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Wal-Mart (WMT) presses the music industry   Posted Aug 21st 2007 9:42AM by Douglas McIntyre

It must be that Steve Jobs got the top job at Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT). He has been crying for the music industry to offer music without copyright protection, and the world's largest retailer has just become his best friend.


Wall-Mart's large online music store will begin to offer songs that can be played anywhere - transferred from device to device. The songs will be sold for 94 cents per track and, according to Reuters, "the new format let customers play music on almost any device, including iPod, phones and Microsoft Corps's Zune portable media player."


The announcement may be bad news for two large music companies that have not already decided to move full-speed into DRM-free downloads, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group (NYSE: WMG). They fear that if music can be moved anywhere and shared, that it will cut into units sales from customers who cannot now get songs from friends and neighbors. Champions of open downloads like Mr. Jobs say that CDs are already routinely ripped so that most digital music is not protected anyway.


Music publishers continue to be pounded by the industry's new model. They earn less on downloads from services like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iTunes than they do from CDs, but sales of the physical discs are falling fast as consumers move away from the format. Read more


Wal-Mart grant for HOPE Foundation  Staff Correspondent

 MUMBAI: Wal-Mart has announced a grant of $1.12 million over a three-year period to HOPE Foundation to set up ‘Industrial Clusters of Hope’ in five underserved communities in and around areas where factories of Wal-Mart’s suppliers are located in India. The grant was given by Wal-Mart’s Ethical Standards department under its International Giving Program (IGP).

Each Industrial Cluster of Hope will impart primary education for children from the area as well as vocational training, English language education and social skills for disadvantaged young adults, according to a release.

The centres will be located in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Panipat and Moradabad, the release added.

Read more


WalMart Exports help fuel overseas growth   By Lauren Coleman-Lochner  Bloomberg News  Article Last Updated: 08/18/2007 03:06:32 PM MDT

The world's largest retailer is working its way up the ranks of top exporters

For Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the road to a higher share price is paved with chicken feet and Spam.

    The world's largest retailer, long the biggest importer of goods into the U.S., last year joined a list of the top 100 U.S. exporters for the first time. It sent 39 percent more shipping containers overseas than General Motors Corp., and surpassed cigarette maker Altria Group Inc.

    Although only a fraction of the $18 billion in goods it bought from China alone in 2005, exports will increase further as Wal-Mart targets a third of its sales growth from abroad amid the slowest gains at U.S. stores in at least 27 years.

    International sales will expand to 30 percent of Wal-Mart's total in 2010, up from 22 percent last year, estimates Citigroup Inc. analyst Deborah Weinswig.

    International markets ''could be like a savior for Wal-Mart,'' said David Abella, an analyst at Rochdale Investment Management in New York, with $2.4 billion in assets including Wal-Mart shares.

    The expansion may help end the seven-year stock slump for Wal-Mart. The shares will rise 29 percent in the next 12 months, says Weinswig. She is top-ranked by Institutional Investor and rates the stock ''buy.''


U.S. sales at Wal-Mart locations open at least a year, a key retail gauge because it excludes recently opened or closed stores, rose 2.1 percent in the year through January, the slowest growth since the company began tracking them in 1980.

    Total international sales jumped 30 percent. They have surged 15-fold in the past decade, to $77.1 billion. read more


Bharti, Wal-Mart's India Partner, to Start Next Year (Update1)

By Haslinda Amin and Saikat Chatterjee

July 23 (Bloomberg) -- Bharti Group, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s partner in India, plans to open its first retail store in India by the middle of next year, more than six months after its initial target.

Bharti will have 200 large stores in the next seven years, group Chairman Sunil Mittal said in an interview in New Delhi on July 21. The 49-year-old billionaire is starting a retail chain after building India's biggest mobile-phone services provider.

The delay will make it tougher for Bharti to find the best sites to set up its shops as it competes with Reliance Industries Ltd. and Aditya Birla Group to grab a slice of the country's organized retail market. Sales through store chains may grow by more than eightfold to $97 billion by 2012, according to consultant Technopak Advisors Pvt. read more



Not copying Wal-Mart pays off for grocery chains


The Wall Street Journal

Earlier this decade, the hidebound supermarket business was expected to fall before Wal-Mart’s supercenter rollout and the rise of membership clubs like Costco Wholesale Corp. and high-end specialty chains like Whole Foods Market. Many chains did collapse — 26 filed for bankruptcy this decade — and a wave of consolidation swept the business. But the survivors rallied by redesigning stores, introducing a more relaxed shopping experience, and marrying low-priced staples with higher-margin breads, meats and wine. Now, the stronger chains like TheKroger Co. and SuperValu Inc. are taking market share from weaker, often regional, grocers.  read more



Social Networking Video Creation Technology Launched By Wal-Mart

Saturday, July 14, 2007; Posted: 8:59 AM - by Social Computing News Desk


Available in English and Spanish, Wal-Mart is making available an innovative application that allows you to use your personal digital photos to create and share Hollywood-style Mini Movies. In the tradition of Web 2.0 applications it's a free web-based service: Wal-Mart Mini Movie.


Developed by Sequoia Media Group and offered as part of the aVinci Experience product line, registered users of Wal-Mart Mini Movie can choose from numerous themed templates including Vacation, Wedding, Sports, Family, Celebrations, and All Occasion. Once a theme is chosen, users simply select six photos of their choice, and add a title to their production.


"From start to finish, Mini Movies can be created, viewed and shared in about a minute," says a Wal-Mart company announcement. "A coordinating Movie Poster is also automatically generated and ready to share," it adds.read more



Wal-Mart rescinds support of LGBT organizations

Heeding the threat of a boycott by Christian groups and the disapproval of many employees, mega-retailer Wal-Mart has opted to stop supporting LGBT organizations, Fortune magazine's online site reported Friday.

 "We are not currently planning corporate-level contributions to GLBT groups," Mona Williams, Wal-Mart's senior vice president of corporate communications, told the magazine. She also cited a Wal-Mart policy penned last year that prohibits "supporting or opposing highly controversial issues."

 The decision comes only a year after Wal-Mart joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, an organization of 24,000 gay- and lesbian-owned businesses, and cosponsored the Out & Equal workplace rights group.

 "I thought the company was moving in the right direction," one Wal-Mart employee wrote in an e-mail to Fortune. "But last week changed everything. Pulling funding from GLBT organizations is a slap in the face to gay employees, and it sends a very clear message. Diversity within Wal-Mart is only partially inclusive." read more


Wal-Mart unwraps new packaging policy

June 22, 2007

Suppliers that use excessive packaging may risk losing the business of the world’s most powerful retailer. Wal-Mart Canada announced yesterday that packaging practices will weigh in its decision on which products to stock.


Chief executive Mario Pilozzi says the retail giant will soon implement a packaging scorecard, in which companies will have to fill out a questionnaire detailing the environmental impact and recycled content of their packaging.Pilozzi says companies that haven’t worked hard enough to be less wasteful will have a harder time finding shelf space at Wal-Mart.

He made the announcement yesterday in Toronto to a meeting of about 200 suppliers.

Wal-Mart hopes to reduce the packaging on its products by five per cent by 2013.

read more


Wal-Mart to open 1,000 ‘MoneyCenters’

By Jonathan Birchall in New York Published: June 20 2007 19:01 | Last updated: June 20 2007 19:01


Wal-Mart on Wednesday ramped up its push into financial services, announcing plans to open 1,000 in-store “MoneyCenters” in a move it hailed as a “game-changer for the industry”. Jane Thompson, its head of financial services, confirmed that Wal-Mart was also launching a branded pre-paid payments card aimed at its low-income customers, and said up to four more products would follow before the end of the year.

The world’s largest retailer will also launch its first television and print advertising campaign tied to financial products to support its prepaid Wal-Mart MoneyCard. The card is designed to appeal to the 73m of its customers who do not have an active bank account.

...The expansion follows the retailer’s decision earlier this year to abandon its attempt to win its own banking licence in the face of opposition from the banking industry and from its union-led political critics.


Instead, it is working to expand its products with financial partners, including GE Money, which is issuing the pre-paid card, and ShareBuilder, which is testing online new share and money market savings accounts that can be linked to the prepaid card.

read more




Making Money from the Green Revolution

I am writing this from the 2007 GMA (Grocery Manufacturer’s Association) Executive Conference at the Greenbrier resort in W.Virginia. The conference and the resort are both part of a 100 year tradition of the grocery and food industry event graced every year by the top CXOs of the industry.


One of the sessions today : Wal-Mart Leading the Way in Going Green, was presented by Linda Dillman, EVP handling sustainability for Wal-Mart. If you remember, Linda was the CIO of Wal-Mart until a year ago when she took on this new challenging initiative.


Much has been said and done on the issue of how modern-day businesses are going green but Linda’s speech was momentous as it argued and proved at the same time that going green was not just the right thing to do, it made massive business sense with scorecards measuring the exact ROI from these efforts. Trust Wal-Mart to do that


This methodical, cold-nosed approach to a sustainability initiative is what makes it more successful. For example, Wal-Mart is working with Unilever on their laundry product “All-Small & Mighty”. Compared to the regular bottle (100 oz.) of all detergent, all small & mighty requires only half the amount of plastic and corrugated cardboard to produce. Transporting all small & mighty requires only 1/3 the amount of diesel fuel it takes to transport the 100 oz. bottle of detergent. How does all small & mighty help keep our world clean every year? Every year, all small & mighty helps save: 862,000 gallons of diesel, 50MM square feet of cardboard, 6MM pounds of plastic. And the best part: the smaller packaging helps save Wal-Mart shelf space where it can stock more products and reduce out-of-stocks and lost sales. It makes fantastic business sense to do this. Wal-Mart has numerous other such examples of business initiatives with an internal rate of return of greater than 37% (planned) and producing tremendous far-reaching benefits to the environment.read more



Bharti Wal-Mart set to debut next year

BS Reporter / New Delhi June 10, 2007

Legal issues such as brand agreement, franchise arrangement may take some time to be sorted out.


