July 31, 2005

Research

Emek Basker, an assistant professor at University of Missouri, has done research on Wal-Mart. She recently published an article on employment in towns after Wal-Mart opens(Click here for working paper). Checking last night, I see she has an interesting paper on China and Wal-Mart:


Retail chains and imports from developing countries have grown sharply over the past 25 years. Wal-Mart's chain, which currently accounts for 10% of U.S. imports from China, grew 10-fold and its sales 90-fold over this period, while U.S. imports from China increased 30-fold. We relate these trends using a model in which scale economies in retail interact with scale economies in the import process. Combined, these scale economies amplify the effects of technological change and trade liberalization. Falling trade barriers increase imports not only through direct reduction of imputs costs but also through an expanded chain and higher investment in technology. This mechanism can explain why a surge in U.S. imports followed relatively modest tariff declines and why Wal-Mart abandonded its "Buy American" campaign in the 1990s. Also consistent with these facts, we show that tariff reductions have a greater effect the more advanced the retailer's technology. The model has implications for the pace of the product cycle and sheds light on the recent apparent acceleration in foreign outsourcing.

However, she doesn't really address what I was searching for: the origin of the 70% number. She does mention it though, it was then I realized the origin. I will write up a piece about it later.

Posted by Bob at 1:46 PM

July 29, 2005

That 70%

I would like to thank Kevin for pointing to the thread so that I could start a flame war(it was really bad day already). Mr. Massengale seems to not want to beleive that their is contradictory evidence to suggest that the number is wrong. If it was on Frontline, it must be true right? This flies in the face of what has been repeatedly published as Wal-Mart's imports from China and also the total amount of goods sold each year. The two numbers simply don't justify the often quoted 70% of goods at Wal-Mart being from China.

Now there is a Ted Fishman who makes a different claim, that being 70% of all goods at WM stores have a Chinese component of some sort. He made this claim supposedly in his book China Inc. This a is different assertion and I sent an email asking for verification and confirmation. I originally saw this at Wal-Mart Watch included in paragraph mentioning a dubious source of the fact 70% of all goods are from China.

In addition, I emailed a Sociologist from Duke University who was quoted in the Frontline piece and who Mr. Massengale also emailed and got a response. Professor Gereffi had written in his response that the often quoted trade number could 2 or 3 times larger because of indirect imports. That is products are imported by an American company rather than Wal-Mart directly. I will note that the published trade number is often mentioned as inluding both direct and indirect imports. Even taking, the 2 or 3 times number we still don't get near 70%. Also in his reply to Mr. Massengale, he claims that only 60% of WM goods are imported in total, directly contradicting the assertion that 70% are from China.

I have been searching far and wide for the origin of this number and have yet to find a seemingly reliable source. The closest I have come is to Mr. Fishman. Also, it is disappointing that no trade economist has taken this issue up. Much of the commentary isn't by economists at all, but rather sociologist. I had read through some the research on Professor Gereffi site and while it is very interesting work and applicable, we still don't seem to have reliable numbers nor research.

In the meantime, I'm going through some of my Investment Banking contacts to see what they have written. With the recent RMB revaluation, someone will have done work to see how this affects Wal-Mart.

Posted by Bob at 1:31 PM

July 26, 2005

WM More Popular Than...

Did you know that in March, Wal-Mart was more popular than the UN, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, the NRA, or either political party? I didn't. Astonishlingly, it's even more favorable than "big corporations" by a margin of 54.6 to 45.9! Only Social Security brought a warmer, fuzzier feeling to the ~1000 people polled.

The Democratic polling group GREENBERG QUINLAN ROSNER RESEARCH found out the following (see page 3):


Now, I'd like to rate your feelings toward some people and organizations, with one hundred meaning a very warm, favorable feeling; zero meaning a very cold, unfavorable feeling; and fifty meaning not particularly warm or cold. You can use any number from zero to one hundred, the higher the number the more favorable your feelings are toward that person or organization. If you have no opinion or never heard of that person or organization, please say so.

