Monday, August 8

Wal Mart of yester-years is no longer the same of today?

I got some comments on my previous post on Wal Mart I thought where worth bringing up to the main page. Dave may have a point in differentiating between the values and vision of the Wal Mart of Sam Walton, and the Wal Mart of today. It may well be that the Wal Mart of yesteryears is no longer the same of today. But these, I believe, are business arguments. That is legitimate. If Wal Mart goes out of business because it does not know how to keep its customers, then great. Free markets would be at work, and that would be best for the consumer.

Forgive my overly enthusiastic comments on WalMart, the dream. What I meant was to find competitive, low-cost ways of doing what we keep asking the government to do for us. Education, welfare, and a huge list of other activities would be better served through private and community effort at a more local level. This is where perhaps I argue there is something to be learned about Wal Marts ability to make things affordable to the lower income segments.

Quality, security, and other concerns are valied and need consideration. Here are Dave's comments. Make sure to check out his blog at
Having formerly worked for a relatively obscure smokeless tobacco company that did a huge business with Wal-Mart, let me lend you a certain perspective to why people hate them so much.

When Sam Walton was alive, Wal-Mart had a different philosophy and a level of class about it's operatons. Sure, they are cutthroat in their locations and pricing. That's why so many consumers love them and small business loathe them. However, you could take anything back to Wal-Mart. Used, broken, unwanted-didn't matter. Their prices were great too.

They were tough on suppliers like my company, but when one company represents 35% of your total gross sales nationally, you relent and do what they want.

Then Sam passed.

Pricing changed from "always lowest" to "low prices everyday". Returns became complicated and not as easy to accomplish. Vendor relations went from sell anything (as long as it sells) to a system of "pay to be preferred" for shelf space.

Literally your competition can now buy you off the retail space. Or pay to bury you on the bottom shelf. Regardless of your actual performance numbers pre- contract shelf and post-contract shelf space. A seemingly incongrous evil but one that exists none the less.

I actually shook Sam Walton's hand when they opened a new Wal-Mart here in Nashville. The legacy isn't what he would have wanted.

It was inconcievable to our Grandparents that our generation wouldn't ever shop at Woolworths. Wal-Mart will eventually go the way of Woolworth's because they too have lost their heart. It may take 80 years, but I predict someday our grandkids won't know what Wal-Mart is.