The Bharti-Wal-Mart retail combine is looking at opening its first clutch of retail stores � around half a dozen � sometime early next year.


Bharti Enterprises group chairman and CEO Sunil Mittal today said: �We will start rolling out stores from next year and may put up several hundred stores over four to five years�.


�The legal issues such as brand agreement, franchise arrangement may take some time, as there are multiple agreements such as technology, franchise and joint venture. But, we are looking at building this as fast as we can. We are going ahead as per the plan,� he added.


Bharti has announced that it will invest $2.5 billion in its retail venture, under which it will lead and manage the front end operations, while Wal-Mart will power the logistics and backend operations. Around $100 million has already been committed by Bharti. read more



COMPANIES INTERNATIONAL: Wal-Mart set to target expansion in urban areas

By Jonathan Birchall in New York, Financial Times Published: Jun 04, 2007


Wal-Mart hopes to accelerate its expansion into traditionally pro-union strongholds such as California andChicago despite a decision to slow its overall US growth.


Eduardo Castro-Wright, head of Wal-Mart's US store division, said the move to reduce the number of the 200,000 sq ft stores that the largest US retailer would open this year by almost one-third would "if anything accelerate" efforts to establish stores in potentially high-growth urban markets.


"There's an emphasis on these kinds of stores," he said of the urban markets.

John Menzer, a Wal-Mart vice-chairman, said the scaling back would tend to impact on areas where Wal-Mart already had a significant presence.


Wal-Mart has said it will cut its rate of square footage growth in the US to 4-5 per cent in the coming two years from the 7 per cent originally proposed in October. The company says the move - the most dramatic cutback in expansion plans in its history - will allow it to improve its return on invested capital, and was not a response to opposition to new store openings which has intensified as it expands out of the rural states where it built its business.


Wal-Mart opened its first Supercenter inside Washington DC's city limits this year, and its first Supercenter within Chicago's city limits in September. Attempts to open stores in New York City and Los Angeles have been rebuffed by opposition from groups including Democratic party politicians with links to the UFCW grocery workers' union.

read more



Wal-Mart in India

More news on the Wal-Mart in India venture , the Economic Times reports there is a “groundswell of support for Wal- Mart”. Though I am not sure I believe ‘groundswell’ is an apt description, it does again bring about the idea that Wal-Mart is closer and closer to its first opening. (if you listen closely right now…… you can almost hear the first protest as well).

The issue of retail in India is not a simple one. Wal-Mart, while not a beloved figure across the world, does bring hope to the still-evolving Indian retail market. The article cites 22% of sales and 30% of last years sales growth were accounted for in the international market (so far without India). Wal-mart in India does expand the potential for its formal labor sector and India does provide a fertile market for growth in international markets. Wal-Mart thrives on a global supply chain (many products originating in China), which may provide an entry point into the Indian market for many retail goods.

My point is - What will be interesting to observe is the interaction of Wal-Mart and its label for bad labor practices, with current Indian labor laws which are quite strict. How will they deal with unions, local wage rates, and hiring practices? While Im sure their first opening wont be in West Bengal, the case is an interesting one. Their public relations team will have enough on its hands, but the other executives have some interesting decisions as well. read more from the Centre for Micro Finance

Faltering Wal-Mart cuts back on expansion

By Michael Barbaro Published: June 3, 2007

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas:The world's largest retailer is slowing down. Again.

After decades of staggering growth, which blanketed suburban America with thousands of its giant stores, Wal-Mart will reduce the number of new super-centers to be opened this year by nearly 30 percent, or roughly 75 stores, the company said Friday during its annual shareholder meeting here.

The store pullback, the second in less than six months, may be the biggest in the company's 45-year history, and it suggests that Wal-Mart is reaching a turning point.

Once seemingly invulnerable, Wal-Mart has begun to stumble, with sales at individual stores falling to their lowest levels in decades in 2006. Opening new stores at the rate of one a day has not helped; they have taken attention (and resources) away from aging outlets in need of renovations and at times have snatched sales from nearby older stores.

Rather than relying heavily on new Wal-Marts, executives are now more focused on squeezing sales and profits out of older ones.Read more


"Staggering" growth might excite the market pundits. But who exactly decreed that "Opening new stores at the rate of one a day" is a winning strategy in a saturated market. On the other hand, focusing on "squeezing sales and profits" from older operations sounds like it could be organic growth to me. And based on the pop in the stock price, when this new strategy was made clear, at least some of the money out there agress. It seems the only realistic strategy for W-Mart in the US. If Wal Mart is forced to start embracing organic growth, can others be far behind?


Wal-Mart Cuts Growth, Ups Buyback

Andrew Farrell, 06.01.07, 2:06 PM ET


With its share price and U.S. sales leveling, Wal-Mart announced Friday it would cut back on growth plans and return more money to shareholders.

Wal-Mart (nyse: WMT - news - people ) said at its annual shareholder meeting that it will cut back on the number of planned supercenter store openings in the U.S. by more than a quarter. The move will save the company $1.5 billion in the current fiscal year.

The company said that it will open between 190 and 200 new supercenters in the U.S. during the 2008 fiscal year. Last year, the company said it planned to open between 265 and 270 over the same period. Wal-Mart said Friday it expects capital expenditures for the year of $15.5 billion, down from the previously projected $17 billion.

The move comes as sales at Wal-Mart stores have slowed and shares have languished. Same-store sales for Wal-Mart stores in April dropped 4.6% from a year ago. Shares of the retailer gained 2.3% this year, underperforming the Dow Jones industrial average, which gained 21.3% over the same period. Read More


Wal-Mart: $4 generics now 38 pct of filled scripts

Fri Jun 1, 2007 2:16 AM BST28 By Nicole Maestri

BENTONVILLE, Arkansas (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT.N: Quote, Profile , Research) said on Thursday that just six months after completing the roll-out of its $4 generic prescription drug program, 37.8 percent of all prescriptions it fills are $4 prescriptions.

Wal-Mart's U.S. chief operating officer, Bill Simon, made the comments at a media conference one day ahead of its annual shareholders' meeting amid ongoing criticism from labor groups that contend the world's largest retailer offers inadequate pay and health care benefits to its workers.

Wal-Mart began selling certain generic drugs for $4 per monthly prescription in September and by the end of November had extended the program to all its U.S. pharmacies -- far ahead of schedule. Other retailers, including close rival Target Corp. (TGT.N: Quote, Profile , Research), have rolled out similar programs

read more





Wal-Mart Reports Record First Quarter Sales and Earnings

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) today reported record sales and earnings for the quarter ended Apr. 30, 2007. Net sales for the first quarter of fiscal year 2008 were $85.387 billion, an increase of 8.3 percent over the first quarter of fiscal year 2007. Income from continuing operations for the quarter was $2.826 billion, an increase of 6.2 percent from $2.660 billion in the first quarter of fiscal year 2007.

Earnings per share from continuing operations were $0.68, up from $0.64 per share in the same prior year quarter.

While these are record sales and earnings, we feel there was an opportunity to have done better,” said Lee Scott, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. president and chief executive officer. “Delivering on our mission — saving people money so they can live better — is more important than ever around the world. The worldwide organization is focused on improving sales and returns.”

The Wal-Mart Stores and Sam’s Club segments’ operating income includes the favorable impact of an excise tax refund on prior merchandise phone card sales of $46 million and $39 million, and a charge for certain litigation of $73 million and $10 million, respectively.read more


Wal-Mart Will Announce their Teacher of the Year

Saturday, May 12 at 9:00 a.m., the Crawfordville Wal-Mart will announce the recipient of their 2007 Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year award. The public is invited and encouraged to attend the ceremony, which will be held inside the store near the Customer Service Center. The winner will receive a $100 gift card to be used towards classroom supplies, a Teacher of the Year polo shirt, and a personalized certificate. The winning teacher's school will receive a $1000 grant.

Nominations were taken from the community during March of this year. Every Wal-Mart store in the nation selects a Teacher of the Year, and this marks the 12th annual Teacher of the Year Award Ceremony that Wal-Mart Corporation has held.




Wal-Mart Goes Solar

In one of the biggest solar deals to date, Wal-Mart will buy 22 million kilowatt-hours of greenhouse gas-free electricity produced from solar arrays to be installed as a pilot project at 22 stores in California and Hawaii. The retail giant estimates the move will reduce planet-warming emissions by 6,500 to 10,000 metric tons a year. The solar systems will be installed by SunPower's (SPWR) PowerLight subsidiary at seven California stores, by SunEdison at four stores in California and four in Hawaii, and by BP Solar (BP) at seven stores in the Golden State. Wal-Mart (WMT) will buy electricity produced by the arrays at market or below market rates and retain ownership of any Renewable Credits. RECs potentially could be worth a bundle if they're allowed to be traded on carbon markets under consideration in California and Hawaii. For instance, a company that exceeds its limit on greenhouse gas emissions could buy Wal-Mart RECs, which represent CO2 avoided through the use of solar energy. Hawaii late last week became the second state after California to pass a cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Read more



Wal-Mart plans more in-store clinics; up to 2,000 in 5 years

Wal-Mart recently announced plans to significantly increase the number of in-store health clinics around the country.

The discount retailer said it plans to open up an additional 400 in-store clinics within the next three years and possibly 2,000 within the next five to seven years. Wal-Mart currently has clinics in 75 stores in 12 states.

The expansion would mean about 55% of Wal-Mart's stores would have clinics by 2012.