Mean Warm Cool ID
The Republican Party 52.1 47% 38% 98%
The Democratic Party 48.2 37 40 98
George W. Bush 52.7 51 41 99
The Republican Congress 50.7 44 38 97

(Asked of half sample)
Bill Clinton 52.3 47 41 99
The N.R.A.,
or National Rifle Association 50.5 42 38 95
Pro-life, anti-abortion groups 50.3 39 38 96
The Iraq war 42.4 39 49 98
Big corporations 45.9 29 36 95
Gay marriage 30.5 23 60 96
The United Nations 46.2 38 43 97
Social Security 63.8 59 20 97
Trial lawyers 40.0 22 45 93
Wal-Mart 54.6 47 31 97
The Christian Evangelical
political groups 45.3 30 38 84
CEOs 42.9 24 39 89


I'd like to misuse polling data, but just like the other results cited below, I don't think these data mean much at all.

Posted by Kevin at 12:10 PM

A Lively Discussion

I'm having a lively discussion over at Veritas et Venustas; my insistence that it's not possible for 70% of Wal-Mart's merchandise to be made in China has not received a warm welcome. The 70% figure was only tangential to the actual point of the post (which I agree with), that WM's "green" store is not as green as WM would like us to believe.

I once bought the 70% figure wholesale too, and I don't blame others for it. Thanks to Bob for concisely summing this up:

Besides, how can 70% of their products be made in China when they only account for something like 15 billion of imports from there. Possible yes, likely, no. That would mean that 30% of their goods accounts for 90% of cost of goods sold.

And thanks to The Box Tank for pointing us to the post.

Posted by Kevin at 10:27 AM

July 25, 2005

Does WM Have Too Many White Truck Drivers?

Wal-Mart Watch, The New York Times (in full), and Liza Featherstone note that Tommy Armstrong, a black man refused a job as a Wal-Mart trucker, is suing for alleged racial discrimination. I agree that the particular cases show a large potential for Wal-Mart managers having discriminated against these men. But beyond that the cases seem shoddy.

Still, one of the most powerful statistics listed is that 15% of the US trucking force is black, but only 2-3% of Wal-Marts trucking force is. I wonder if anybody even bothered to check the source and veracity of those statistics. Let's try.

Let's suppose the 15% statistic to be true. The first question we have to ask ourselves is, "why are blacks so heavily overrepresented as truckers?" After all, in 2000 African Americans were 11.3% of the 18 or over population, but 15% of truckers. Are most trucking companies biased against white people, hispanics, and asians? Actually, no. According to Table 2.5 of a study of the trucker shortage(!), blacks make up 11.7% of the trucking industry's drivers. That makes a lot more sense to me, but it is still far higher than Wal-Mart's alleged 2%.

Ms. Featherstone, this is evidence of racism, but the real question is the geographic base of Wal-Mart's jobs compared to the rest of the sector's jobs. If it is true, as stated above, that most trucking jobs are metro area related, but

In 2002, there were 2.8 million truck drivers:

Most truck drivers find employment in large metropolitan areas along major interstate roadways where major trucking, retail, and wholesale companies have distribution outlets. Some drivers work in rural areas, providing specialized services such as delivering newspapers to customers or coal to a railroad.

The truck transportation industry employed almost one-quarter of all truck drivers and driver/sales workers in the United States. Another quarter worked for companies engaged in wholesale or retail trade. The remaining truck drivers and driver/sales workers were distributed across many industries, including construction and manufacturing.

Over 10 percent of all truck drivers and driver/sales workers were self-employed. Of these, a significant number were owner-operators who either served a variety of businesses independently or leased their services and trucks to a trucking company.

There are about 1.5 million heavy tractor-trailer truckers.


Also, isn't Wal-Mart the largest trucking company? Doesn't that imply that the

Posted by Kevin at 11:58 AM

WM Horror Stories Not True

The No Cleveland Wal-Mart folks won't like this article by Steve Maich:

Wal-Mart isn't engaged in a series of messy local zoning disputes. It's at war with a well-financed, well-organized opposition, determined to fight it on every front. From Los Angeles to the Saguenay, from Hartford, Conn., to Vancouver, a broad array of activist groups and unions have launched protests, lawsuits and ad campaigns, all aimed at discrediting Wal-Mart, halting its growth, and unionizing its workforce.

Like most wars, it's about money and power, and the first casualty is truth. Because even after all the scrutiny and analysis of the Wal-Mart phenomenon, most of what we've been told -- about worker abuse, destroyed small-town economies, crushed suppliers and greedy management -- is wrong.

