September 30, 2005

A Controlling Stake in Seiyu

Wal-Mart will finally take a controlling stake in Seiyu:

Seiyu will issue new shares worth Y115bn before the end of the year - of which Y67.5bn will be purchased by Wal-Mart and the remainder by Mizuho Corporate Bank and other unnamed investors.

Wal-Mart's controlling stake will rise to more than 50 per cent from 42.4 per cent.

Posted by Kevin at 2:15 PM

More on the WM Workers Association

The union that's not a union keeps drawing media attention:

About 250 employees and former employees from 40 central Florida stores have joined the fledgling Wal-Mart Workers Association, spurred by what they say is a reduction of hours and schedule changes recently that may jeopardize health care benefits for some. Organizers say the word-of-mouth campaign is attracting 15 to 20 new members every week.
If you remember the last article about them, from three weeks ago, you'd notice that their membership growth is slowing:
The association says it has nearly 200 current and former Wal-Mart workers and is growing by 30 workers a week. Members pay dues of $5 a month. In Florida, its membership includes workers from 30 stores in the Tampa, Orlando and St. Petersburg areas, and it is also seeking to enlist Wal-Mart employees in Texas.
What are former employees doing in this organization?

Posted by Kevin at 2:08 PM

September 29, 2005

Outlet Shoppers

Not WM related, but interesting:

1) Factory outlet shoppers are wealthier than the average shopper.

2) A developer is hot for more New Town Centers.

3) Where are all the retail industry staistics?

All of these and more in the latest ICSC Research Review, which is, apparently, FREE.

Posted by Kevin at 12:50 PM

September 27, 2005

Hilfiger

Via Fark, Wal-Mart may be interested in acquiring Tommy Hilfiger. No, really:

Women's Wear Daily is reporting on its Web site that the world's largest retailer is believed to have initiated the idea of a buyout, and will start conducting due diligence as early as this week. The industry publication says a deal could be signed before Thanksgiving.
Here's the original article ($), and here's the New York Times account:
Executives close to the process cautioned that Wal-Mart had only expressed an interest and had not yet begun any diligence or held any substantive talks. The executives also warned that it was unclear how serious Wal-Mart may be.

Posted by Kevin at 10:14 AM

September 26, 2005

Community Involvement Coordinator Axed?

A previous WM store manager had a promoted Rveva Barrett to full-time community involvement coordinator. The current one cut her pay and her position, so she became an anti-WM advocate:

Manuel Guzman, manager of Pinellas Park's Wal-Mart Supercenter, asked Barrett to sit down. "I'm sorry," he told her, "but your job's being eliminated."

That was in July. It was the second blow for Barrett, the store's coordinator of community involvement, or "good works," and a 15-year Wal-Mart veteran. In April, Guzman had cut her community involvement hours to 20 per week. The other 20 were to be spent in the fabrics and crafts department.

But this was much worse.

Not only was Barrett's job eliminated, her pay was cut $1.30 an hour, from $19.46 to $18.16. Her hours were shortened. Guzman told her she had to be available to work any time from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. "or leave," Barrett said.

"I was mad," Barrett said. "I was shocked. I couldn't believe it."

For three years, Barrett had been the public face of the company and its main local cheerleader, badgering reporters for positive stories about Wal-Mart's good deeds and schmoozing state and local leaders.

Barrett was, as she put it, a "believer."

No more.

The pay cut was a really dumb idea, IMHO, although I understand the restructuring of the job, especially if the store manager wanted to handle those duties himself.

The article contains this delightful sentence:

Barrett's are not the first such allegations against Wal-Mart.
Is it really possible for regular newspaper readers to think otherwise?

There's not much information on Ms. Barrett, except that her position put her on the local Chamber of Commerce. Elsewhere, Ms. Barrett is an "assistant store manager" (Jan 04), which is BEFORE her duties were split, so there are details missing...

Posted by Kevin at 9:16 AM

September 23, 2005

Q&A With Lee Scott

Businessweek's been talking to H. Lee Scott: Part 1 and part 2.

Overall, the language used by Mr. Scott does not jive with that of Wal-Mart's labor union opponents. Where Mr. Scott thinks he's reaching out to environmental and international activists, domestic opponents will think he's just spinning. The most telling part of the interview is where he refuses to answer:

I can learn from those people and learn where it is Wal-Mart can change to be a better company, more likely to be embraced or at least tolerated.

That isn't the agenda of the unions?
[Silence. No answer.]

Another good portion:
When growth was easier this idea of critics being ignored was O.K., because you were getting all this positive feedback from the numbers. As the share price slows [and] the critics are attacking, you have to get to this point.

Maybe not all of our critics wish us harm. Maybe some would like us to be a better company and do things differently. So you start reaching out...trying to understand what is it about us that causes them to have this concern. How much of it is legitimate? How much of it is misinformation? What is it that we need to change? What is it we can't [change] that we will hopefully be able to communicate?

As the share price stagnates, he means?

I think Mr. Scott fails to convey what he really means, so let me rewrite his words:

Unions want a big say in how we run our business, mostly by lowering the returns to our shareholders. However, the other groups do not want to control our operations or redirect our profits; they may demonize us at first, but they can be persuaded to pipe down by particular, well-defined changes that support their goals and those of Wal-Mart shareholders. And, frankly, we are willing to work with them because their voices impact the views of the consumers we want in our stores, while there's little use in dealing with somebody who vows never to shop at your stores.

What I think many people should realize is that Wal-Mart is not terribly exceptional in any respect other than its productivity and success. Most other businesses face the same difficulties, at a scale proportional to their operations. Mr. Scott quoted a visiting CEO:

"There isn't anything you are faced with, from a class-action lawsuit to the rest of the stuff, that we are not dealing with in our company. The only difference is that yours is played out on the front page of the paper and you never read about ours."

Posted by Kevin at 10:20 AM

September 22, 2005

Rita

* - Wal-Mart has closed 23 stores in Rita's path. 64 facility closures planned. The preparations:

The retailer said it had already shipped 154 trailers carrying more than 620,000 gallons of water in preparation for Hurricane Rita, and 24 generators were staged at Sealy, Texas. Some 42 facilities were prepared to accept dry ice.
Other preparations at walmartfacts.com.

Posted by Kevin at 2:17 PM

Wal-Mart Videos

Thanks to Wal-Mart's new PR team, the general public now has access to Wal-Mart videos at walmart.feedroom.com.