"We think the clinics will be a great opportunity for our business," said Wal-Mart president and CEO Lee Scott in a speech at the April World Health Care Conference in Washington, D.C., where the plans were first announced. "But more importantly, they are going to provide something our customers and communities desperately need -- affordable access at the local level to quality health care."

American Medical Association policy states that retail clinics are consistent with its belief there should be multiple entry points for patients into the health care system, although it acknowledges they are controversial among physicians.

Realizing the demand for this type of care, last year the AMA and the American Academy of Family Physicians separately developed a list of guidelines that retail clinics should follow and that physicians should consider when deciding whether to associate with a retail clinic. Among the attributes on each list is the suggestion that the clinics have a referral process and encourage patients to establish a relationship with a primary care physician.read more





Wal-Mart may be mulling small-store strategy: report

Citing several analysts, the newspaper said Wal-Mart is actively considering stores as tiny as 20,000 square feet - about one-tenth the size of its supercenters - called Neighborhood Markets.

Smaller stores would make it easier for Wal-Mart to penetrate urban markets, the newspaper said.

Ratcheting up the pressure is U.K. retailer Tesco Corp. (TEO.T), one of Wal-Mart's chief rivals abroad, which plans to enter the U.S. market with 100 convenience-type stores of roughly 10,000 square feet under the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market banner. They're to open in Arizona, Nevada and California by year's end.

Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar declined to comment on future business plans, the newspaper said.

Helping to fuel speculation was Wal-Mart's promotion last month of former Tesco executive David Wild to the position of senior vice president, new business development, the newspaper added.read more


Wal-Mart sees medical clinic boom in retail stores

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is forecasting more than 6,600 in-store medical clinics will open their doors in the next five years in retailers nationwide, a company official said on Thursday.

"I think it's an indication of how bullish individuals (chief executives of clinics and retailers) are," Alicia Ledlie, senior director for Wal-Mart's health business development, said at a health care retailers convention in Orlando.

With 75 clinics in Wal-Mart stores in 12 states, the company has ended its pilot program and plans a faster roll-out of additional clinics nationwide.

Ledlie said Wal-Mart is considering providing its in-store clinics with a common electronic medical records system so patient care can be tracked from store to store.

She said the system could ultimately be part of a universal electronic medical record system for the country.

"My vision is the different clinic operators could all be on a common platform," she said. "We are looking at it actively now." read more




At Wal-Mart, Lessons in Self-Help

By MICHAEL BARBARO Published: April 5, 2007


Employees at a Wal-Mart near Saratoga, Fla., have started an aerobics class twice a week in their break room. Wal-Mart workers in Denver are reimbursed for taking public transportation to and from work. And the staff at a Sam’s Club in Indianapolis now takes a daily walk around the perimeter of the store.


Michael Stravato for The New York Times


Houston-area Wal-Mart employees, led by Celia Swanson, cheer at the end of a seminar encouraging all-around self-improvement.


The chain that promises “always low prices” seems to be adding the mantra of nonstop self-improvement.


In the last year, Wal-Mart has quietly introduced an ambitious program in the United States — in equal parts self-help class, corporate retreat and tent revival — that tries to turn its 1.3 million workers into a model for its 200 million customers on issues ranging from personal health to the environment.


The program, called the personal sustainability project, is voluntary, but it is proving popular, with roughly 50 percent of employees in a dozen states signing up so far. The company may eventually extend the program to its workers around the world.



Sesame Workshop and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Announce Distrbution Plans for Military Families Initiative

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. announced plans to distribute bilingual, multi-media outreach kits entitled Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families During Military Deployment, this August. The announcement was made by Gary E. Knell, President and CEO of Sesame Workshop, and Ray Bracy, Wal-Mart Vice President of Corporate Affairs, at the annual Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) national conference.

Read more

Sesame Workshop to Announce Research Findings on the Impact of Outreach Initiative, Talk, Listen, Connect [read more


Purdue center on research

Rusell Research reports on the results

Sesame St + Wal-Mart




Wal-Mart and Organic Milk

With consumer demand for organic products continuing to grow, more large corporations are entering the organic market. To maximize profits, some of these companies don't follow organic standards but still label products as organic. For example, Horizon Organic and Aurora Organic, sold by Wal-Mart and other retailers, continue to produce "organic" milk under factory-farm conditions that few reasonable people would consider truly organic. read more



The suspension of paidcritics.com appears to be the latest in a series of stumbles for Working Families For Wal-Mart. Last October, Ron Galloway, a filmmaker whose work praised Wal-Mart, quit the group over the pay caps adopted in August. At the time, Sheridan said that Galloway had left over environmental policy differences. In August, civil rights leader Andrew Young stepped down as chairman of the steering committee after making remarks that were seen as racially offensive.

read more


Wal-Mart’s decision to pull out order self-serving, betrayal to own ethics

On March 29, workers on strike at Chong Won Fashion Inc. (CWFI) were called for a meeting by an executive of Wal-Mart Philippines, Edwina Reunilla. Reunilla had informed the workers that Wal-Mart is seriously considering of not putting orders on Chong Won through its agency One-Step-Up in New York City, U. S. Wal-Mart’s decision came out following a report by Verite—which was commissioned by Wal-Mart—to look into the labor dispute and the ongoing strike.


The Verite’s finding merely confirms the long-overdue grievances by workers on strike—gross violation of labor rights and right to freedom of assembly—and the earlier independent investigation by the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC). The Worker’s Assistance Center and the union leaders at Chong Won however has yet to receive its official copy of the Verite’s report. It obtained copy from the WRC.

read more


Wal-Mart, University of Arkansas and Blue Cross Blue Shield Announce Center of Excellence to Boost Use of Information Technology in Health Care Operations

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (PRNewsFoto/Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.)


BENTONVILLE, Ark., March 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Wal-Mart Stores,

Inc., (NYSE: WMT) announced today it will partner with the University of

Arkansas and Blue Cross Blue Shield to create a research center to focus on

improving the health care delivery system with the use of information


The Center for Innovation in Health Care Logistics will be dedicated to

conducting research aimed at identifying and addressing gaps and roadblocks

in the application and delivery of health information technology, and

highlighting and replicating proven applications that are working to

benefit patients and providers.

The goal of the Center's work is to put the right materials in the

hands of doctors and nurses where and when they need them; it also aims to

eliminate the threat of medical errors arising from wasteful and unreliable

practices in health care supply networks.

In making the announcement, Wal-Mart Vice Chairman John Menzer said the

Center's work will help fill a large information gap in the health care

system. "The best example of this need was Hurricane Katrina. Medical

records, property records, court records were lost. Entire family histories

-- medical, cultural and otherwise -- were gone in an instant, and the

entire region is still recovering from this massive loss of information,"

Menzer said.

The center's creation was announced today during a health information

technology meeting of business, IT and health care leaders held in Rogers,

Ark., and hosted by Wal-Mart.

Read more







Wal-Mart launches supplier environmental score card

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) has released criteria that will be part of a scorecard used to evaluate consumer electronics suppliers on the environmental sustainability of their products. Starting in 2008, Wal-Mart will ask suppliers to fill out the scorecard and buyers will have the option to use the scorecard results to influence purchasing decisions. The announcement reflects the larger company strategy to sell products that sustain natural resources and minimize impact on the environment. read more at Solid Waste and Recycling



Wal-Mart Rethinks RFID

By Mary Hayes Weier InformationWeek March 26, 2007 04:35 PM


Although Wal-Mart is still bullish on RFID and plans to add it to hundreds more stores this year, it now talks about the technology as more of a baby-steps approach.


Since its first RFID pilot three years ago, Wal-Mart has learned a valuable lesson: RFID's ability to improve the supply chain is limited by business partners' willingness to participate. The giant retailer is now focusing its radio frequency identification technology efforts primarily on in-store applications, while moving much more slowly with its distribution centers. Read More



Facts or PR Spin? (Truth or Bullshit?)

On the second floor of Wal-Mart’s headquarters, in Bentonville, Arkansas, is a windowless room called Action Alley. In the Wal-Mart idiom, the term “Action Alley” usually refers to the main aisle of the company’s two thousand Supercenters—the stores that have upended the retail business by selling enormous quantities of groceries and imported goods at prices that competitors find difficult or impossible to match. At the “home office,” as Bentonville is known, Action Alley is the company’s war room, a communications center that was set up and is staffed by Washington-based operatives from Edelman, a public-relations firm that advises companies on issues of “reputation management.” Wal-Mart corporate culture is parsimonious except in the matter of executive compensation, but, according to a source, the company has been paying Edelman roughly ten million dollars annually to renovate its reputation. Read Goldberg's article in the New Yorker




Thriving in the shadows of Wal-Mart BOOK REVIEW

By Deborah Cohen, Reuters | March 25, 2007


Wal-Mart is a monolithic discount retailer that drives everything from product pricing to wage levels in the world economy, but there is plenty of room to survive and thrive in its wake.

Article Tools


So says William Marquard, a former consultant to the retailing giant whose book, "Wal-Smart What It Really Takes to Profit in a Wal-Mart World," gives a utilitarian view of what works and what doesn't against Wal-Mart.


Marquard was a partner at Ernst & Young who helped Wal-Mart develop its strategic plan in the late 1990s, the decade that saw the decline of competitors such as Kmart, Montgomery Ward, and others as Wal-Mart overran retail categories ranging from groceries to grills.


Its strength is its clear plan and simple corporate directives, and Wal-Smart details how the uncomplicated management ideas flow from the bare-bones management offices to the retail floors of nearly 7,000 stores.

read more




Bentoville, Arksans 3.26.07

Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s seems to be in search of an identity. That's the opinion of some analysts and experts, who say the world's largest retailer's struggle to regain its financial foothold is making the company whipsaw between images of being a low-price discounter or an upscale retailer; of being a company that often cites pearls of folksy wisdom from founder Sam Walton, while hiring outside consultants to polish its urban appeal.