And the UFCW spokesman is really classy:
"They just fuckin' destroy jobs, period, because they replace high-paying jobs with low-paying jobs."
A trifecta: Crude, internally inconsistent, and deviod of fact!

Steve Maich has politics that are hard to pin down, so he can't be accused of being a WM shill. You can read Steve Maich's blog All Business, and decide for yourself.

Posted by Kevin at 11:02 AM

WM Watch Distorts WSJ Reporting

It's hard for me to read Wal-Mart Watch, because I can never tell how (it is not a question of when) they will intentionally distort and misreport facts, figures, and quotations.

A clear brand-new example is in their press release that describes two of their paid-for surveys showing a decrease in WM's favorability rating from 59% in March to 50% in July. These numbers are good to have, but only inasmuch as we understand completely the methodology and context of the surveys, which is not provided.

Hence, I'd like to know a few things:

1) Did WM Watch pay Westhill Partners to perform surveys in-between March and July?

2) If so, what were the results of those surveys?

3) What was said to the respondents before asking the question, "Based on everything you know or have heard about Wal-Mart, is your opinion of Wal-Mart favorable or unfavorable?" Was there prompting or a script?

4) Was this the only question asked? It's very, VERY odd, to ask one and only one question in a poll.

5) Can we get the full uncensored report from Westhill Partners?

But more importantly, WM Watch distorts a snippet from the Wall Street Journal. On Friday, July 22 John Harwood reported in his weekly Washington Wire the two following sentences:

LIBERALS STRUGGLE for ammunition against Roberts, but claim progress in denting Wal-Mart's image. The activist group Wal-Mart Watch, which calls the retailer "an irresponsible corporate citizen," says its polling shows the company's favorable rating dropping to 50% from 59% in March.

He reports what WM is claiming, and takes no position. So how does Wal-Mart Watch construe this?

Wall Street Journal: ��progress in denting Wal-Mart�s image�

Here's a screenshot:

wm_watch_wsj_distortion.gif

Um, no. The WSJ did not give its own support to the WM Watch poll, and neither supported nor parroted the WM Watch claim. Another example of Wal-Mart Watch just making things up.

UPDATE: It's a start. Here's the April survey:

10B. Wal-Mart (IF FAVORABLE OR UNFAVORABLE, ASK:) Would you say you
have a strongly favorable/unfavorable opinion or a somewhat
favorable/unfavorable opinion?

TOTAL REP IND DEM
----- --- --- ---
Strongly favorable 25% 31% 20% 29%
Somewhat favorable 30% 32% 32% 24%
Somewhat unfavorable 15% 12% 13% 20%
Strongly unfavorable 16% 15% 13% 17%
Heard of but can't rate
(DO NOT READ) 11% 8% 16% 9%
Haven't heard of * 1% 1% -
Don't know/Refused (DO
NOT READ) 2% 1% 5% 1%
------------------------
FAVORABLE 55% 63% 52% 53%
UNFAVORABLE (NET) 31% 28% 26% 37%
FAMILIAR (NET) 86% 91% 78% 90%

Note: Percentage less than 0.5 printed as *.


I have sent an email to WM Watch asking for them to release all the data.

Later: WMW has decided to keep the rest of the data in-house, as is their right. In response, I have decided not to trust their polling data. , as I cannot confirm that the political composition of the sample hadn't changed considerably. Well, by looking at the data, it seems that they force the sample into a 1/3 Repub, 1/3 Dem, 1/3 Indy mix, so one of my concerns is moot.

Posted by Kevin at 9:47 AM

July 24, 2005

Adware? Spyware?

I've had one report of an ALP reader receiving spyware from viewing ALP. Please comment or send an email if you have had a similar experience, or can tell me how Movable Type could set off alarms with a spyware detector. (I personally, have not had any problems, but I'd like to make sure NOBODY is adversely affected by reading ALP).

Posted by Kevin at 10:59 PM

July 21, 2005

Anti-WM Nurses

Anti-WM sentiment is everywhere. Wal-Mart purchased a full-page back cover advertisement in the American Journal of Nursing with the words "It doesn�t take a brain surgeon to recognize a good deal on scrubs," written on a cast. Of course, unionized nurses were aghast!

To their credit, the journal editors gave WM a chance to respond.

Wal-Mart has agreed to change the ad's wording in other publications. A copy of the original can be found here.

