Breaking News: Walmart Concedes that Union Jobs Pay More

In its effort to discredit a new report from a professional economist, Walmart’s hired gun went so far as to say “…they used only union wages, which are not a true representation of the wages in the area.”  Now we all know that he doesn’t mean that union wages are lower.   Clearly he didn’t get properly coached by his handler, Steve Restivo.  Stevie’s too slippery and too professional to make that mistake.

Walmart ranks worst among shoppers, says Consumer Reports

A new survey from Consumer Reports says that shoppers find Walmart to be the bottom of the supermarket barrel when it comes to customer services. Why the low ranking? The biggest issue was a lack of checkout lanes, followed by confusing store layouts and poor selection. Walmart shoppers also complained that essential items were out of stock.

How could this have happened? Could it be that Walmart’s endless efforts to cut costs are having a blowback effect? After all, you can only reduce staff so much before standards start to fall. That could be what’s causing empty shelves and frustrated customers.

Walmart Expanding to North Korea – NOT!

“N. Korea opens its own version of Walmart, thanks to China”That AP headline may have led some to believe that Walmart was going to North Korea. There’s no doubt that international revenues are becoming more and more important to Walmart every year but North Korea?  The Bubble doesn’t see it happening.  But with Indian foreign direct investment on hold (need link) where can Walmart try to go next? Russia?  The company denies it but hiring more X5 executives is fueling the rumors.

Walmart Express – Another Satisfied Customer

It’s still early in Walmart’s Chicago experiment, but based on a review from a Chicago shopping website  it doesn’t sound promising.  Here are the highlights, urr I mean lowlights from Racked Chicago

So, have you ever wondered what a Walgreens would look like if it were really dark and industrial inside and if it mostly carried groceries and if the aisles were way too close together? You have!? Well, go on down to Broadway and Addison and check out Walmart Express!

Wow. What a fail this place is. Like holy moly, guys! Seriously, would it have killed someone to get a couple gallons of white paint for the concrete ceiling? I mean I’m pretty sure the big box Walmarts carry paint so it’s not like they couldn’t have gotten it for cheap. I mean god is this place dark and horrible inside.

So who’s in charge of interior design in Bentonville?  But never mind that what about site selection?

And who in the hell chose this location anyway? It’s next to a Walgreens, around the corner from a Whole Foods and practically across the street from a Jewel. I mean come on, Walmart, if you were going to offer a crappy product at least put it in a place where it could do in a pinch.

Maybe those concerns about Walmart in an urban setting were well founded.

Taking Sam’s Words to Heart — FAIL!

According to Sam Walton  “There is only one boss.  The customer.  And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Yep that’s what Sam said,  but the latest results from Consumer Reports (subscription necessary) would lead you to believe that many in Bentonville were fired, or should be, and just don’t know it.

Ouch!

Although the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found that consumers on the whole were more satisfied in the 4th quarter of 2011, that’s not the case for Walmart.   It took a 4% hit and found itself at the bottom of the list – below even Sears!

Making Better ImPossible

Tracie McMillan’s new book, “The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table”is getting lots of press (here and here).  For the book she worked at a Walmart and in an interview with Salon she described the job this way:

When you’re working in these jobs where actually, you can work really, really, really hard, and your circumstances do not change, that sense of “I will work hard and nothing gets any better” pervades everything. You feel a kind of hopelessness setting in about everything in your life.

Hmmm.  That doesn’t sound at all like Making Better Possible.  Not familiar with that phrase?  It comes from Walmart’s Careers website.  Nor does it sound like “a company that associates can be proud of, and that our customers and communities value.

Red State Woes

Some Augusta Georgia leaders aren’t interested in Walmart coming to their downtown.  Walmart hopes to buy land from the city on which to build a Neighborhood Market.  But not if David Hutchison, president of the Downtown Business Alliance, has anything to do with it.  “We’re not eager to see another Walmart downtown. I don’t even think we’re eager to see another Walmart in Richmond County.”

Wow

Everybody knows that unions think that Walmart Associates should be paid more, but when Henry Blodget agrees maybe it is time to give them a raise.  You might not remember Henry Blodget.  He was the Merrill Lynch analystbanned from Wall Street after the internet bubble.  This week on Business Insider he put forth the provocative notion that Walmart should pay its employees more.  Blodget argues that

Low-wage service jobs are not low-paid because they are low-skilled.  They’re low-paid because they’re low-paid.  Companies don’t have to pay their employees more, so they don’t.

If Walmart paid its employees more, it would also likely get better employees. And keep them longer. And these better, more experienced, and more loyal employees would likely make Walmart a stronger company over the long-term. And that would enhance shareholder value.

If Walmart paid its employees more, it would also better balance the interests of its three constituencies: 1) customers, 2) employees, 3) shareholders.  And that would make it a much more valuable company in the societal sense of the word.

If people like Blodget think Walmart should pay more then maybe it’s an idea that management should consider.

EDLP the model for world domination…

There’s no doubt that Sam Walton’s implementation of EDLP changed the American retail landscape.   But maybe the rest of the world isn’t like the USA.  Exhibits one and two are South Korea and Germany.   Although the Bubble isn’t arguing that Walmart will abandon China, it’s not clear that EDLP is the path to success.   As the FT said:  “Saving money is not a problem for Chinese customers.  When they go to a big-name store like Walmart, their focus is more on the “living better” [part of Walmart’s slogan].  RT-Mart seems to understand that. In its alcohol section, it offers Chivas Regal – the drink of choice for young, party-loving, upwardly mobile Chinese – in 4.5 litre bottles.”