Take a look at H. Lee Scott talking about Katrina relief and impact on Wal-Mart associates for feel-good stories about associates. Also look at Wal-Mart's History. Quotable, Sam Walton taught his first associates "how important it was to talk to the customers about their chikens, their cows, their kids..." It starts out hokey, and ends even hokier, but gets the middle has interesting information. Don't miss Sam Walton doing the hula on Wall St.

And much, much more...

Posted by Kevin at 2:12 PM

Sucralose

It seems Wal-Mart has been selling Splenda -- repackaged as Altern since August. The maker of Splenda, Tate & Lyle, realized that Wal-Mart's product, supplied by an as yet unknown third party, came from its own Alabama factory. This is only a problem because the third party probably doesn't have the right to resell to Wal-Mart. Uh, oh:

Analysts pointed out that the big worry was that if Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, could source non-Tate sucralose regardless of any legal challenges to that source based on Tate's patents, then food and drink makers would be able to buy cheaper sucralose.

Wal-Mart started to test market its own-label version of sucralose, called Altern, in early August in two of its U.S. stores, priced at a 30 percent discount to the Splenda brand sucralose sold by Tate & Lyle and McNeil.

Tate immediately launched an enquiry and identified the sucralose as coming from its Alabama plant, the only factory in the world that produces the sweetener.

Tate is responsible for sales of the Splenda brand to food and drink makers, while McNeil controls sales to retailers.

The Telegraph had previously reported:
Oh sugar! What's that appearing on the shelves at the mighty Wal-Mart? Why, it's Altern - Splenda by any other name, but it tastes just as sweet. It is only three quarters of the price as well, so Tate & Lyle is experiencing a nasty sugar rush about the whole thing.

No one is really sure where Altern has come from. It is sucralose, which is exactly what Splenda is, but the product is so hedged about with patents that Tate & Lyle believes no one else can get anywhere near it. Either Wal-Mart has been buying the stuff from a manufacturer somewhere in China, or it has been sold it by someone who Tate & Lyle or partner McNeil has supplied.

It was supposed to be a China link, to avoid patent rights, but...:
"It's very easy to produce in a laboratory but very hard to manufacture," she said, adding that she was very confident in the company's patent protection. "We've patented every process around Splenda," she said.

"There are seven rings of protection around it." These "rings" include the brand's strong image as well as its patents. She added that Wal-Mart, which could not be reached for comment yesterday, had removed Altern from its shelves.

Goldman Sachs, however, believes that the commoditising of Splenda is only a matter of time. Wal-Mart's Altern, which was priced at 24pc below Splenda, must either have come from a manufacturer other than Tate & Lyle or McNeil or must have been supplied by an intermediary who had received the product from Tate & Lyle or McNeil. Either way, the consequences for the company are alarming.

According to a research note from the investment bank, it has established contact with "a number of Chinese manufacturers that do not appear to be affiliated with Tate & Lyle and are willing to offer commercial quantities of sucralose, albeit on a modest scale".

What were Wal-Mart vendors thinking??? Perhaps they were told that a new way of producing sucralose had been devised, since it's the process, not the substance, under patent:
The analysts also pointed out that the matter and composition patents for the substance have already expired - and generic manufacturers may be able to make use of the expiry of two patents, one in 2006 and one in 2009.

Posted by Kevin at 1:52 PM

White Hats and Clean Souls

BusinessWeek and the Motley Fool (rr) have excellent articles on WM.

(Sorry for the low rate of posting; my paying job has kept me away...)

Posted by Kevin at 9:50 AM

September 21, 2005

Getting Into Wal-Mart

Via Ad Jab, we see how hard it can be for vendors to get on Wal-Mart's shelves:

Getting into Wal-Mart is an entrepreneur's equivalent of making it to Broadway. Even a short run on the shelves there can help transform an invention from niche product to household name. And while Wal-Mart certainly isn't the only retail path to commercial success, nor the right outlet for every product, for mass-market merchandise at a certain price point no other bricks-and-mortar retailer reaches so many shoppers. Today the company has 5,300 outlets world-wide, and gets more than 138 million customers a week.

But as with Broadway, there's more than enough talent to fill the stage. Last year about 10,000 new suppliers applied to become Wal-Mart vendors. Of those, only about 200, or 2%, were ultimately accepted. "We just don't have very many empty shelf spaces," says Excell La Fayette Jr., Wal-Mart's director of supplier development.

It takes 6 months to a year to become a new Wal-Mart supplier with a purchase order; is that a strength or a weakness for WM?

Posted by Kevin at 3:44 PM

September 20, 2005

Tierney on Wal-Mart: WEMA

Behind The New York Times ($$$) new firewall, John Tierney insists that H. Lee Scott could should be leading FEMA:

I don't think Washington needs any more czars. But if President Bush feels compelled to put someone in charge of rebuilding the Gulf Coast, let me suggest a name: Lee Scott.

Scott is the chief executive of Wal-Mart, one of the few institutions to improve its image here after Katrina sent a 15-foot wave across the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. If you mention the Red Cross or FEMA to people in Slidell, you hear rants about help that didn't arrive and phone lines that are always busy. If you mention state or national politicians, you hear obscenities.

But if you visit the Wal-Mart and the Sam's Club stores here, you hear shoppers who have been without power for weeks marveling that there are still generators in stock (and priced at $304.04). You hear about the trucks that rolled in right after the hurricane and the stuff the stores gave away: chain saws and boots for rescue workers, sheets and clothes for shelters, water and ice for the public.

Posted by Kevin at 5:29 PM

Be nice...

Fairywings works at Wal-Mart, and makes this public request:

So the next time you go into Wal-Mart, be nice to the people who help you, because the nice people are the ones we do our best for, and the ones we'll remember when we go home!! Thanks for shopping with us America!!

Posted by Kevin at 5:25 PM

Wal-Mart to take over CARHCO

For now, Wal-Mart has purchased a 1/3 share of CARHCO from Ahold:

"We believe our investment will add strength to the partnership by helping to keep prices low for consumers and will offer new opportunities to suppliers in the region for additional business development," said John Menzer, chief executive of Wal-Mart International.

It has 363 supermarkets and other stores in Guatemala, El Salvador , Honduras , Nicaragua and Costa Rica , with 23,000 employees.

It had $2 billion in 2004 sales, Wal-Mart said.

Eventually WM will become the majority holder. How much do you think Wal-Mart paid? Rick Munarriz thinks this is a great idea:
It's a good move. Wal-Mart has the size and brawn to go it alone overseas. However, a move like this -- much like its team-up with Cifra to form Wal-Mart Mexico in 1991 -- allows the world's leading retailer to toil in new territories with the locals' blessing. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Wal-Mart isn't everywhere these days. The prolific discounter claims to own just 3% of the global retail market, and it wouldn't mind nibbling away at the other 97%.