Posted by Kevin at 9:48 AM

Legality of Anti-WM Zoning Ordinances

George Lefcoe has what looks like a must read paper for academic types -- The Regulation of Superstores: The Legality of Zoning Ordinances Emerging from the Skirmishes between Wal-Mart and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

It's on my reading list.

Posted by Kevin at 9:42 AM

July 20, 2005

Wal-Mart Going Green in Texas

From CNN. Wal-Mart is opening a store that uses many advanced-technology devices to cut its use of electricity and water.

The world's largest retailer was scheduled to open a 206,000-square-foot building Wednesday that will include features such as a 120-foot tall wind turbine that will produce about 5 percent of the store's energy and a rainwater harvesting pond designed to provide 95 percent of the water needed for irrigation.

...Wal-Mart wants some of the features in the store's design to one day be viewed as standard, including waterless urinals in customer bathrooms, saving about one gallon of water per usage; recycled cooking oil from the store's deli and engine oil from the auto center that will be used to help heat the building; and climate control measures and alternative refrigeration units that are projected to save enough electricity to power 135 single family homes for one year.

The company said there were additional costs with the conservation efforts, but would not elaborate on the price tag.

"We want to see if this can save us some money and keep our costs down," said Gus Whitcomb, Wal-Mart's area director of corporate affairs.

To which our local newscaster commented, "It's still just about the profits with Wal-Mart."

Posted by TheEclecticEconoclast at 9:54 PM

Manitoba Workers Reject Union -- Again...

You know that the unions will just keep trying... and trying... and trying:

Mississauga, ON, July 18, 2005: Wal-Mart Canada employees have refused being unionized by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) again, for the sixth time in less than two years. Results of a democratic vote to determine whether automotive sales and service employees in seven B.C. Wal-Mart stores would be represented by the UFCW were released on Friday by the British Columbia Labour Board. These Wal-Mart employees voted against union representation by the UFCW, and in favour of dealing directly with the company.

The UFCW now wants to represent just the tire and lube employees from seven stores, and the Labour Board has given them the thumbs up. Wal-Mart will object...

Posted by Kevin at 1:00 PM

Old and Busted: Discounts
New Hotness: Always Low Prices

In the WSJ (free link), Janet Adamy writes that grocery stores have recently begun adapting their price strategies to compete with the discounters gobbling up their market share:

In recent months, several regional grocery chains have reduced prices on everything from Kraft macaroni & cheese to Ragu pasta sauce in an effort to lure back shoppers who have defected to discount grocers. In most cases, the stores also stopped offering weekly bargains on items like cereal or yogurt.

For decades, most traditional supermarkets have lured price-conscious shoppers with cheap weekly specials and made up the lost profit by keeping nonsale prices substantially higher....

This doesn't mean supermarkets aim to compete with Wal-Mart on every item; in most stores, the cuts apply to no more than 15% of their items -- typically so-called center-of-the-store goods, like toothpaste and toilet paper

I haven't noticed this in my area, where Giant and Safeway still have big reductions, and Shoppers has never had many of them to begin with.

There is a pool asking where you shop, which also permits comments, like this one:

WalMart since I can use all the competitor ads and get a matching price. That way I get the benefit of various store specials without the time and gasoline costs. That being said, we also shop traditional stores for specialized products or in cases that WalMart produce is inferior.

UPDATE: I should have suspected that Russ Roberts would have something smart to say about this:

Everyday low prices is part of the reason Wal-Mart has crushed lots of chains that were "sales-driven" having booms and busts in sales and having to cope with the customer service challenge that Mr. Dillard discussed.

Posted by Kevin at 10:40 AM

July 19, 2005

Cost Savings from Bank Ownership

WM wants its own industrial bank in Utah.

Discount behemoth Wal-Mart announced Tuesday that it is seeking to establish an "industrial bank" in Utah that would help eliminate third-party transaction costs that the retailer currently incurs from processing of credit, debit card and electronic check transactions in its stores.

According to the company, Wal-Mart receives more than 140 million credit, debit and electronic check payments per month and pays a small fee to process each transaction.

Of course, independent bankers are worried.... as are some lawmakers... and some anti-Wal-Mart activists...