"For the first time in its 45-year history, Wal-Mart is uncertain what it should be," wrote The Economist on Feb. 16.


..."It's a reaffirmation of the proposition that's synonymous with Wal-Mart: saving people money so they can live better," Scott said in the call. "Sam Walton started our company in 1962 with this simple principle, and this is the mission that drives our strategy around the world today."read  more



Dearborn, Michigan

"(Wal-Mart is) reaching out and trying to become a good community partner by getting stakeholder buy-in regarding the look and feel of the store in addition to reaching out to find what customers in this community want in a store," Giering said. "We are also working with them to ensure the sustainability of the local business owners and to try to identify ways to provide resources to help these businesses grow through supplier opportunities with Wal-Mart."


According to the company's Web site, in FYE 2006, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. spent nearly $3.5 billion for merchandise and services with 1,569 suppliers in the state of Michigan. As a result of Wal-Mart's relationship with these suppliers, Wal-Mart supports 62,373 supplier jobs in Michigan.


Wal-Mart collected more than $218.9 million in sales taxes in FYE 2007 on behalf of the state and paid more than $64 million in state and local taxes in the same year.


As of February 2007, Wal-Mart's list of Michigan operations includes: 45 supercenters, 34 discount stores, 25 Sam's Clubs and two distribution centers, which employ 28,754 associates.


The average wage for regular, full-time hourly Wal-Mart employees in Michigan is $10.44 per hour. Associates are also eligible for performance-based bonuses.


In 2005, Wal-Mart Stores and Sam's Club gave more than $5 million in cash and in-kind donations to local causes and organizations in the communities they serve in Michigan. Through additional funds raised through stores and Clubs throughout the state, Wal-Mart contributed and raised a grand total of $6,706,378 as a result of its presence in Michigan.

read more





A new Wal-Mart opens inside the beltway

In an effort to meet the specific needs of the community, the Landover

Hills Prince George's County store will feature products that meet the

specific needs of the surrounding community, including expanded selections

of Hispanic foods, a larger than usual high-tech electronics department

with expanded selections in Gospel, Latino and R&B music, and a sports

department highlighting games and equipment popular in the area. Outside

the store, Wal- Mart representatives met with local school representatives

to create an Adopt- a-School program matching Prince George's County stores

with local schools. The new Landover Hills store will partner with Port

Towns Elementary School in this effort.read more



New Plano Wal-Mart Unlike Any Other Store

Earlier this month I spent 10 days in Dallas, allowing me to explore a world of retail experiences like no other.... Yes, this world is in many ways a far cry from Lafayette Gourmet - A Feast For The Senses. However, the lessons remain valuable...


Take the Wal-Mart Plano Supercenter store located at 1700 Dallas Parkway which opened to the public one year ago on 3/22/2006: New Plano Wal-Mart Unlike Any Other Store posted on 3/21/2006 on nbc5i.com. The subtitle reads: "Supercenter To Be Laboratory As Wal-Mart Tests What Works". It sells sushi, natural and organic produce, an extensive selection of wine and beer and offers more atmosphere than normally encountered in a Wal-Mart.

That sounds like no other Wal-Mart I know! I had to check it out. read more



Wal-Mart appoints online chief to key post

By Jonathan Birchallin New York, Financial Times

Published: Feb 16, 2007


Wal-Mart, the largest US retailer, has given the former head of its online division new responsibility for developing business strategy for its core US stores, in a move that signals the continuing rise of the company's marketing team in setting US retail strategy.


Carter Cast had spent two years as chief executive of Walmart.com, the third busiest US retail site behind Ebay and Amazon.


His appointment is the latest in a series of management changes at Wal-Mart's US stores division, which is seeking to improve sluggish sales growth through a strategy that includes making Wal-Mart's stores and marketing more targeted at specific customer groups.




Wal-Mart Building Infrastructure in China

China’s retail revolution: Smooth supply in high demand


By Elizabeth Rigby


Published: February 13 2007 17:44 | Last updated: February 13 2007 17:44


Sueng Lee, Wal-Mart China’s supply chain director, jumps out of the people carrier, lights a cigarette and admires his latest piece of kit – a new 40,000 sq m distribution centre in Kengzi, an hour’s drive from downtown Shenzhen.


The building may be state-of-the-art and have 70 huge doors designed to handle deliveries from three-and-a-half tonne articulated lorries, but you are as likely to see someone pedalling a bike on the new roads around the site as driving a giant truck to collect goods for a Wal-Mart store. Today two men are unloading small boxes packed with Thai sweet chilli sauce from a little black van.


But for Mr Lee, an American-born Korean who has been in China for a year, the Kengzi building is a glimpse of the future. Capable of serving 90 Wal-Mart stores, it is another small advance in the US chain’s efforts to build a national network for all its Chinese hypermarkets and Sam Club’s cash-and- carry centres.


Wal-Mart’s approach could not be more different from that of its main competitor, Carrefour of France.


While the US-based chain is investing heavily in a sophisticated national distribution network, the French retailer is using local partners to deliver straight to stores. It is building a network store by store and while that presents challenges in uniformity of service and quality control, costs of development are lower.


Wal-Mart’s construction of a sophisticated network could prove expensive if it fails to attract local shoppers. Last year Wal-Mart took a $863m hit when it sold off 85 stores in Germany to quit the country after eight loss-making years.


Undeterred, Mr Lee insists that a US-inspired modern supply chain will make the Chinese operation more efficient and profitable. “If you can centralise distribution, instead of 200 deliveries a day to stores, you can make two deliveries and the goods go straight to shelves instead of sitting in the store room.”


Gandhi v Wal-Mart

By Jo Johnson in New Delhi, South Asia bureau chief

Published: February 7 2007 11:44 | Last updated: February 7 2007 11:44

Jo Johnson


Engaging India is a weekly online column analysing the issues, trends and forces behind the business and politics shaping India and its impact on the world, which appears on FT.com India, a dedicated online section on India. Engaging India appears every Thursday morning exclusively on FT.com India and is written by Jo Johnson, the Financial Times’ South Asia bureau chief; Amy Yee, New Delhi correspondent; and Joe Leahy, Mumbai correspondent.


Who runs India? Manmohan Singh, prime minister, or Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party leader habitually referred to as the country’s “super prime minister” by opposition parties?



For foreign retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores, Tesco and Carrefour, the question is of critical importance, following a letter from Mrs Gandhi strongly advising the government to take into account the impact on small shopkeepers of the opening up of the retail sector to foreign direct investment.


“I have received suggestions from many quarters about the desirability to first study the possible impact of transnational supermarkets on livelihood security of those engaged in small scale operations,” Mrs Gandhi’s letter to the prime minister said, according to reports in the Indian media. “I thought I would convey this to you so that you may consider having the relevant issues properly examined before further decisions are taken.”


The letter marks a return to the interventionist approach Mrs Gandhi took in her former role as chairman of the National Advisory Council, a body specially created to enable her to supervise implementation of the United Progressive Alliance’s Common Minimum Programme. That position, from which she resigned last year, had technically entitled her to cabinet status. The star of the Congress party now has no official position in government.


Yet her interventions carry enormous weight within the Congress party, the dominant force in the UPA. Her concerns about state governments’ compulsory acquisition of farmland for the creation of Special Economic Zones, capitalist enclaves loosely-modelled on those in China, have proved decisive, for example. Last month, the federal government announced that it was suspending further approvals of SEZ projects until it had drawn up a “progressive and humane” rehabilitation policy.


With Wal-Mart due to unveil its proposed joint venture with Bharti Enterprises on February 22, the letter comes at a delicate time. At the minimum, it will put the brakes on further opening up of the sector to foreign competition. Coming weeks before state elections in the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, the optimistic interpretation is that Mrs Gandhi is engaging in political grandstanding and has no intention of actually rolling back the modest opening of the retail sector already allowed.


“We’re entering a period of fairly constant state elections, with one every six months until the general election of May 2009,” says Mahesh Rangarajan, a political analyst. “Mrs Gandhi is playing to the gallery and echoing the concerns of the large constituency of people who are fearful of economic reform. Punjab is 36 per cent urban, compared to 29 per cent at the all-India level and the retail trade is a very big employer. And let’s face it, Wal-Mart’s reputation even in the US is not that great.”


At a time when Reliance Retail, a subsidiary of Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Industries, is rapidly carpeting India with western-style supermarkets, the fixation on the impact foreign retailers will have on the country’s 12m inefficient “mom and pop” stores is misplaced. Reliance’s new venture plans to have total floorspace of 100m sq ft and to achieve $25bn in sales within 3 years, a roll-out that would be unprecedented in retailing history. Wal-Mart’s US floorspace after 45 years in business came to 600m sq ft as of October.


India’s “mom and pop” stores are just as likely to be put to the wall by Reliance as by Wal-Mart. But for the left wing of the Congress party, steeped in Nehruvian hostility towards multinational companies, the “beast of Bentonville” presents a far more attractive target than a homegrown corporate titan. This is particularly true at a time of mounting chauvinistic pride in the achievements of India Inc. on the world stage, so evident in last week’s euphoria over Tata Steel’s successful bid for Corus.


In legal terms, however, the government will be hard pressed to unravel the Wal-Mart-Bharti deal. It is structured so that the US retailer’s role will be restricted to areas of the value chain where foreign investment is permitted: namely cash and carry wholesaling to businesses. Technically, 100 per cent FDI in wholesaling is allowable under the so-called “automatic route”, meaning that prior approval from India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board should not be necessary.