Posted by Kevin at 3:51 PM

Without a Mandate

What if Wal-Mart hadn't mandated RFID? Would companies be persuing the technology? Stores.org says no:

During a roundtable discussion of RFID at AMR Research’s Spring Conference, analysts took an informal poll of the 40 participants seated around the table. The assemblage, representing a cross section of retailers, CPG players and high-tech electronics manufacturers, was asked to indicate if their companies would be exploring RFID were it not for the Wal-Mart mandate.

Only three of the 40 people raised their hands.

Posted by Kevin at 9:28 AM

September 19, 2005

flickr

Some great Wal-Mart related photos on flickr.

1) The Lowest Possible Price

2) Ein "kleiner" Unfall im Wal-Mart

3) 0-Style's (Joshua Stearns') Lori in Alaska deserves to be reproduced:


lori_alaska.jpg

Posted by Kevin at 6:24 PM

Oakland

Thomas Lifson writes that the new Oakland store (you know, the one that had 11,000 people apply for 400 jobs) is a big hit with consumers:

The East Oakland neighborhood houses many blacks, Hispanics, whites, and a growing Asian population. I take it as a very good sign that the welfare of the general public in the form of low prices is outweighing the special interest of the unions. Even in Oakland.
He links to this excellent piece in the SF Chronicle by Chip Johnson:
And a demonstration by community activists outside the store the day after it opened hasn't slowed the crowds of people shopping there.

On the day the Wal-Mart opened on Edgewater Drive, it reported more than $500,000 in sales revenues, said City Councilman Larry Reid, who supported the project from the start.

Since then, revenues at Wal-Mart stores in neighboring cities has fallen off -- a 32 percent drop in San Leandro and 22 percent in Union City, said Reid, quoting figures that Wal-Mart officials provided.

The overwhelmingly positive consumer response has also prompted other retailers, many of them national chains, to call Reid's office to inquire about business opportunities in the city, he said.

That's quite a bundle of ideas: activism is trumped by bargain hunting, people in Oakland have money to spend, Wal-Mart has cannabalized its other stores, and (not listed) traffic was terrible.

Posted by Kevin at 4:48 PM

WM No Way's Commercial

Wal-Mart No Way! has a superbly-executed, tremendously one-sided, fact-devoid, emotionally-tugging one minute commercial being aired on NY1. If you haven't seen it, you can do so here.

See also their poster with WM-branded spaceships attacking the city. They've even refined their message with "discriminating against women and immigrants"!

Posted by Kevin at 2:46 PM

Cranbrook WM T&L Goes Union

Just the tire and lube:

BURNABY – The B.C. Labour Relations Board (BCLRB) has certified the workers at the Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express (TLE) in Cranbrook, British Columbia after a majority of the workers there voted to unionize with United Food and Commercial Workers Canada....

The Cranbrook Wal-Mart was certified after a majority of the shop's employees voted to unionize. B.C. labour laws allow the Board to certify a workplace if a majority of the employees within a defined workplace vote to unionize.

Certification notice here. How many workers are we talking about?

Posted by Kevin at 12:20 PM

On Shenzen

An excellent article about Shenzen, well worth your time. It even mentions Wal-Mart:

In Shenzhen, factory wages averaging $85 a month are up 50 percent from a decade ago and well above pay in surrounding areas. But demand so outstrips supply - even with millions of migrant jobseekers - that 200,000 positions are unfilled....

But the city's main attraction, to migrants as well as foreign business people, is its tens of thousands of factories. Proof of the city's key role in the world supply chain: Wal-Mart's global purchasing headquarters is in Shenzhen.

Posted by Kevin at 10:51 AM

Gary Sutton on WM

In Voice of San Diego Gary Sutton has an intemperate screed against Wal-Mart opponents, but he closes with creative destruction:

So, why worry, right? Wal-Mart isn't as experienced at buying political influence as the unions are. My bet is, because Wal-Mart has no choice, they'll learn to. And in 2030 A.D., should Wal-Mart management decide to raise prices, having squished all competition, somebody new will start opening stores just a block away from each of theirs, undercut Wal-Mart, the public will love this new outfit for it, and just like Montgomery Ward and JC Penney and Woolworths and A&P and Sears and K-Mart faded fast into history, so will Wal-Mart. That's how this free enterprise thing works.

Posted by Kevin at 9:04 AM

September 16, 2005

WM in Waco

More news of relocating associates:

Already, three displaced Gulf Coast Wal-Mart employees are back to work in Waco area stores.

In fact, when a displaced employee applied at a Waco Wal-Mart, he was given a job and a check for $1,000, no questions asked...

Officials at Wal-Mart say they're just doing there part to help a member of the Wal-Mart family.

Posted by Kevin at 10:27 AM

Wal-Mart Space

Another new blog about Wal-Mart definitely worth your while is Wal-Mart Space. It examines Wal-Mart's business from the finance side, which turns out to be not a straightforward operation.

A rrecent post gets a better hold of the space Wal-Mart competes in, and examines ites share of retail sales in that space. Another converts WM's retail space into football fields.

Posted by Kevin at 9:44 AM

September 15, 2005

Wal-Mart Enlists Blogger, Edelman PR

Mike Krempasky, a well known blogger on RedState.org, founder of Rathergate.com, and defender of blogging from the tentacles of the FEC, has joined Edelman PR.

Why is that important? He is on the Wal-Mart account:

My work largely focuses on helping companies appropriately shift conversations online, to not only build a better image - but to actually be better online citizens. The first account I’ve had the pleasure to work on is that gigantic little company based in Bentonville, Arkansas. I can’t tell you what an experience it’s been over the past two weeks - watching this corporate giant lead the way in response to Hurricane Katrina and helping to tell that story.
Opponents have made sure that it's not hard to find extensive information about Mr. Krempasky.

In completely unrelated news, Reuters notes Wal-Mart has a new "secret spin strategy":

And now, Scott has started to drop hints about a secret spin strategy to counter a union-backed, anti-Wal-Mart media blitz that he says is not going to go away.

Scott -- who says his job is to defend Wal-Mart's reputation from those who contend the world's No. 1 retailer pays poverty-level wages and drives competitors out of business -- wouldn't divulge details of the new public relations plan, but he has stressed its importance

Why big media needs to be told how Wal-Mart will deal with big media is anybody's guess; you would figure they already know how these things work. Reuters journalists should ask themselves whether Wal-Mart is already spinning!

