built more than 1,600 grocery-enhanced supercenters nationwide since 1988. But while HEB is relatively unknown among consumers outside of Texas, it�s providing a blueprint for competing successfully against Wal-Mart that�s being closely watched by the grocery industry. Even as Wal-Mart has spread throughout the state, with 213 supercenters, HEB has held on to market share above 60 percent in key cities, including Austin and San Antonio.

This was originally in the Wall Street Journal, but somebody did us the favor of making it free...

Posted by Kevin at 9:29 AM

January 2, 2005

Bentonville Regional Airport Almost Breaks Even

In shocking news, the regional airport near Wal-Mart headquarters makes almost enough revenue to pay for its own expenses--which is a near miracle for government run and subsidized enterprises. However, turning a profit by running the airport efficiently doesn't seem to be on the minds of the government managers. Instead they want to sell the land around the airport that Wal-Mart helped make valuable:

Alderman Ed Austin said traffic is the biggest problem facing the city of Bentonville, and the best way to alleviate these traffic woes is to extend 28 th Street. It is more important, he said, than keeping the airport.

Austin also said Benton County leaders determined that the airport no longer serves the public good, and thus, is no longer tax exempt. "I do know that the city is required to pay some property taxes on the airport," he said. "The question I have is why the city has to pay taxes."

It is not the entire airport that no longer serves the public good, however, it is only the parcels of land on which private property sits. Shirley Sandlin, Benton County tax assessor, said the airport remains tax exempt because it is municipally owned and used. Land that holds private property � hangers, for example � is taxed because that land serves private good, not public good. Until 2003, all airport land was tax exempt.

Stewart Smith, director of finance for the city of Bentonville, said the city paid nearly $8,000 to the county in property taxes in 2004; however the city has not passed on that cost to the lessees.

Chip Gibbons, who leases land at the airport on which he�s built an office and hangers, signed a lease agreement with the airport commission in 2001 to pay $55.60 per year for 1,112 square feet of ground. Although the rent amount seems low, Gibbons said it is comparable to rent at other airports. Regarding property taxes, the lease states that the lessee pays all taxes and assessments on the property. Gibbons said he has never been billed by the city for the newly imposed property taxes.

Airport Commissioner Bill Enfield said he doesn�t think the city�s proposal to close the airport has anything to do with a lack of revenue, traffic or property taxes. Land is the reason, Enfield said: "Mainly they see it as a big windfall for them."

Enfield said land appraised west of the airport several years ago carried a value of $50,000 per acre. He estimates that the airport land is now worth about $70,000 per acre. With 130 acres of land, that�s more than $9 million the city could get by selling to developers.

Andy Sams, an owner of Drake Aviation that operates out of Bentonville Municipal Airport, agrees. "I think the whole issue is to use the land of the airport to sell land to developers and put money in the hands of the city�s coffers."

In order to close the airport and potentially reap the benefits of the airport�s land, the city will have to remove itself from federal and private contracts.

As a recipient of federal funds, the city has agreed to operate for 20 years, said Roland Herwig, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman for the southwestern region. "They can come to the FAA and make a proposal to be absolved from that covenant," he said. "The airport is seen as a national resource. Since there is public money involved, they would have to submit a proposal to be absolved. The proposal would be reviewed very carefully, and that would take place in Washington."

Posted by Kevin at 10:03 AM

WM in American Canyon

Of course the big controversy in "Gateway to the Napa Valley" is Wal-Mart:

The fast-growing city of American Canyon showed its divisions with a debate that ignited the community, cast a long shadow over the city council race and has now become a court battle. The question of whether a 176,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter would buoy or sink the city's economy was the biggest story in Napa County commerce in 2004, and it remains unresolved.

Would Wal-Mart endanger local stores and supermarkets, or would it become the low-priced anchor to a mixed-use development that would create -- at long last -- a center to the city?

The furor started in late June, when Wal-Mart applied to build a Supercenter on a swath of land by Highway 29. City officials were quick to voice their support for the idea, seeing the retail giant as the only likely tenant to anchor the Napa Junction mixed-use project, which includes 286 apartments, retail stores, a hotel and a park.

But City Manager Mark Joseph was already getting an earful from angry residents. By the time a Sept. 9 Planning Commission meeting rolled around, the crowd of naysayers and supporters had swelled to more than 400, filling the Community Center Gym on Benton Way with tit-for-tat shouts and signs. News crews from around the Bay Area brought cameras to capture the increasingly common sight of residents of California communities battling Wal-Mart, the most successful company in the world but also one charged with paying low wages and undermining U.S. manufacturers by selling inexpensive imported goods.

The planning commission signed off on the design of the Wal-Mart and the City Council subsequently voted unanimously to uphold the Planning Commission's action. Opponents vowed revenge.

On election day the rift in the community showed itself in city council balloting. Residents voted to keep Mayor Lori Luporini, who supported the project, but at the same time elected Cindy Coffey, the leading Wal-Mart critic and at the time, the head of the anti-Wal-Mart forces of American Canyon Community United for Responsible Growth.

Coffey resigned from ACCURG a little more than a week later, the same day the group filed suit to overturn approval of the Supercenter. The next week another group backed by lawyers representing the Vallejo Food-4-Less filed a similar suit. The cases are still awaiting action.

NOTE: this is not about sprawl:
In stark contrast to the Wal-Mart tribulations, Napa saw its second Target open in October with no protest, bringing along with it the city's fifth Starbucks.

Posted by Kevin at 9:51 AM

New Service Finds Lower Food Prices than Wal-Mart's

I thought that it was pretty clear that if you're willing to buy only sale items, you can save a lot by shopping the regular grocery stores. Still, the Grocery Advantage will help you find the best deals:

The service, The Grocery Advantage, was launched in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky in December after opening in Columbus a year ago. It has more than 2,000 subscribers.

"I've been couponing for several years now and thought I was pretty thorough on catching the deals," Beneker said. "But after viewing the Grocery Advantage reports, I realized I was missing a lot."

Subscribers such as Beneker pay $15 to use The Grocery Advantage Web site, where they find local reports listing sale items at area Kroger and Meijer stores. They use the reports to find the best savings and to identify which coupons will help them save the most by matching them with the sale items and coupon promotions.

The detailed report lists the retail cost of a product and its cost savings with markdowns and coupons.

Kroger and Meijer are the only stores the service analyzes because they have the best deals when combined with coupons, said Michael Berberick, who founded the service with his wife, Montelle LeVering.

Bigg's was not competitive, said Berberick. And although Wal-Mart supercenters are typically reported as having the lowest prices, Berberick says The Grocery Advantage system regularly beats its prices.

"Several weeks ago we analyzed our best deals and compared them with everyday low prices at the one Wal-Mart Supercenter already in Cincinnati (in Fort Wright)," Berberick said. "The 125 items would cost about $265 at Wal-Mart and only $65 at Kroger and Meijer.

"We have data that shows price comparisons including shopping at Wal-Mart with and without coupons vs. Kroger and Meijer. Most people do not realize how great the savings can be at Kroger and Meijer. These kind of savings are not available at Wal-Mart."

Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that you would need only those 125 items... Also, if you ever meet me in person, NEVER--EVER--say that price is only now becoming important, like this fool insists:
"It's a very interesting and timely service because price is becoming increasingly important to shoppers," said Jon Hauptman with Willard Bishop Consulting
So when the average income was $1 an hour, people weren't concerned about prices???

Posted by Kevin at 9:43 AM