Wal-Mart is at pains to stress that its actions will be in complete compliance with the letter of India’s perverse regulations. Furthermore, other foreign retailers, notably Germany’s Metro, have already entered India in the B2C space. Under the Wal-Mart arrangement, direct contact with Indian consumers, currently forbidden under foreign direct investment rules, except for retailers such as Nike and Reebok that sell a single brand of goods, will be left to Bharti Enterprises.


“It is Bharti’s intention to set up retail stores in different formats as per its own market research,” says Wal-Mart spokesman Amy Wyatt. “In accordance with the current FDI policy and guidelines, these stores will be wholly owned by Bharti who will manage the entire front-end, including aspects such as branding. Wal-Mart will focus on the back-end operations, offering Bharti our experience and expertise in building and managing an efficient supply chain to the Indian retail market.”


More problematic for Wal-Mart, however, is that the Congress Party is now likely to take its cue from Mrs Gandhi in making the US retailer a handy whipping boy for politicians seeking to appeal to voters who have yet to benefit from the reform process. Populist brand trashing, as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo found to their horror during last year’s much-hyped pesticide scare, is an art form perfected by the Indian political class. Wal-Mart has been given fair warning of what lies ahead.


Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007


Wal-Mart tries to show diverse side

By Jonathan Birchall FT.com, 21:55 GMT Feb 7, 2007


Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's chief executive, took another small step on Wednesday towards his goal of changing the corporate culture of America's largest retailer.

Mr Scott appeared alongside Andrew Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union, one of the largest US unions, at an event to support healthcare reform – an unprecedented break with Wal-Mart's tradition of deep hostility towards anything involving organised labour.

But as Mr Scott was moving at least a little away from the past, the past was busy catching up with him and his drive to improve the retailer's battered reputation on a range of social and environmental issues.

On Tuesday, a federal appeals panel in California overturned the retailer's bid to block a massive class action lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 1.6m past and current women employees, accusing the company of systematically discriminating against them in pay and promotions.

The suit was filed in April 2003 and is widely believed to have been a factor in persuading Wal-Mart's board and Mr Scott to launch a detailed examination of its record on a wide range of issues.

The process has led to one of the most dramatic efforts yet by a US company to reshape its image, with initiatives ranging from a new embracing of environmental sustainability to a drive to promote greater racial and gender diversity in the senior ranks of the law firms that the company works with.

At the same time, Wal-Mart has made some relatively low-profile attempts to address the issues raised by the discrimination lawsuit.

After the suit was filed, Wal-Mart quietly embarked on a wide-ranging pay review on a store-by-store basis aimed at eliminating disparities that it said may have arisen owing to the decentralised authority given to store managers.

In 2003, it established an office of diversity, and has since incorporated diversity goals into the bonus incentives of its managers.

Last year, it also published in full for the first time its annual report on gender and race to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – something sought by activist shareholders for four years.

The lawsuit's argument rests in part on a statistical examination of employment records. But it also includes an effort to show that Wal-Mart's corporate culture, as shaped by its home office in Bentonville, Arkansas, was inherently biased against its women employees.

One senior woman executive, for instance, recalled her shock at being asked to participate in the now quietly defunct annual quail-shooting trip for the company's most senior managers in northern Texas.

Another more junior female store manager described having to wait in the car outside a strip club while on a working trip with male associates.

More by accident than design, the company found itself addressing some of its more ingrained cultural issues in 2005, with the removal and disgrace of Tom Coughlin. He was the former vice-chairman and associate of founder Sam Walton who headed the Wal-Mart stores division during the period targeted by the lawsuit.

An avid hunter, Mr Coughlin was regarded as a guardian of Wal-Mart's "traditional" culture, before he pleaded guilty to embezzlement. He was also close to several protégés who were dismissed in December 2005 over still unexplained "integrity" issues.

Wal-Mart has said it will continue to pursue its legal challenge to the discrimination lawsuit.

Its main focus is on whether such a broad class can be properly "certified", or allowed to sue as one group, rather than challenging the merits of the complaints, which have yet to be heard.

In the meantime, the company is continuing its efforts in improving its record on diversity – recently incurring the wrath of conservative Christians over its support for two groups seeking gay rights in the workplace.


Wal-Mart vs Apple on Movie Downloads

Wal-Mart launches internet film service

By Matthew Garrahan FT.com, 02:00 GMT Feb 7, 2007


Wal-Mart on Tuesday launched its long-awaited internet film service, offering films from all of Hollywood's main studios in a move that could see the retailer challenge Apple's iTunes platform for supremacy in digital downloading.

Unlike iTunes, the Wal-Mart service has the backing of Warner Bros, Walt Disney, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Universal. More than 3,000 film titles are being made available, including recent releases such as The Devil Wears Prada and Superman Returns.

The launch comes amid industry concern at slowing DVD sales growth. Selling films on DVD has long been an industry cash cow, allowing studios to make back the cost of producing and distributing their films.

But with the DVD market maturing, analysts are forecasting a slowdown this year, which has forced the studios to consider other forms of distribution.

The Wal-Mart launch comes weeks after Paramount became the only studio to join Disney on iTunes. However, Paramount is only selling selected titles from its film library on iTunes, and will not be selling new releases. Other studios had avoided doing deals with iTunes primarily because of fears about upsetting DVD retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.

Wal-Mart sells more DVDs than any other chain in the US and had expressed concern about the effect of downloading on DVD sales.

However, the launch of its own service could clear the way for the studios to strike download deals with iTunes.

The Wal-Mart service will offer films for digital download the same day that they are released on DVD. They will be priced similarly to the cost of buying a DVD.

"With thousands of movie and TV titles now available for download, coupled with the strength of our successful physical DVD business, this is an unprecedented offering of video content, features and capabilities currently unmatched in the market," Wal-Mart said. "Also, we're excited to launch a service that has the support of all the major Hollywood studios."

Wal-Mart's price problem

By Mariko Sanchanta, Financial Times

Published: Jan 31, 2007


Two years ago, a Wal-Mart merchandising executive in Japan proudly held up a pair of unflattering jeans made in Bangladesh and excitedly told a room full of journalists that they would be sold for a mere Y997, roughly $8.


Unsurprisingly, the jeans didn't prove too popular in Japan. Wal-Mart learnt the hard way that Japanese consumers aren't as price sensitive as their American peers and value quality and variety over cost.


The world's biggest retailer has been fine-tuning its operations since it first dipped its toe into the Japanese market in 2002. But while Wal-Mart has been busy implementing real-time inventory control systems at Seiyu and performing other back-office tasks, its Japanese rivals have been racing ahead. Aeon, Japan's leading retailer, has been steadily erecting shiny new shops and recently bought a stake in Daiei, an ailing retailer that Wal-Mart once vied for.


And Aeon, like most big Japanese retailers, has non-core finance and real estate businesses that help compensate for slack retail sales in a country bedevilled by chronically weak consumer spending. Seiyu, in sharp contrast, just has its core retail operations.


But what better way to learn than from one's mistakes? After themishap with the Y997 jeans, Wal-Mart introduced more product variety at varying price points to please customers. Its big investments in infrastructure and technology could eventually pay off, too. Last year, it unveiled a new distribution centre on the outskirts of Tokyo that will reduce its supply chain costs.


Critics of Wal-Mart in Japan abound. But the US retailer is smart and pragmatic. If Wal-Mart didn't see a long-term benefit in staying in Japan, it would have left by now.



From low cost all the time, to the "customer experience"

Wal-Mart acts to restore sales

By Jonathan Birchallin New York, Financial Times

Published: Jan 25, 2007


Wal-Mart, the largest US retailer, has carried out a sweeping reorganisation of its senior US marketing and merchandising executives, as it seeks to revive sluggish sales at its more than 3,000 US stores.


John Fleming, who has spent the past two years as chief marketing officer, will now take overall responsibility for merchandising - the art and science of selecting and selling a retailer's assortment.


The decision puts Mr Fleming at the centre of Wal-Mart's efforts to adapt to the increasingly pervasive industry model to shape strategy around market research that identifiescustomer desires.


Traditionally, Wal-Mart's "stack 'em high sell 'em cheap" approach largely left the business of market research to its leading suppliers, while the retailer focused on its "Always Low Prices" message.


Mr Fleming, who spent 19 years at Wal-Mart's rival Target, will be responsible for ensuring the results of extensive market research are reflected by what the assortment its merchants choose to sell. He will oversee a department to focus on "customer experience".


As chief marketing officer, he formed the retailer's first customer research department, and made changes to advertising intended to identify specific customer groups.


Jeff Smith, head of Accenture's global retail practice, noted that under Eduardo Castro-Wright, who heads Wal-Mart's US store division, "there have been regular signals to Wall Street and the market that they intend to move away from the one size-fits-all, cookie-cutter, mass-merchant model, to something aimed at particular customer segments."


"Wal-Mart is moving to a place where price image, while important, is not the only differentiator, but will be linked to assortment and customer experience."


The company has divided its merchandise into five categories: grocery, clothing, entertainment, home furnishings and pharmacy.


Sun rises over Wal-Mart’s power policy


By Jonathan Birchall

Published: January 21 2007 14:54 | Last updated: January 21 2007 14:54


Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer and the largest private employer in the US, is regularly beset with superlatives. It may be now on the way to adding another, as it takes the first steps towards becoming the US’s largest user of solar power.


At the end of next month the retailer will receive proposals from companies that are interested in installing solar power equipment at a yet-to-be-determined number of its stores in as many as five US states. Initial projects would be carried out this year, but the retailer has also asked bidders for “expansion or build-out plans, including projected prices and costs, over the next five years”.


Joel Makower, an environmentalist who reported details of the Wal-Mart project on his blog, says the scope of the proposal suggests that Wal-Mart is about to embark upon the most substantial private sector commitment yet to solar power.