But let's do some back-of-the-envelope math: 140 million monthly x 12 = 1.7 billion transactions annually. Five minutes of research tells me that the average cost is about 10¢ per ACH transaction, which is the approximate amount Wal-Mart pays to its banks. But about about half of that is paid by the bank to the ACH network. Hence, I'd estimate that Wal-Mart stands to avoid paying about 1.7 billion x 5¢ = $85 million dollars in fees annually, because it will be paying them to itself.

The real savings to Wal-Mart will be if it 1) can run its own bank more efficiently than its current third-party bank, 2) can eventually turn this industrial bank into a consumer bank.

In addition, I gather that this will permit a savings in personnel in Bentonville, as will be used as a reorganizing tool in the business process arena...

Posted by Kevin at 2:40 PM

July 18, 2005

Remaking ALP and a Call for New Bloggers

You might have noticed the slowdown in posting on my part. I'm overburdened right now, and will need some time to recharge. So for the next few weeks, I'll be posting few entries, but these will be more along the lines of mini-articles or think pieces rather than just link-dumps.

If you would like to blog about Wal-Mart, i.e. if you would like a place to put your carefully considered thoughts and evidence about the Wal-Mart controversy, and you are neither a card-carrying member of the Hate-Wal-Mart Club, nor a believer in "My Wal-Mart, Right or Wrong", please email me at kevin -at- alwayslowprices.net.

Posted by Kevin at 9:05 AM

July 14, 2005

Wal-Mart is Authentic

The Hartman Group believes that "buy local" won't work with specific populations, basically because they enjoy and are acculturated to mass consumerism.

They don't say so, but this translates into: Wal-Mart is Authentic. Not all of us live in an interconnected globalized world, but those who do are fractured into three camps: the majority is those people who go about their business without thinking about the authenticity of their world, a smaller minority of those who openly appreciate this lifestyle, and the most vocal minority of those who bitch and moan about it.

Posted by Kevin at 3:17 PM

Roberts and DeLong on Wal-Mart Pay

In Why Wal-Mart Pays Less, Russ Roberts notes that it is supply and demand for particular sets of worker experience, patience, kindness, creativity, skills, knowledge, and abilities that determines wages, not benevolence.

I'd like to add two points:

1) Wal-Mart pay is NOT less for workers within the particular pool and geographic locations it pulls from. In many markets around the country, Wal-Mart pay is NOT less than Target, Best Buy, Kohls, or nonunionized grocers -- all the other places at which Wal-Mart workers might alternatively work. Anecdotal information sprinkled throughout this blog and on other sites, from workers who have chosen Wal-Mart over these and many others, demonstrates this.

2) Wal-Mart pulls from a different pool of workers than Costco does. What's so hard about admitting this openly? The focus on Costco, like Dr. DeLong's recent retail "model" post linking to this Financial Times article, even when admitting them, does not zero in on the differences in worker pools, and the problem this presents to other companies who might try to dip into the same pool:

�It�s important to pay people a fair living wage,� says Mr Galanti, �and if you do, and it�s better than everybody else, you�re going to get better people � and they�re going to stick around longer, and we see that.�
Mr. Galanti is NOT willing to pay just anybody a "fair living wage"; he'll pay that to people who produce that much, but will not pay it to slackers.

And what is true and workable for an individual firm is absolutely false for an entire economy. Repeat after me: if everyone followed this model, nobody could make a profit. Surely, it is theoretically possible for every retail company to follow this model, but then not every worker will produce as much as he is paid. Who is to cover these losses?

Henry Ford could offer a $5 day AND make a profit when everybody else thought he was crazy. But he and his management team sorted through, weeded out, and rejected thousands of workers of inferior quality, picking out the cream of the crop. If everybody else in the same labor market tried to match that, they would be fighting over the same best workers, not the ones who were rejected. Ford thought and Costco thinks that only a certain type of person deserves high wages. Wal-Mart acts on the same economic principle, but employs many people Costco would reject... and I take from this that there is no moral superiority to the Costco "high-wage model"....

Posted by Kevin at 10:04 AM

July 13, 2005

Utah Supreme Court Rules Sandy WM Must Be On Ballot

Via a comment on WUWM, the Utah State Supreme Court ruled that the citizens of Sandy fully complied with the law and should get a referrendum about a zoning change:

The court ruled this zoning issue is subject to a referendum, the group got enough signatures, and it ordered Sandy to put the issue on the ballot, meaning voters will decide if this old gravel pit can become home to big-box retailers Walmart and Lowes.
More here, with a map of the proposed site:
The state's high court said Friday that Save Our Communities, a group of Sandy residents who have fought big box development, had enough signatures to force a referendum on a zoning change that would allow development on a 107-acre former gravel pit at 1000 East and 9400 South....