UPDATE: WMW is "buzzing", wondering about "dirty tricks", etc. They ask, "Do dirty tricks go hand-in-hand with dirty stores," but come out looking pretty dirty themselves. One can ask with equal righteousness, do dirty tricks go hand-in-hand with a smear campaign? Honestly, I cannot see how anybody can get into a PR fight and come out "clean", especially when the battle involves politicians and policy at every level of government. As you can imagine, Wal-Mart Watch is hard at work examining -- utilizing only "clean" methods! -- Mr. Krempasky's history.

Posted by Kevin at 11:39 AM

Gray-Blue Battleships

This is The Box Tank's turf, but since it's taking a break, I thought I'd bring it to your attention.

A Little Urbanity thinks that hell has frozen over, because he read this article:

One of the strongest signals yet of how fundamental the shift in “big-box only” retail doctrine may be came at the International Council of Shopping Centers last December. Robert Stoker, senior real estate manager for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., declared, “We've reached a stage where we can be flexible. We no longer have to build a gray-blue battleship box.”

Mr. Stoker cited several examples of the world’s largest retailer bending its once-rigid design formula to fit into existing neighborhoods, new mixed use developments, and even a high-rise. For the retail development world, it was as though the pope had changed the words in the Lord’s Prayer.

I'm still waiting to see designs of the Bavarian themed Wal-Mart. You have to be amused by the disgust sprawl busters has for the latter-type concept:
What’s next? A Kosher Wal-Mart for Brooklyn? A Cheese-theme for Wisconsin? An Alligator Skin for Florida? When Wal-Mart promised an “Adirondack” theme in Lake Placid, New York, the residents just said No. Developers always tell local residents that their store will be "unique", the only one of its kind in the country. The idea that any community would accept the negative impacts of a Wal-Mart on the unique character of their town by the style of facade they use, is simply absurd.
Actually, I've come across many people who wish Wal-Mart stores just weren't so ugly.

Posted by Kevin at 9:18 AM

Tom Coughlin

The BCDR has an update, which seems like more of the same to me...

Posted by Kevin at 9:11 AM

David Wild Named President of WM Germany

The bio released is a little obscure:

Wild joined Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in 2004 and moved to Germany as chief merchandising officer. Before that, Wild spent 18 years with a global retailer based in Britain, during which time he spent six years as the company's chief executive for central Europe, Wal-Mart said in a statement.


The Associated Press article doesn't state which "global retailer", perhaps assuming you've never heard of Tesco. Bloomberg fills in the details:
Wal-Mart's 88 stores in Europe's largest economy missed the company's sales target in the second quarter as consumers scaled back spending, Wal-Mart Treasurer Jay Fitzsimmons said last month. The company is remodeling its outlets and overhauling its logistics network to boost earnings in an economy where unemployment is near a post-World War II high.

Posted by Kevin at 9:04 AM

September 14, 2005

Should WM Encourage Associates to Fight Back?

With the largest private workforce in the US, composed of people who mostly like their jobs and their employer, Wal-Mart could easily have facilitated a national "grass-roots" campaign composed of legions of rank-and-file associates. Yet, outside of engaging customers at a local, store-opening level, it has not mobilized such a force.

What if Wal-Mart encouraged associates to get involved -- by forming local support brigades, engaging others online, writing articles and letters to the editor, setting up counter protests, writing their own blogs on walmartfacts.com?

It might very well overwhelm the opposition in sheer size, though not in inside-the-beltway connections.

Just a few thoughts.

Posted by Kevin at 9:21 AM

September 13, 2005

A Blog By Wal-Mart!

Stories of Hope, Wal-Mart's first corporate-run blog, looks to have been active behind the scenes for a week now, with previous posts repreating much of what was elsewhere on walmartfacts.com. However, the latest gives the blog's raison d'être:

Wal-Mart is launching this blog (Wal-Mart's first) to tell these stories and help keep the public informed of ongoing relief efforts and services. This site features the personal histories and photos behind the operations we read about each day-- real-life hurricane heroes who have stopped their daily lives to help.
Welcome to the blogosphere.

Note: ALP is in no way affiliated with Stories of Hope.

Posted by Kevin at 12:25 PM

A Defamatory Open Letter?

The Benton County Daily Record refused to run Wake-Up-Wal-Mart's open letter to Lee Scott, calling it defamatory.

It's obvious the lawyers and advertising reps had a busy weekend with this one, but the relevant question remains whether the letter can be considered defamatory. I'm no expert on these matters, but read it for yourself, and then come back, and we can mull it over.

First off, what does defamatory mean?

defamatory: (adj.) harmful and often untrue; tending to discredit or malign

Even though "harmful" and "tending to discredit" are pretty broad standards, I do not see where the direct language of the letter is defamatory. But that's not really relevant, since the implications of its wording can easily be seen as "tending to discredit or malign" Wal-Mart: to wit, by having not already complied with WUWM's demands, Wal-Mart is providing wages and benefits that cannot support families, discriminating against women and minorities, exploiting children, destroying jobs, not working with communities, etc.

These are all hotly contested allegations that Wal-Mart denies. Putting their message in a "work with us" frame is a nice way for WUWM to avoid making possibly defamatory statements directly, but does not absolve the newspaper from liability.

WUWM demanded to know what in the letter was defamatory. But to demand that the newspaper point out what's defamatory in the letter is to demand that they tell it what it already knows.

I'd be interested in hearing from people who know the Arkansas law governing these matters.

UPDATE: Here's more from the BCDR:

Jeff Jeffus, vice president and general manager of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Northwest Arkansas edition, said "there were potential defamatory statements made in it, and there were unsubstantiated claims." He declined to specify what might be defamatory, but said the ad could be resubmitted for review. "We can’t advise them as to what is and is not potentially defamatory," he said.
That's a sensible position to take, and, I think, an accurate one.

Posted by Kevin at 10:31 AM

UFCW Hires Temps to Picket Wal-Mart

Via Fark and Mark Steckbeck comes news that the UFWC has hired temps at $6-8 an hour (and no benefits) to protest at a Wal-Mart in the Las Vegas area:

"It don't make no sense, does it?" says James Greer, the line foreman and the only one who pulls down $8 an hour, as he ambles down the sidewalk, picket sign on shoulder, sweaty hat over sweaty gray hair, spitting sunflower seeds. "We're sacrificing for the people who work in there, and they don't even know it."
But it gets much better.
But standing with a union-supplied sign on his shoulder that reads, Don't Shop WalMart: Below Area Standards, picketer and former Wal-Mart employee Sal Rivera says about the notorious working conditions of his former big-box employer: "I can't complain. It wasn't bad. They started paying me at $6.75, and after three months I was already getting $7, then I got Employee of the Month, and by the time I left (in less than one year), I was making $8.63 an hour." Rivera worked in maintenance and quit four years ago for personal reasons, he says. He would consider reapplying.
And there's a wonderful flame war in the Fark link above.