Pro-Wal-Mart Travel Blog Screeches To A Halt

by Tom Siebert, Thursday, Oct 12, 2006 6:00 AM ET

WHAT DO YOU CALL A phony blog that's actually a front for a huge corporation? A "flog"?

the link


A pro-Wal-Mart blog called "Wal-Marting Across America," ostensibly launched by a pair of average Americans chronicling their cross-country travels in an RV and lodging in Wal-Mart parking lots, has been reduced to a farewell entry. One of its two contributors was revealed to be Jim Thresher, a staff photographer for The Washington Post.


The blog, launched Sept. 27, was profiled in this week's issue of BusinessWeek, which exposed the site as a promotional tactic engineered by Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFWM), an organization launched by Wal-Mart's public relations firm Edelman. WFWM paid for the RV and all travel expenses, rerouted the trip's original plan, and plastered a logo on the RV's side. Though a banner ad announced WFWM sponsored the site, it did not divulge Wal-Mart paid for the couple's RV, gas, food and other expenses.


Thresher contributed both photos and promotional commentary to the site--one entry describes a Wal-Mart employee "going the extra mile." Another plugs the store as "the nation's largest supplier of organic milk ... by shopping at Wal-Mart customers eat healthy while stretching their food dollar (paying $3.48 for a half gallon of organic milk is one way)."


The green machine

FORTUNE Magazine

By Marc Gunther, Fortune Magazine

July 31 2006: 2:00 PM EDT


Lee Scott is no tree-hugger. But Wal-Mart's CEO says he wants to turn the world's largest retailer into the greenest. The company is so big, so powerful, it could force an army of suppliers to clean up their acts too. Is he serious?


The 800 Wal-Mart Stores employees gathered in the home office for an all-day meeting were used to this kind of rah-rah talk. Top executives from Fortune 500 companies regularly trek to Bentonville, Ark., to pay homage to one of the world's most powerful companies and to shout out the Wal-Mart


This time, though, the cheerleading was coming from an unlikely source: Al Gore.


the link


Wal-Mart trashes garbage

The suits in Bentonville, Ark., are surprising adherents to the environmental movement's 'zero waste' recycling crusade.

FORTUNE Magazine

By Marc Gunther, Fortune senior writer

January 11 2007: 1:16 PM EST



the link to the article in Fortune.


Wal-Mart and the city of San Francisco do not have much in common, but there is this -- both are working to achieve zero waste.


They aren't alone. The Australian territory of Canberra, a third of local governments in New Zealand, the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, a bunch of small towns in California, and Carrboro, N.C., ("Paris of the Piedmont") all have embraced a goal of zero waste.



But what is zero waste? It's just what it sounds like -- the idea that we can design, produce, consume and recycle products without throwing anything away. It's the idea that industry should mimic nature, so that, as the writer Joel Makower put it, "one species' detritus is another's pantry."


Wal-Mart Looks to Refurbish Image With Political-Style Ads


In National Push, Retailer Touts the Benefits Its Stores Bring to Communities

By Mya Frazier

Published: January 08, 2007


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- As the tumultuous Wal-Mart ad agency review drags on, the retailer's corporate-affairs department is stepping into the vacuum



Wal-Mart's 'Sam's Dream' was produced by Blue Worldwide of Washington, D.C., a division of Wal-Mart's PR firm, Edelman.

with a national TV campaign resurrecting Sam Walton's legacy in two political-style spots designed to burnish the retailer's besieged image.


the link to the article.



Global scale is less significant than a dominant local position.




FT.com site

Published: Nov 27, 2006


In their quest for world domination, retailers have learnt a lesson or two from previous failures. But are they drawing the right conclusions? Take Wal-Mart, which is teaming up with Bharti Enterprises to enter India, beating several rivals, notably Tesco.


The US retailer's deal with Sunil Mittal, the Indian tycoon, should give it a head start in a potentially huge market. It follows hard on the heels of Wal-Mart's plans to buy Trust-Mart for about $1bn, more than doubling its size in China. Neither deal will have much immediate financial impact – or prove more than a fleeting distraction from signs of continuing weakness in Wal-Mart's US operations.


But at least Wal-Mart can claim to have learnt from previous flag-planting exercises. As its ignominious pull-out from South Korea and Germany made clear, global scale is less significant than a dominant local position. Rival Tesco has so far avoided disasters on a similar scale. But as last year's decision to swap operations with Carrefour in several countries showed, the two are increasingly focused on gaining market-leading positions.


The snag is that when it comes to countries such as India and China, there may be first-mover costs, as well as advantages. Carrefour, for example, established an early lead in China but others have caught up. Indeed, early movers can help later arrivals by removing regulatory obstacles and educating consumers on the joys of western-style superstores.


The same could happen in India, where the retail sector appears even more fragmented. Its attractions are obvious – an expanding middle class, suggesting revenues in the local retail industry could more than double to about $630bn in the next decade.


But Tesco should have no trouble finding other partners. Having lost out this time, however, it can afford to take things slowly.


Copyright © Financial Times group






The link to the article]


International sales lift Wal-Mart

By: By Jonathan Birchall in New York, FT.com site

Published: Nov 14, 2006


Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, on Tuesday highlighted improvements in its UK Asda unit and a continuing strong performance in Mexico, as its international operations offset sluggish results in the US in its third quarter.


Tom Schoewe, chief financial officer, said Asda, the company's largest international operation, "did a very nice job" during the quarter, with both sales and operating income coming above target, and improvements in store sales growth and gross margins. "The value proposition at Asda seems to be working well," he said.


Wal-Mart said it had added an additional 1m customers in the UK as a result of store openings and operating improvements introduced by Asda at the start of the year.


Wal-Mart reported an 11.2 per cent increase in profits to $2.65bn or 62 cents a share against the same period last year, on income of $84.46bn.


International sales – excluding discontinued operations in Germany and South Korea – were up 33.7 per cent at $19.2bn, with over half of the gain coming from recent acquisitions in Central America and Brazil and the expansion of its control of Seiyu in Japan.


But while international operating income increased by 18.1 per cent to $997m, the company said only 3.3 percentage points of the increase were due to the acquisitions – reflecting the continued poor performance of its Seiyu unit.


Speculation over Wal-Mart's commitment to Japan increased after it pulled out of Germany and South Korea. But Mr Schoewe noted that the company was now recording positive sales growth in Japan, in spite of continuing to make losses. "We continue to make progress there," he said.


In the US, Wal-Mart said it was disappointed with soft sales during the quarter, which it attributed to company-specific factors beyond the impact of housing market worries and fuel prices.


These included the impact of a store remodelling programme, and problems with its high-profile effort to introduce its more "fashion- forward" women's clothing line, Metro 7.


Mr Schoewe also highlighted continued improvements in staff productivity and in inventory control, an issue that the retailer has made a priority this year.


Wal-Mart said it would implement "its most aggressive pricing strategy ever" across key categories in the US, following price cuts already instituted for toys and electronics that were launched at the start of the month. Its shares rose $1.34, or 2.89 per cent, to close at $47.66 on Tuesday.


Copyright © Financial Times group


Wal-Mart to form Indian retail alliance

By: By Jo Johnson in New Delhi, FT.com site

Published: Nov 27, 2006


Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has triumphed in its goal of entering the fast-growing Indian retail market, defeating UK rival Tesco to form a retail alliance with one of the country's largest business groups.


The US retailer's deal with Bharti Enterprises will form several hundred Wal-Mart branded stores across India in five years, says Sunil Mittal, Bharti's chairman.


The investment would run into "billions of dollars".


"The retail shops will be owned by Bharti Enterprises under the Wal-Mart franchise," Mr Mittal said at a World Economic Forum conference in New Delhi. "The idea is to give Indians the lowest price everyday."


Tesco, UK supermarket operator, said last week it had withdrawn from long-running discussions with Bharti, one of the most plausible of several potential local partners. "We've nothing against Tesco," says Rajan B. Mittal, joint managing director of Bharti. "They know their job. But we felt Wal-Mart, on a big scale, was more of a fit. Nobody's dropped anybody. Both sides took a decision to mutually disengage."


Mr Mittal, 46, whose elder brother Sunil founded the company in 1976, said the companies hope to sign in weeks an agreement about the amount to be invested and number of supermarkets to be opened.


The memorandum of understanding said Wal-Mart and Bharti would "study and evaluate the retail market in India and identify business opportunities together within the existing guidelines".


Wal-Mart is expected to work around restrictive foreign direct investment rules, which prevent non-Indian supermarket groups from operating in the country except as wholesalers, by establishing a franchise arrangement with Bharti.


For Wal-Mart and other global retailers, India offers a potential ocean of untapped demand, rivalling China with a burgeoning middle class that is at present served by a fragmented and inefficient network of small family-owned stores.


In the past year, Wal-Mart has lobbied the Indian government to ease restrictions on foreign investment in the sector.


This year, it sold its loss-making operations in Germany and South Korea; an effort to refocus its international efforts, which account for 22 per cent of sales.


Shares in Bharti Airtel, India's largest mobile telecommunications company, with more than 30m customers and a market capitalisation of about $26bn, rose 2 per cent on the news of the joint venture, outpacing the overall market index.


Copyright © Financial Times group



Chinese supermarkets/Wal-Mart

FT.com site

Published: Oct 17, 2006


The Chinese land-grab continues. In the latest attempt to snap up a greater share of China's booming market, Wal-Mart, the US retail giant, is expected to announce a $1bn purchase of Trust-Mart, China's second-largest hypermarket chain.