At issue was the percentage of signatures needed for referendum petitions. The court clarified that zoning changes are not land-use laws, which require referendum petitions to have signatures of 20 percent of residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election. After this decision, zoning law referenda need signatures from 10 percent of voters.

I'm sorry I missed this when it was announced two weeks ago. As surprising as this may seem, I support this ruling (see caveat below), since the law is the law, and should be followed and enforced. Given the increasing powers weilded by zoning boards, they must be subject to and constrained by the people. However, for the consumers of Sandy, I hope the referrendum fails...

The full opinion of the court can be found here (in PDF).

UPDATE: I've read the opinion, and have a few comments. I concur that since Sandy has a Mayor-Council form of government, and that the council is the legislature, and that all legislative acts are referrable, that the referrendum is allowed under law.

But the court provides ZERO reasoning or evidence as to why this zoning change is not a detailed "land-use law" subject to a signature requirement of 20% of the previous gubenatorial voters, instead of the more lenient 10%. (The referrendum gatherers got 16.2% of the voters). It seems pretty sloppy and subjective to me:

The salient features shared by the three examples listed in the statute is comprehensive scope and general applicability. All three of the examples listed by the legislature relate to situations in which a municipality has
completed a highly involved undertaking, be it the development of a comprehensive zoning scheme or the annexation of property, and is attempting to finalize that process through a legislative act. Although even a text amendment to a zoning category can be a complicated and involved process, we are persuaded that such an amendment is not of the same character as the comprehensive acts
listed in the statute.
I disagree that "general applicability" is a salient feature of all three examples, since an "annexation ordinance" (one of the three specified classes of "land-use laws", is not of general applicability. Is 2/3's enough to create generality? Beats me, and the court doesn't argue. The law is unclear here, and it seems to me that the court used its judgment while pretending not to do so.

Posted by Kevin at 10:31 AM

July 12, 2005

Shoppers Sue WM for Alleged Associate Racism

Allegedly, WM associates challenged black people to demonstrate that they had not stolen goods, but left their white companions alone:

Ten shoppers filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., alleging that employees in the Avon store targeted them as potential shoplifters based on their race.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, claims that in 2002 and 2003, employees at the store followed the shoppers, then searched their shopping bags, purses and clothing. None of the shoppers was charged with shoplifting....

In December, the shoppers offered to settle the case for $400,000, according to the lawsuit. Wal-Mart offered to enter into private mediation with the shoppers, but did not make a settlement offer.

Is suing WM in Boston for conduct in Alabama a form of venue-shopping?

Posted by Kevin at 4:51 PM

Even with High Oil Prices, WM Still #1

Wal-Mart beat out the big energy companies to land the top slot of the Fortune Global 500:

Wal-Mart took No. 1 on Fortune magazine's annual list of the Global 500, the fourth year in a row the retailer has placed at the top of the list.

Rounding out the top five in the 2005 rankings are BP (No. 2), Exxon Mobil (No. 3), Royal Dutch/Shell Group (No. 4) and General Motors (No. 5).

Position in the Fortune Global 500 is determined by total revenue in the prior year.

However, it is not the most profitable company....

Posted by Kevin at 4:24 PM

Queens Residents Drive to LI for Wal-Mart

The planned Wal-Mart in Rego Park was killed by activists, so shoppers continue to shop at WM in neighboring Nassau county:

The [Wal-Mart sponsored] telephone survey by Fabrizo McLaughlin & Associates polled city shoppers.

The results: 67% of Queens shoppers said they would likely shop at a New York City Wal-Mart store, 80% believe a city Wal-Mart would create jobs, 13% feel it would cost jobs and 59% of Queens shoppers would travel outside the city to shop, with Wal-Mart as their No. 1 destination.

The folks at the Neighborhood Retail Alliance counter that shoppers want to travel to Wal-Mart:
Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, which represents 15,000 area merchants, countered that just because Queens residents shop at Wal-Mart doesn't mean they'd want one in their neighborhood.