Posted by Kevin at 7:55 AM

September 12, 2005

Public Announcements Have Zero Marginal Total Benefit

Gratchthegears sells cellphones in Wal-Mart. He's run the numbers, and found out that in store public announcements do not affect sales of cell phones:

I work at wal-mart, I sell cell phones there. It is not a bad job I like it, I just don't like the company I work for. Well I like crunching numbers while I am doing nothing else at work. I was looking at the number of PA vs sells and they show no effect on each other. One month we did 300 PA and that month we sold the second most for the year. Another month we did 0 PA and we sold the most phones in a month for the year.

It was good proof it also supported my believe that PAs are a waste of time and no one listens to them. (In fact before I started working there I had no idea the did that many PAs and I can't remember listening to a one of them.) I told my bosses what I thought and showed them what proof I had. Of course they did not care what I had to say.

Well we just got an order to... guess what... STOP DOING PAs! You know why? Because they are a waste of time and no one listens to them. Amazing that I know what I was talking about.

No, it's amazing that they're not listening to you.

Posted by Kevin at 1:14 PM

True and Misleading

A lot of Wal-Mart criticism is just that -- both true and misleading. How about this response to Wal-Mart's three-day pay policy after Katrina:

Fergus, Ont. -- In rushing aid to Katrina's victims, says Margaret Wente, Wal-Mart is an outstanding example of corporate efficiency and generosity. We wonder whether Wal-Mart is taping pink slips to the bottles of water it's handing out, because four days after the storm hit, the company stopped paying its workers at 36 closed stores in the region.
That Wal-Mart is leaving some people in a hard place is fair criticism. It's the truth, but certainly not the whole truth, which is rather complex. Contrary to the implied message, Wal-Mart is not letting displaced employees starve, and (as far as I can tell) has not been letting people go, or dragging them along with no promise of future employment within the company. If you're an associate, and you cannot relocate to another area where Wal-Mart can find you a job, you can apply for up to $1000 in emergency assistance, if you can demonstrate need. That's 2.5 weeks of pay for somebody earning $10 an hour, 40 hour weeks. What's Wal-Mart's take on it's treatment of its associates? "Any displaced associate can report for work at any U.S. Wal-Mart store" A promise of a job, not a pink slip. Got that?

Here's more:

* Initially, more than 34,000 Wal-Mart associates were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. So far, the company has been able to contact 87 percent of the associates to verify that they are safe or have reported to work.

* Wal-Mart’s goal is to help associates get back on their feet and move forward with their lives. The Wal-Mart Emergency Information Line, established to answer associates questions and concerns, has fielded nearly 17,000 calls.

* Any displaced associate can report for work at any U.S. Wal-Mart store. So far, these associates are working in stores as far away as Alaska, California and Nevada, but most are in states near the disaster area such as Georgia, Texas, and Florida.

* Displaced associates are eligible for up to $1,000 from the Associate Disaster Relief Fund if their homes were flooded or destroyed. Cash assistance of nearly $4 million has already been provided to more than 6,100 associates.

ALASKA???

Posted by Kevin at 12:31 PM

"Unfortunate Sign Placement"

Haldane snapped a few photos inside of Wal-Mart in Ithaca, including this one:


back_tobacco.jpg

Posted by Kevin at 12:21 PM

September 11, 2005

Wal-Mart Halts Gun Sales in Katrina-Struck Area

From the Boston Globe:

As fearful residents rush to stock up on guns, Wal-Mart, one of the region's biggest suppliers, abruptly stopped selling them at 40 stores scattered throughout the Gulf Coast.

The move infuriated some Wal-Mart customers in this fiercely progun region, some of whom said the big chain left them without protection as the violence increased after Hurricane Katrina.

... One mother came in to buy her first gun after she and her two children, ages 9 and 12, witnessed a slaying on the streets of New Orleans, said Scott Roe, Spillway's owner.

''Her comment was, 'I was a card-carrying, antigun liberal -- not anymore,' " Roe said. ''She said, 'I'm going back home, and I am not going back unarmed.' "

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Karen Burk, attributed the company's decision to pull guns from the shelves to ''some very fluid circumstances and changing situations" in the region. She did not elaborate far beyond that. ''We're trying to take care of our customers and community and be a responsible retailer at the same time," Burk said.

In addition to its decision to stop gun sales at 40 stores, Wal-Mart also has placed severe restrictions on gun sales at some other stores in the area. Executives ordered the guns removed from their glass display cases and put into a vault instead. At those stores, customers who want to purchase a gun must select it through a catalog.

Burk said the retailer has no date set to return guns to the stores.

It strikes me as an odd time and place to make this decision.

Posted by TheEclecticEconoclast at 7:37 PM

September 9, 2005

Rejected, Again!

scott_houston.jpgALP was recently (and understandably) rejected by The NewsMarket, after I applied for journalist access to video about Wal-Mart's Katrina relief efforts -- specifically H. Lee Scott touring the Astrodome. I was ready to experiment by converting the video to web-quality and hosting some interesting snippets, but the best laid plans....

Of course, ALP is not established or mainstream journalism, and I don't begrudge the NM folks, but I would expect Wal-Mart to provide us new media folks with greater access to the information provided to broadcast stations (within reason). If we can obtain all the written press releases as the big boys, I'd argue that we should have access to photo and video archives too.

Posted by Kevin at 4:41 PM

Blogs: Cries, Memories, and Plans

Randy Reynolds is reporting first-hand from the outside of an old Wal-Mart, which has become the Pineville Red Cross Shelter. The accounts are of flood survivors are gripping.

Posted by Kevin at 10:00 AM

Katrina (Updated)

* For the latest disaster relief news from Wal-Mart, click here *

Wal-Mart has set up a national online system that allows people affected by the disaster to be able contact one another. Using the Community Crisis System, you may post comments stating your whereabouts, or your concern for someone specific, and search the database by first and last name.

*9/7 -- In the WSJ, Alan Murray writes about the epiphany of big business in the wake of Katrina, but also about the limits to charity because of its corporate structure:

As for the obligation to shareholders, Mr. Odland says that if his charity efforts help New Orleans recover, it will help his company as well. Mr. Scott calls it a balancing act. "We can't send three trailer loads of merchandise to every group that asks for it," he says. He tells of being in Houston on Monday, and talking to someone who wanted Wal-Mart to donate 2,000 blankets to help refugees. Mr. Scott turned down the request. "We have to, at the end of this, have a viable business," he explains.