Although the deal would allow Wal-Mart to leapfrog Carrefour, the French retailer, to become China's largest foreign supermarket chain, its importance should not be overstated. Wal-Mart will add Trust-Mart's 100-odd stores to its current 66, boosting its estimated $1.25bn sales in China by $1.7bn. This pales into insignificance compared with Wal-Mart's $312bn total revenues, or the $750bn which McKinsey estimates China's retail sales could be worth by 2008.


The deal does show international retailers' determination to build a foothold, however small, in a market that is growing by $80bn a year. All are keen to expand their international presence – Wal-Mart wants to generate a third of its revenues overseas, compared with one-fifth currently. But previous flag-planting exercises have been fraught with difficulties. Wal-Mart itself recently pulled out of South Korea and Germany, while Tesco and Carrefour did a store swap in Taiwan, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in belated recognition that only a market-leading presence was worth maintaining.


China presents additional challenges. The supermarket and hypermarket sector is highly fragmented and dominated, unsurprisingly, by local groups. There is no guarantee that foreign entrants will be able to compete successfully against them, particularly given the uncertainties of the regulatory regime. This was liberalised in 2004, but approvals and planning procedures are still tough to negotiate.


That said, the Wal-Mart model – high volumes, low margins and labour costs – could prove peculiarly suited to Chinese consumers. It will be years, though, before the success or failure of its strategy becomes clear. In the meantime, deals like this will continue to come thick and fast.


Copyright © Financial Times group


Top Democrats join fight over Wal-Mart

By: By Jonathan Birchall in New York, FT.com site

Published: Nov 14, 2006


Two high-profile Democrat leaders are on Tuesday evening due to lend their support to a union-backed campaign against Wal-Mart, the largest US retailer, in an indication of the political pressure the company is likely to face in the run-up to the 2008 presidential elections.


Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina who was the party's candidate for vice-president in 2004, will participate in a call organised by the Wake Up Wal-Mart campaign aimed at mobilising protests against the retailer in the holiday shopping period.


Wake Up Wal-Mart is funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers, the grocery workers' union pursuing a broad political campaign against the retailer after a series of failed efforts to organise its workers.


Mr Edwards, regarded as an ally by the US union movement, was one of a number of top Democrats who participated in rallies organised by the Wake Up Wal-Mart campaign during campaigning for last month's elections. Mr Obama had not previously been actively involved in the anti-Wal-Mart campaign.


A spokesman for Mr Obama said he was participating "because he believes all workers in America, no matter who they work for, deserve to be paid a living wage and have access to comprehensive healthcare their families can afford."


Wal-Mart is expected to face increased pressure from the new Democrat-controlled Congress on a range of issues, from its application for a banking licence to healthcare provision and wages.


Lee Scott, chief executive, said during a discussion of the retailer's financial results yesterday that the company was "bipartisan", and cited its recent move to introduce low-cost generic drugs as an issue that reflected its shared interests with both parties.


"We believe that through an ongoing outreach programme we will be able to work with both parties, and continue to play the role which we play," he said, citing Wal-Mart's role in job creation and its recent environmental initiatives.


He also pointed to its role in "community building".


Wal-Mart has significantly increased political spending over the past four years, making contributions of $2.6bn (€2bn, £1.4bn) in the run-up to this month's elections, against $1.4m for the mid-terms four years ago.


Roughly two-thirds of the money went to Republican candidates. Its largest individual contributions of $10,000 went to five Republicans in the fiercely contested Senate races in Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota, Missouri and Arizona, with only one – Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona – emerging victorious.


Wal-Mart also demonstrated a new readiness to engage with campaign debates, using its new support group, Working Families for Wal-Mart, to respond aggressively to criticisms from Democratic candidates of its healthcare and wages.


Copyright © Financial Times group


Pioneers of retail therapy

By Christopher Bowe

Published: December 4 2006 17:28 | Last updated: December 4 2006 17:28


At Wal-Mart these days, customers can fill up a shopping trolley with groceries, clothes and Christmas gifts, then step into a clinic for a vaccine jab.


This medical spin on the weekly shop is being driven by companies such as Take Care, who rent retail space for clinics next to aisles of vegetables or camping equipment. Demand is so high that the company is considering installing “cart lockers” to keep shoppers’ items safe while they see a nurse.


Walk-in clinics are a rapidly growing feature of the US healthcare landscape. Companies such as Minute Clinic, owned by US drugstore chain CVS, RediClinic, Care Clinic and Take Care are expected to have several thousand retail clinics open by the end of next year.


But the booming industry has the potential to offer a lot more than a convenient place to treat the common cold. Advocates say they could fundamentally change how healthcare is managed in the US by providing the infrastructure for a nationally accessible system of electronic medical records.


Such records offer a way of tackling skyrocketing costs in healthcare provision. Records accessible nationally, or even internationally, could help doctors and nurses diagnose and treat patients’ illnesses quickly without repeating costly and time-consuming tests.


The current system is haphazard. About four out of five medical transactions in the US are handled in small clinics. Patients will often answer the same basic questions about their medical history on each visit. Records are typically stored on files that are scattered between small clinics, doctor’s offices or hospitals across the country.


Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel, the US chipmaker, is a leading proponent of electronic records as a way of transforming health provision in America. “In healthcare, information technology is the answer,” he says. “Healthcare is a function of information technology.”


Other countries are also chasing the prize. The UK’s National Health Service has the most ambitious and closely watched project to build a comprehensive electronic medical records system. But so far the project has proved difficult and costly, estimated at £20bn.


Yet linking together the fragmented US healthcare system, which is privately based, poses an even bigger challenge. The government has made a tentative effort to begin the process. But efforts to move to an electronic system have met resistance because of fears over competition and the privacy implications of storing the data.


To push the cause of the electronic age, Mr Barrett has formed a coalition of at least 10 large companies, including Intel and Wal-Mart. It aims to establish a standard for employees’ electronic medical records, with the data stored at an independent repository.


Retail clinics could provide the impetus for reform. Since patients can walk in without an appointment and the services offered are relatively inexpensive, the clinics could act as a first stop for medical care for those with or without health insurance. Most important, they will be spread across the country.


“We might be an enabler to create the electronic medical record, because we’re seeing a lot of patients,” says Peter Miller, chief executive of Take Care.


As the number of clinics increases a vast database of information will accumulate. Take Care alone expects to be seeing 100,000 patients a year once its nationwide expansion plans are complete, says Mr Miller.


Those records would be kept on a web-based network system accessible to clinics across the country. Moreover, the industry would have an interest in linking all clinic companies’ electronic record systems: the potential cost savings that would result from having access to patients’ treatment data.


How does the system work? The process of creating an electronic record begins at the registration kiosks in walk-in clinics.


Patients register on web-based systems, filling in basic personal and health information to create an electronic record in less than five minutes. This is then used as a reference throughout the treatment process.


The data includes diagnosis and treatment, including prescription drugs ordered. In more complex cases, involving severe or chronic conditions – heart disease, for example – the patient can be referred to a doctor or specialist.


Practitioners can use hand-held tablet computers to input data, or track and reorder the equipment used in the clinics and its stock – down to the level of a cotton wool swab.


To improve efficiency, the systems can also review the work of a nurse practitioner, for example, comparing the time he or she spent with a patient to the cost of service.


Patients can use their credit cards to check in and check out of a clinic and locate their individual records. After seeing the nurse they receive a print-out giving details of the care they have received.


Jack Tawil, chairman and chief executive of CheckUps, says the company is working on biometric systems so that a patient can check in and locate records using their fingerprint. “I’m using the retail base as a platform,” he says. “Even hospitals don’t have what we have.”


The stringent US health information privacy laws, however, are far from accommodating. Indeed, they could pose a serious stumbling block to setting up ways of sharing health information. There have been concerns raised, for instance, over the use of sensitive personal information by employers to discriminate against their employees.


Walk-in clinics counter that they should at least be allowed to provide a basic electronic record – perhaps omitting more sensitive health information – to help doctors and nurses provide a better service. As suggested in Mr Barrett’s plan, that record – called a continuity of care record – could in future be stored on a secure system to ensure the privacy of patients is protected.


The development of secure systems will be an important factor in building the trust of patients. Such trust may be particularly difficult because the industry is still in its infancy. Consolidation and change is likely, as providers fold or buy out rivals.


In July, an industry study by the California Healthcare Foundation noted that the emerging clinics were an innovative idea, particularly amid a “scarcity of new ideas about how to improve the cost and delivery of healthcare.”


The study added, though, that “questions remain about how the clinics will fare as a business model”, given that they must compete for retail floor space with other products and turn a profit.


But several large employers, including Wal-Mart, appear to be lining up behind the clinics as a vehicle of change in US healthcare. Even those businesses that ultimately fail to thrive will be building up records that could form the basis for a future electronic records system.


A healthy dose of efficiency


Jack Tawil, chairman and chief executive of CheckUps, holds his prefabricated health clinics in high regard. “The feel is really like you walk into a Manhattan doctor’s office, not a Wal-Mart,” he says.


Whether luxurious or not, the clinics are easy enough to set up within the vast floor space of the discount retailer.


When a truck arrives to deliver a new CheckUps clinic, its contents have been packed so that they can be unloaded in a precise order for assembly. The walls come first, with finished interiors in rich cherry and maple woods. All the wiring is pre-installed. Laboratory equipment, including an X-ray machine, is rolled out, followed by the finishing touches of furniture, computers, medical supplies, doors and decorations.


It takes the company only about nine days from being granted building permission to transform a 800 sq ft space inside the retailer into a low-cost, walk-in medical clinic.


A nurse can then begin to see customers for minor illnesses such as sore throats or preventive measures such as vaccines. Clinics offer routine healthcare with prices of between $30-$50 a visit – significantly less than patients would pay to see a doctor.


Such clinics are not only appearing in supermarkets. Companies such as RediClinic are now setting up operations in city-centre drugstores across the US.