Posted by Kevin at 4:19 PM

Alwayslowprices.com is On Hold

We previously noted that Alwayslowprices.com had disappeared. I just looked, and the cybersquatter corporatedomainnames.com is back online, and it lists the domain .com as being "ON HOLD".

I'll bet nobody wants to touch it with a 9 ft. pole.


Also, here's an update about Wal-Mart's claim against us: _____

That's right, I've heard nothing, and will continue blogging about Wal-Mart.

Posted by Kevin at 4:09 PM

July 8, 2005

Diversity for Quality and Profit

Ted Frank sends in an update to our previous post about WM requiring detailed plans from its law firms for greater diversity.

The update includes much jucier anecdotal information, insisting that many law firms don't want Wal-Mart's business because of the low, formerly always flat, fees that WM demands of its representation, and because WM refuses to settle (think how lawyers can benefit from settling), and is perfectly willing to dump law firms in the middle of complex trials.

One fascinating part of the article insists that the change will increase quality and decrease cost:

Reeves said the move for greater diversity is part of the company's strategy to get cheaper and better legal representation.

"It's not a separate issue," he said. "The more diversity you can have with your counsel � the higher-quality work you're going to get."

Um, does this mean that law firms plan to pay minorities and women less for better work than it can get for white men? What else can it mean?

Posted by Kevin at 8:57 AM

July 7, 2005

Campaign Tested Tactics?

Raging Pundits refutes some grievances against Wal-Mart in this Tom Curry piece.

I'll leave that reading for you, but I'd like to point out a different angle:

Now the union has recruited strategists from the 2004 Howard Dean and Wesley Clark campaigns, and they are mounting a crusade that goes beyond the usual union tactics, such as the boycott or shareholder resolution expressing disapproval of a company�s policies.
Should Wal-Mart be scared or overjoyed about the direction taken by Wake-Up Wal-Mart? The please-the-extreme activism of the Dean and Clark strategists didn't work out well in the 2004 election, and I'd argue will not work in swaying public opinion against WM. What precisely are their new methods?
Blank and Kofinis are deploying election campaign-tested tactics to assail Wal-Mart: running petition drives and holding house parties, canvassing at farmers� markets, stockpiling an e-mail list and conducting conference calls to marshal the efforts of local anti-Wal-Mart activists.
These might be campaign-tested, but what did the campaign-tests reveal? Note that I'm on the WUWM email list, and can listen in to the conference calls if I so desired, so you'd better believe Wal-Mart has people doing the same.

Posted by Kevin at 3:41 PM

Wal-Mart Should be Emulated

That's a Lawsuit spent last summer working at Wal-mart, and has some level-headed words for WM opponents:

These days it seems that all of the "cool people" will bash Wal-Mart. It is now trendy to cry out against the "evil empire" known as Wal-Mart. The fact of the matter is, the people that are making these claims are doing so on only bits of information and false information that they have heard....

Wal-Mart is not a perfect company but then again no company is perfect. If you are going to dislike a company, dislike it after hearing all the sides. They act like a normal company would in minimizing competition, they treat their employees well, and they provide the consumer with cheap prices. Seems like all sides are made happy. Wal-Mart may or may not have had problems with their employees in the past. Even if they did, isn't there something to be said for fixing their ways and cleaning up their act? That is the act of a socially responsible company and I know for a fact there are other companies out there that should really model themselves after Wal-Mart. Ponder THAT.

Posted by Kevin at 3:34 PM

Many Cities Have Long Banned RV Parking at WM

In what is a truly pathetic use of local government power, RV camp owners have been using the threat of force to prevent Wal-Mart from offering free overnight parking to RV owners:

"I've only had one problem with parking at Wal-Mart," said Fuller, of Mesa, Arizona, as he loaded bottled water into a motor home in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Emporia, Kansas. "I pulled in around 10 o'clock at night. There were other RVs there, but in the middle of the night, a cop knocked on our door and said we couldn't park there."

James Stover, public affairs manager in Yuma, said the city has a 20-year-old ban on any overnight camping without a permit. Campgrounds are big business in Arizona, he said, and allowing travelers to camp overnight for free does not help the business community.

Woodbury said that's not uncommon in places where the weather is nice year-round.