*9/9 -- 15 stores still closed.

*9/6 -- Wal-Mart associates provide stories from the front.

*9/6 -- Wal-Mart's Mini-Stores are operational in the Cajun Dome, Monroe Civic Center.

*9/6 -- In addition to Wal-Mart's corporate donations, The Walton Family Foundation has donated $15M:

Separately, the Walton Family Foundation is providing $8 million to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. The Walton Family Foundation has already donated an additional $7 million to organizations such as The Salvation Army, America’s Second Harvest and Foundation for the Mid-South.

*9/6 -- On page D1 of the WaPo, Wal-Mart is at the forefront of hurricaine relief:

At 8 a.m. on Wednesday, as New Orleans filled with water, Wal-Mart chief executive H. Lee Scott Jr. called an emergency meeting of his top lieutenants and warned them he did not want a "measured response" to the hurricane.

"I want us to respond in a way appropriate to our size and the impact we can have," he said, according to an executive who attended the meeting. At the time, Wal-Mart had pledged $2 million to the relief efforts. "Should it be $10 million?" Scott asked.

Over the next few days, Wal-Mart's response to Katrina -- an unrivaled $20 million in cash donations, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, food for 100,000 meals and the promise of a job for every one of its displaced workers -- has turned the chain into an unexpected lifeline for much of the Southeast and earned it near-universal praise at a time when the company is struggling to burnish its image.

This does indeed set a new standard for corporate response to disaster; whether done out of sincere motives or not, with $20M in cash and in-kind, Wal-Mart has finally received extremely positive news coverage.

*9/6 -- Meanwhile, there are many examples of Wal-Mart asssociates being given temporary work outside the disaster area.

*9/6 -- To boost morale, WM store managers are showing a video to associates of all that WM is doing in response to Katrina.

1. 123 Wal-Mart stores closed, mostly due to loss of power (with 70 reopened as of 9/1/05, and only 18 closed as of 9/6/05. More details about damage here.)

2. Ball joints to haul trailers most popular item before the storm.

3. Families sought refuge in Wal-Mart parking lots??? A commenter on Wal-Mart Watch claims a Target store collapsed.

4. Wal-Mart donates $1M to the Salvation Army and another $1M to the Red Cross. Target donates $1.5 million to the Red Cross. Later, H. Lee Scott announced a donation of $15M to flood victims and the opening of mini-Wal-Mart stores to give away supplies:

As part of Wal-Mart's commitment it will establish mini-Wal-Mart stores in areas impacted by the hurricane. The stores will give away essential items, including clothing, diapers, baby wipes, food, formula toothbrushes, bedding, and water.

5. The looting of Wal-Mart is now a local pastime:

Why stop at everyday low prices?

Giant discount retailer Wal-Mart Stores became a major target for looters rummaging in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina on Wednesday, with thieves hitting the store's gun racks while also ransacking for food and clothing.

The Wal-Mart store in the Lower Garden District in New Orleans was missing its entire stock of guns, according to the local Times-Picayune newspaper, which also said looting for guns and other goods was prevalent in other stores....

Wal-Mart has reopened about 70 of the 123 stores that were shut down in the immediate aftermath of Katrina's strike on Monday...

The strangely peaceful looting of the wrecked store (people selecting goods off the shelves, and placing them gently in shopping carts) was caught on camera:
Residents are seen looting a Wal-Mart and a Walgreens in full view of camera crews and security guards.

In one scene, several people dressed in security guard uniforms join the looters in stripping the Wal-Mart store.

Then other people dressed as security guards arrived and detain some looters.

Reportedly, troops armed with M-16 rifles arrived at the Wal-Mart to disburse the crowd.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco told NBC's Matt Lauer that while officials were deeply concerned about the looting, the government was focused on repairing huge holes in the city's levee system and saving people trapped by floods.

Even the security guards POLICE! are looting:

sg_loot.jpg

Also, Crooks and Liars has MSNBC video of Countdown reporter Martin Savidge confronting the police and other looters.

6. I should also note Wal-Mart will pay associates whose stores have closed three days of pay, even if they were not even scheduled for work:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. initially closed 156 stores in the affected areas. As of yesterday afternoon, 46 were closed. Before the hurricane hit, workers were given a toll-free number to call for assistance or to find out if their store had reopened.

Wal-Mart employees whose stores were shut received pay for the first three days the store was closed, whether they were scheduled to work or not. Employees who need money for food or clothes can ask store managers for $250 in cash assistance. Employees whose stores do not reopen in three days will be provided temporary work at other Wal-Mart or Sam's Club stores if they can get there, according to a Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

The company's "associate disaster relief fund" provides financial help to employees for lodging and food. "We've not had to do this to this degree" before, said Sarah Clark, a spokeswoman. She could not estimate how much money Wal-Mart might spend helping employees.


katrinabadge.gif
See more details at the WM Associates Blog, on which one associate has an interesting photo of a Wal-Mart badge, while another poster describes the damage to several WM stores:
Store 5079, Pass Christian, MI
There is 1/2 of 1 wall left. The only items that were found were an item from the cash office, and 1 camera from the roof.

Store 1088, Biloxi, MI
The roof had 30+ holes in it. The whole backwall is gone, which means that receiving is gone and all of the offices.

Store 1195, Waveland, MI
Had 19 feet of water. Of course most, if not all the merchandise is destroyed and everything has been moved around, i.e. the meat freezers, etc.


Posted by Kevin at 9:29 AM

September 8, 2005

Accelerated Expansion in China

On the retail side, that is:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to accelerate store openings in China and expand into smaller Chinese cities after the government relaxed laws on foreign retailers operating in the country, one of the company’s executives in China said Wednesday.

A Wal-Mart executive speaking at a conference in New York, meanwhile, said the company is taking a similar tack in Mexico, broadening its search for small cities that could support its stores.

Bentonville-based Wal-Mart plans to open 14 superstores in China this year, an increase of a third over previous plans, to catch up with Carrefour SA and domestic chains in China’s $652 billion retail market, said James Lee, vice president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart China.

Here in a nutshell is an entire research program: how will Wal-Mart (and its competitors) change the pattern and path of economic expansion in the small towns of developing nations?

Posted by Kevin at 9:55 AM

Miramar, FL: "Monarch Lakes, not Wal-Mart Lakes"

An interesting assortment of articles today, including a superb article by Natalie P. McNeal in the Miami Herald about 300 anti-WM resdients opposing a new Supercenter in Miramar (really annoying registration required):

More than 300 residents formed a standing-room-only crowd at the Miramar City Hall Wednesday night, ready for a fight they'd been awaiting for months.