Operators hope that as well as delivering care, their well-appointed clinics will send customers an important message: access to healthcare can be inexpensive, but it does not have to look cheap.


Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006


Wal-Mart takes the fight to its critics


By: By Jonathan Birchall and Holly Yeager, FT.com site

Published: Aug 16, 2006


John Edwards, Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 2004, was in Pittsburgh this month doing his bit for the party ahead of November's midterm elections to the US Congress. His agenda included addressing a rally against the shortcomings not of the Bush administration but of Wal-Mart, the country's biggest retailer and largest private-sector employer.


"Wal-Mart needs to be a more responsible employer, by offering decent wages," Mr Edwards told a crowd who had turned out to support Wake Up Wal-Mart, a campaigning group funded by the UFCW grocery workers' union that, along with others, the company staunchly refuses to recognise. Mr Edwards also attacked the company's record on health benefits, arguing that the dependence of some Wal-Mart employees on state-funded Medicare programmes meant the chain was being unfairly subsidised.


"Every consumer should know when they walk into Wal-Mart their tax dollars are going to provide healthcare for Wal-Mart workers . . . while the people who own Wal-Mart are making billions of dollars," he proclaimed. The retailer struck back immediately. A Wal-Mart official denounced the Pittsburgh event as part of "a union-funded publicity stunt that's more about politics than anything else".


Then Working Families for Wal-Mart, officially a non-profit lobbying group, hit even harder, pointing out that the former senator's family had previously held Wal-Mart shares. "Now he and other political candidates are telling working men and women that they can't save money or take jobs at Wal-Mart? This is all about special-interest politics. And that's sad," said a spokeswoman for Working Families.


This is the world of Wal-Mart, the political retailer.


Under Lee Scott, chief executive, the company has in the past year expanded beyond the usual realm of corporate lobbying to wage a fully-fledged campaign in the mainstream of American politics. "When a company is as large as ours, we're certainly going to have a lot of interaction with both politics and government," says Bob McAdam, vice-president of corporate affairs.


On Tuesday it sent 18,000 "voter education" letters to its employees in Iowa, pointing out what it said were factual errors made by politicians who had attacked the company. The group is to despatch similar letters to its staff in other states.


But Wal-Mart's embrace of some of the darker arts of US politics – it has set up a campaign-style "war room" at its Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters – also attests to the success its critics have had in turning the "big-box" retailer into a political issue at local, state and, increasingly, national level.


In January, Maryland passed a law aimed at making Wal-Mart increase the amount it spends on its workers' health benefits – a move that has led to similar legislation being proposed elsewhere. In July, in an initiative aimed at large national retailers including Wal-Mart, Chicago's city council passed an ordinance intended to raise the minimum wage for retail workers.


John Kerry, to whom Mr Edwards was running-mate, cited Wal-Mart and the family of founder Sam Walton in a speech this month on the failings of the US healthcare system. "It's unconscionable and it is unacceptable that five of the 10 richest people in America are Wal-Mart stockholders from the same family – worth double-digit billions each – but they can't find the money to secure health coverage for their own workers and their families," he complained.


Senator Byron Dorgan in his new book, Take This Job and Ship It , uses the company to illustrate what he sees as bad consequences of globalisation. He devotes a chapter to Wal-Mart's business practices in China, which he calls "the most obvious example of what has gone terribly amiss on the way to a healthy and truly free market".


For Wal-Mart, all this raises an unwelcome possibility – that it will become a focus of debate during the 2008 presidential election campaign as well, something that its union critics are eager to bring about. "It's going to be so important in the presidential cycle," says Chris Kofinis, of the Wake Up Wal-Mart campaign. "Everyone is going to talk about this issue . . . about where you stand on corporations that make $11bn a year in profits and say they can't afford to pay for healthcare for their workers."


Wal-Mart's evolving political strategy, shaped with advice and support from Edelman, the public relations consultancy, has been twofold. First, it has attacked its critics – arguing that it is the victim of an unholy alliance between Democrat lawmakers and the unions they rely on to deliver votes and campaign financing. Second, it is seeking to make the argument that the company is good for America.


It is doing this by mobilising its own political constituency, seeking alliances with local community leaders and businesses – in particular, black and Hispanic groups – that accept Wal-Mart's argument that the company helps low-income Americans by offering low prices and jobs with the prospect of advancement.


Working Families for Wal-Mart, funded mainly by the retailer, is part of both strategies. Operating with more personal animosity than might be appropriate from the company itself, it is attacking the store chain's critics. For instance, it has just launched a website called PaidCritics.com, aimed at exposing what it says are special-interest links between the anti-Wal-Mart campaign, the unions and politicians in the Democratic party (Wake Up Wal-Mart struck back with its own site – Abunch­ofgreedyrightwingliarswhoworkforwalmart.com).


Working Families has also set out to mobilise support. It is chaired by Andrew Young, the pro-business former mayor of Atlanta who served as the first black US ambassador to the United Nations. Its board includes Hispanic business figures, while its recently created state organising groups include leading black clergy.


"There's a large majority of people out there who support Wal-Mart and who have had no vehicle to voice their opinions on what they see as Wal-Mart's positive impact on their lives and on the economy," says Kevin Sheridan, Working Families campaign director and a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee.


At the same time, Wal-Mart has reorganised its own community relations operations and has announced plans for "Wal-Mart jobs and opportunity zones" in inner-city areas, aimed in part at encouraging businesses owned by people from ethnic minorities.


In an indication of the strategy's potential, the black caucus on Chicago's city council was evenly split on the move to set a minimum wage for workers in the city's big stores – with opponents saying depressed inner-city areas needed Wal-Mart's investment and tax revenues.


The vote in Chicago also highlights the risk to the Democrats of trying to use Wal-Mart's record to galvanise support in the run-up to 2008. While Mr Kerry and Mr Edwards might see Wal-Mart's low-paying jobs and healthcare record as a rallying point for voters who feel left out of the American dream, other elements of the party will take a different view – including New York's Senator Hillary Clinton, who in 1986-92 served on the board of the retailer based in Arkansas, her home state.


John Zogby, the pollster, argues that focusing too much on Wal-Mart "means no net gain", because union voters already favour the Democrats and the party must seek other support if it is to recapture the White House in 2008. "When are the Democrats going to talk to Wal-Mart shoppers?" he asks (see below left). Mr Zogby, who has done some polling work for Wake Up Wal-Mart, says Democrats still lack "a strategy that deals with Joe and Mary Middle America – and Joe and Mary Middle America are at Wal-Mart".


Polling shows that people who shop at Wal-Mart do care about human rights and worker healthcare, he adds. Democrats therefore need a more subtle message "about trouble in paradise, without carpet-bombing paradise. There are too many people who shop there".


Mr McAdam counters that the recent criticisms from the Democrats are instead tied to the party's own battles in the primaries. To win union support, candidates are prepared to deliver an anti-Wal-Mart message that will often not be carried through in the coming midterm campaign.


"There's abundant survey data that says that attacking Wal-Mart for the population as a whole is detrimental," he argues. "So if they persist in doing this as the general election approaches, they may find themselves doing more harm than good."


Wal-Mart is meanwhile taking no chances. It is pursuing a broad effort to enhance its public image, including its record on environmental sustainability. That might drive a wedge in an alliance between its union critics and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, which have faulted the company on issues ranging from waste water management to its stores' impact on urban sprawl.


In a sign that political Wal-Mart is here to stay, Leslie Dach, a former political adviser to Al Gore's failed 2000 presidential campaign, this month becomes head of its government relations and corporate communications. Mr Dach, who will serve on the company's powerful executive committee, joins Wal-Mart from Edelman, where he became the retailer's top politics tutor.


His appointment shows just how far the chain has come, with its small army of consultants and political advisers, from the days when Sam Walton argued that if you gave the customers low prices and good service, everything else would look after itself.


Mr McAdam, who will work for Mr Dach, argues that the retailer had no choice. "I think any company that is faced by the kind of campaign-style attacks would be naive not to respond in kind. It became clear to us that, to maintain our ability to do our business, we needed to have a similar style of response."


Copyright © Financial Times group


What does where you shop say about how you vote?

In the case of Wal-Mart, John Zogby, the highly regarded pollster, thinks it says a lot.

By Holly Yeager, Financial Times

Published: Aug 17, 2006



As he reviewed data from the 2004 US presidential election,

Mr Zogby noticed something unusual: a strong correlation between how often people shop at Wal-Mart and how conservative they are.


The figures are stark: 76 per cent of voters who shopped at Wal-Mart every week voted for George W. Bush, while 23 per cent voted for John Kerry. By contrast, 80 per cent of those who never shopped there supported Mr Kerry, while just 18 per cent voted for Mr Bush.


"Wal-Mart is more than retail. I think it has become a culture unto itself," says Mr Zogby, who is writing a book about what he calls "the new American consumer". That culture is seen in the books and magazines the retailer puts on its shelves and those it keeps off. "You walk into a Wal-Mart and you're walking into the moral equivalent of a spiritual revival tent for born-again Christians."


Just as "soccer moms" and "Nascar dads" drew the scrutiny of pollsters in past elections, Mr Zogby is now paying close attention to weekly Wal-Mart shoppers.


African-Americans and Hispanics who shop there frequently are significantly more conservative than their cohorts who do not, he says. And he knew that Mr Bush was in deep trouble with the public when the president's standing slipped among weekly Wal-Mart shoppers, who had been among his strongest supporters.


Mr Zogby has placed other US retailers on the political spectrum. Firmly on the left are Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's and Macy's. Target, he says, is near the centre, "a hair to the left", and in the centre-right are Sears and JC Penney.


But none are as strong a predictor. "Wal-Mart's pattern is just incredible."


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd


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