If Wal-Mart wants to stop RV parking in it's own lots at selection locations, that's fine. But the article implies that in some locations Wal-Mart pushes for local laws preventing the practice (in places like Florida) so that they can use tax-funded police to kick RV'ers out, instead of paying for their own square-badges to do the same...

Posted by Kevin at 1:18 PM

July 6, 2005

WM: Law Firms Must Be Diverse at the Top

Via Ted Frank, Wal-Mart will require the law firms it uses to demonstrate that minorities and women are in high ranking positions:

Wal-Mart's move, sent in a letter to outside counsel last month, upped the ante.

Once the retailing giant gets lists of attorneys from its outside firms, due in mid-July, it will start weeding accordingly, Mars said. "We'll be making more decisions to retain and terminate firms [at that point]," he said.

"We are terminating a firm right now strictly because of their inability to grasp our diversity expectations," he added.

NO LONGER ENOUGH

Wal-Mart's new policy signals a growing determination by corporate legal departments to pressure outside counsel. It is no longer enough, the general counsel at the symposium said, to raise the numbers of women and minority lawyers in a firm's lower ranks if its upper echelons remain an exclusive club for white men.

The entire article is a must read.

Posted by Kevin at 8:33 AM

July 2, 2005

Patrick Brady's Award Reduced to $2.5 Million

Via Overlawyered, we find that Patrick Brady, whose celebral palsy was the basis of his employment discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart (initially reported here), has had his award reduced from $7.5 million to $2.5 million:

In Patrick S. Brady v. Wal-Mart Stores, CV 03-3843, plaintiff Patrick Brady, who suffers from cerebral palsy, sued Wal-Mart under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and state law. In February, a Central Islip, N.Y., jury found that personnel at the store in Centereach, N.Y., violated federal and state laws by making a prohibited inquiry before giving Brady an employment offer.
That Brady wanted to be moved to a different position didn't matter.

Posted by Kevin at 3:40 PM

July 1, 2005

Vancouver Wal-Mart Rejected,
Apparently for Ideological Reasons

Back in February, Kevin noted that Wal-Mart was planning an extremely "green friendly" Wal-Mart store in Vancouver, British Columbia, in an attempt to win city council approval for its new store. It turns out that even though Wal-Mart more than met all the conditions set out by the council, and even though Wal-Mart had won approval of the city's staff and the city's urban design committee, city council soundly rejected their proposal. The editorial board of the Vancouver Sun is livid: [thanks to Dave at London Fog for the pointer]

...Vancouver city council has sent two terrible messages: The city simply isn't open for business and, worse, it will allow ideology to trump fairness and common sense in its efforts to stamp out big business.

The Wal-Mart saga is a particularly egregious example of council's disdain for business, city staff and the people of Vancouver. For four long years, Wal-Mart made every effort to ensure the proposed store would have a positive impact on the environment and our economy. Now it's evident that none of that ever mattered.

... There's no evidence that the eight councillors who voted down the Wal-Mart application did so because the retailer failed to meet the requirements of the planning committee. On the contrary, Wal-Mart met or exceeded all expectations and its proposal was endorsed by both city staff and the city's urban design panel.

The only reasonable conclusion, then, is that council rejected the application for purely ideological reasons, because it sees Wal-Mart as the symbol of all that is wrong with corporate America.

Consequences? Lower-income Vancouverites will be worse off. The elitists on Vancouver's city council will reduce both employment and shopping opportunities for them. Also, given the facts reported by the Vancouver Sun, I doubt the story has ended.

Posted by TheEclecticEconoclast at 6:58 AM

International Aquisition?

I found this article on Yahoo which looks like it is orignally from TheDeal.com. It picks up on the previous post concerning what might have been a shopping trip by Lee Scott:

In an interview over the weekend with the Financial Times, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott said the company was looking at acquisition opportunities in India, Hungary, Poland and Russia. "Something could happen next month [or] in six months," Scott told the paper.

A company representative sought to play down Scott's comments.

"I don't think [CEO Scott] was trying to signal anything specific," said Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz. "We're not tipping our hand."

Still, the fact that Wal-Mart might be heading on an international shopping trip is a dramatic shift for the retailer, which has entered only one new market since ending its initial, multibillion-dollar acquisition spree in 1999.

Furthur down in article, it mentions that many Eastern European retailers who would potentially be a good fit are already owned by the Wal-Mart's Western European rivals.

Posted by Bob at 1:43 AM