The residents were there to persuade city commissioners to reject plans for a new Wal-Mart supercenter at the corner of Miramar Parkway and Flamingo Road.

Residents of nearby subdivisions, especially Monarch Lakes, have been fighting the plan for months, saying that it would lead to increased traffic and crime and lower property property values. They have created anti-Wal-Mart clothing and a letter-writing campaign, and they have dedicated the Monarch Lakes website to the effort to stop the world's largest retailer....

Commissioners approved the proposal in an initial vote in June but postponed the final vote to get more research on the store's impact. The reports found that the store does agree with the city's future land-use plans and the majority of the development code....

The battle is more than just talk. Since Wal-Mart began its push for west Miramar, both sides have launched campaigns.

The Monarch Lakes subdivision, across the street from the proposed site, has a website, www.monarchlakes.org, devoted to its campaign. Homeowners have picketed City Hall, worn ''No Wal-Mart'' buttons and adopted the slogan ``Monarch Lakes, not Wal-Mart Lakes.''

118_1872 univ at pembroke rd.JPGWell, as of right now, their website is "under construction", but googling the site does bring us some very interesting hidden pages, such as WM and Women: They Suck Ass, the boilerplate Wal-Mart's anti-worker activity factsheet, and bizarre photos (like the one at left) of Wal-Mart's alleged poor treatment of the environment around their already existing stores.. It's clear that their primary concerns are 1) traffic and 2) the fear that so many people will choose to shop at Wal-Mart causing their own favorite stores to go out of business:

If Wal-Mart’s application is approved, the competition to the “better brand” stores may ultimately cause them to go out of business. If this happens, what other large commercial type businesses will the City Commissioners look to replace them?

Posted by Kevin at 9:22 AM

September 7, 2005

Mr. Scott Notes that Tesco is Larger Than...

H. Lee Scott's comments about Tesco's share of the market being too large a target for UK politicians are easily interpreted as a call for an investigation. In the comments of the last link, Alan (from Alan and Paul) gets to the heart of the matter right away:

It appears that back in 2003, Wal-Mart’s subsidiary Asda controlled 16.9 percent of the British grocery market (slightly more than it has now), when it became the highest bidder to purchase British Safeway, a struggling chain with 12.4 percent of the grocery market.

If Wal-Mart had been allowed to purchase British Safeway, it would have controlled 29.3 percent of the grocery market. This level of market share, it turns out, was completely unpalatable to British Trade and Industry officials, who stepped in and proclaimed that it would be illegal for Wal-Mart to have that large a share of the grocery business. Fair enough, I suppose.

But now Euro retailer Tesco has achieved a 30.5 percent market share. Why is it that Wal-Mart having 29.3 percent of the market constitutes an illegal monopoly—but Tesco having an even larger share is just fine? And that, of course, was the obvious question on Lee Scott’s mind when he directed those comments at British antitrust regulators over the weekend.

Itoo think Scott's remarks are taken entirely out of context by many, but there's no doubt that Mr Scott i's correct about the desire of politicians to intervene in the economy if it will score them points. What did Scott actually say?

"As you get over 30% and higher, I am sure there is a point where government is compelled to intervene, particularly in the U.K., where you have the planning laws that make it difficult to compete," Scott told the Times of London, adding that "at some point, the government has to look at it."

Why is it that nobody is calling for intervention into Tesco? Could it be that Tesco has captured the regulators?

Most anti-trust/planning/regulatory laws allegedly designed to enhance competition do exactly the opposite; they do NOT protect the public from nefarious behavior, and as may or may not be exemplified here, they are frequently used by companies as hammers to drive nails through each other and the public.

The skinny: One should greatly doubt the abilities of regulators to determine exactly which market configurations are in the public interest.

Posted by Kevin at 10:24 AM

Too Costly or not Costly Enough?

After reading about Wal-Mart's rapid response to Katrina, Radley Balko asks:

H. Lee Scott for director of FEMA?
To take this seriously, I doubt that FEMA is legally permitted to entice Mr. Scott away from Wal-Mart with anything near his current ~$12.6M compensation package (including stock options). With $42M in Wal-Mart stock, he certainly wouldn't be doing it for the money.

Instead, FEMA is managed by MIchael Brown, who, as a level III executve will earn $149,000 in 2005.

Wal-Mart's CEO earns about 85 times the amount of FEMA's Under Secretary. Is FEMA getting the management that it is paying for?

Posted by Kevin at 9:37 AM

September 6, 2005

Tesco Interested In Albertsons?

Excellent news for consumers if it is true, Tesco might come state-side with an acquistion of Albertsons:

Though Carrefour may be out, at least one other overseas retailer might be interested. Speculation from across the Atlantic focused on U.K. retailing giant Tesco as a potential bidder. Analysts pointed out that Tesco has been expanding overseas as it seeks fresh revenue streams. The chain has already proven it can compete with Wal-Mart in Europe.

More broadly, Bishop said the floating of Albertson's on the market is indicative of a sector under siege.

Posted by Kevin at 2:19 PM

September 3, 2005

Wal-Mart at The Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico

Peter Mork has been traveling through Cuba and Mexico. In his travelogue, descriptions, and analyses on his blog, he writes about the Wal-Mart that was located at Teotihuacán, site of the famous Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon.

Here is a brief excerpt:

After the long decent down the face of the pyramid, we jumped in a taxi to take a look at the town and grab some lunch. I asked the driver where the Wal-Mart was located (to be clear it's actually not even a Wal-Mart, it is a Bodega Aurrera, a subsidiary of the firm). It was south of the main square he told me. When I inquired about the protests that surrounded its opening, he confirmed that there was quite a commotion at the time.

... The Bodega Aurrera was on the outskirts of the business section, nowhere near the pyramids, and in many ways not what I had expected. Not only was it much smaller than the Wal-Marts back home (or even in other parts of Mexico), there were no obvious signs on the building or elsewhere advertising the store's name. Yet I guess there was no need for such direct advertising, as people seemed to know exactly what was inside. Shoppers flooding in and out showed that the business was clearly busy. Em took a picture of the outside of the store in the parking lot, but a security guard quickly asked us to put the camera away. He told us that If we would like, we could ask management for permission, but due to all the negative publicity the store had received we would need their ok first.

Inside it was just like any well run department store or market you could find anywhere in the world. Clothes, beauty products, fresh fruit and vegetables… you name it. I've heard complaints throughout the trip how expensive electronics are in Mexico compared to the U.S. but in this store the prices seemed very comparable. A 5-disc DVD player went for a little over $600 pesos (around $60 USD). Everywhere you looked there seemed to be happy customers filling their shopping carts. We joined in and bought some basic supplies we needed for the trip.

There is much more at his blog.

Posted by TheEclecticEconoclast at 6:25 AM

September 2, 2005

Wal-Mart and the Teachers;
another take

Who cares more about students: Wal-Mart or the Teachers' Union? Read this and judge for yourself [courtesy of King at SCSU Scholars].

A woman loading packs of ballpoint pens into her cart caught my eye. No, she didn't have 120 children. She was Karla Keller Torp, executive director of the Caring Tree in Bloomington, a nonprofit organization that partners with social service agencies such as the Boys and Girls Clubs to get school supplies to low-income kids across Minnesota.

Torp told me that 121,000 Minnesota kids live at or below the poverty level. Last year, Caring Tree outfitted 17,000 of them for school. Yes, she knew about the teachers' union boycott, but wasn't deterred.

"At the Caring Tree, we're trying to squeeze every dollar we have for the sake of the kids. Wal-Mart helps us leverage and maximize our dollars."

Torp pointed to the pile of blue backpacks stuffed into her cart. "We've determined that the starting price point for backpacks is around $9.98. At Wal-Mart, we've found great quality at a great price -- these are only $4.47."

Torp added that Wal-Mart supports the Caring Tree with discounts that reduce prices even more. "Wal-Mart's been a good partner for us for years," she concluded.

The quoted material is from a story in the Star-Tribune. The entire piece is a good read.

Posted by TheEclecticEconoclast at 4:55 PM

Eminem + WM + Kids = Bizarre Music Video

Here's a strange music video filmed by some kids inside a Wal-Mart, choreographed well to Eminem's song Just Lose It.

Posted by Kevin at 3:45 PM

Noise Reduction

The Wal-Mart Employee Journal is consistently more interesting and diverse than the blogs of Wal-Mart's opponents. For instance, in a recent post, we find out that Wal-Mart has discovered how LOUD their stores are compared to, say, Target, and are instructing employees to cut down on PA usage; some employees have been given walkie-talkies to be used instead. Many employees think this won't really help, since people either have to page to get specific things done, or abusers will find a way to circumvent the limitations.

Here's a freebie tip to Wal-Mart executives: shut off the hideous televisions and/or music! It's that simple, really. I know you really like Wal-Mart TV. So just try it in half of your 10 stores nearest, say, the center of Knoxville, and send in a team to both the quiet and loud stores to survey people, and another team to check out the financials.

Posted by Kevin at 11:38 AM

September 1, 2005

Med-Point Express

The Shouth Bend Tribune has a great piece on Wal-Mart's new healthcare facility in Mishawaka, IN:

MISHAWAKA -- It doesn't feel hospital-like with its decor of earthy tones. And there's no 20-minute wait for a doctor after the nurse takes you back and checks your temperature.

The nurse is your doctor.

Patients know up front what a visit will cost from the menu board on the storefront.

Cough: $45.

Pregnancy test: $21.

Strep screening: $20.

Insect Bite: $38.

Seasonal flu shot: $22.

And the entire visit will take 15 minutes maximum at Med-Point Express, the new retail-based primary care clinic that opens Monday in Mishawaka.

Nurses will be evaluating, diagnosing and treating about 30 common illnesses including sore throat, sinus infections and ear infections.

The clinic is sandwiched between a nail salon and portrait studio in the front of the Wal-Mart superstore at 316 Indian Ridge Blvd. It is a new trend in medical care -- fast medical care that is affordable as well as convenient for customers.

Inside Indian Business has an audio interview with a Senior VP of Memorial Medical Group.

Posted by Kevin at 1:19 PM

Independents vs. Big Boxes

Consumer Reports' September 2005 issue ($ubscriber-only) reports on a 6000 person non-representative reader survey asking about price, quality, and service at independent stores and big boxes when shopping for small and large appliances.

The results are not flattering to Wal-Mart -- or any other chain besides Sears:

Sears was the only major retailer that matched the independents for product selection, service, and checkout for small appliances, and served readers nearly as well when buying large appliances....

Costco is the only store that excelled in price without compromising quality, which helps explain its high reader score. But that appeal was offset by subpar service and checkout, and less product selection....

Wal-Mart: not a winner on price. Wal-Mart's tag line is "Always low prices. Always." But compared with other small-appliance buyers, more than twice as many who bought at Wal-Mart said they overpaid. While Wal-Mart sells no large appliances, readers who shopped there ranked small appliances lower in quality than readers who bought elsewhere....

Best Buy and Target: service suffers. Compared with the average for other stores, twice as many large-appliance buyers couldn't find help at Best Buy. Target's small-appliance prices were lower than average, but readers said they got below-average quality. Crowded aisles were another complaint.

Wal-Mart came in dead last, recieving the worst score for Price (3), and Selection, Service, Checkout Ease, and Product Quality (1). But WM can take these data in stride; the readers of Consumer Reports are truly unrepresentative of the US public. And elsewhere CR has noted that Wal-Mart's in-house lines equal or better the quality of name brands for diverse goods from peanut putter to ladies jeans, and from oatmeal to plastic bags.

(The results of the reader survey are summarized here).

Posted by Kevin at 12:54 PM

LightMasterPlus (Correction)

CORRECTION: ALP must retract a story about LightMasterPlus signing a ten-store deal with Wal-Mart, which intially ran on July 12, 2005. It turns out that Host America never had a contract or written agreement with Wal-Mart:

Host America placed its president and CEO, Geoffrey Ramsey, on administrative leave without pay pending the completion of an investigation. Chief Financial Officer David Murphy was appointed acting president and CEO starting yesterday, the company said. Ramsey also resigned as chairman and a member of the company's board.

The SEC suspended trading on Host America shares on July 22, when it started its ongoing formal investigation.

Always Low Prices relied on a press release from Host America, and I personally regret propagating the error.

The initial story run on ALP is uncorrected below:

----------

This is why Wal-Mart is the low cost supplier:

Host America Corp... announced a deal with Wal-Mart to install its fluorescent lighting system into some of the retail giant's stores.

[T]he food service and energy management company said it will start surveying 10 Wal-Mart stores in the Southwest to prepare for installation of its LightMasterPlus lighting system. Host America expects "that the next phase will involve a significant number of stores...."

At a Wal-Mart store in Texas, where the product was tested for more than six months, energy savings of 19 percent were reported.

Here's the full press release. Here's a pretty 1 page PDF summary.

Posted by Kevin at 10:31 AM