business news in context, analysis with attitude

Let’s start with the bad news…

  • Wal-Mart Stores said yesterday that same store sales for November were tracking “at the low end” of projections, setting off rampant concerns about the state of the economy going into the all-important holiday season. Much of the concern revolves around the fact that Thanksgiving is falling late this year, reducing the traditional holiday shopping period by about a week.

  • Reuters reports that Wal-Mart is facing protests by labor unions and women’s rights groups who want to pressure the company for better treatment of employees. The coalition of groups includes the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the AFL-CIO labor federation and the National Organization for Women.

    While the coalition said it was working to provide higher wages and lower-cost health care benefits for more than one million American workers employed by Wal-Mart, the retailer said it was an effort to discredit the company and promote unionization of employees who already are well compensated.

    Thursday is scheduled to be a "day of action," with at least 100 events in 40 cities, was designed to inform consumers about the alleged infractions.

  • Bloomberg reports that in Germany, Wal-Mart has said that it wants to stabilize its current operations before making any other moves. While it does not plan to close any more stores than the two that already have been shuttered, the company also plans no additional expansion or acquisitions. The comments were attributed to Wal-Mart’s chief of European operations, Dave Ferguson.

The good news (for Wal-Mart, at least…others might have a different assessment):

  • Local reports say that Wal-Mart will build up to 25 Neighborhood Markets in Florida next year. Two are under construction in Orlando, and Tampa and South Florida also are in the plans.

And in Wal-Mart related good new news for another company…

  • Dow Jones reports that McDonald’s, which seems to be troubled on so many fronts, is at least seeing growth from its affiliation with Wal-Mart. McDonald's has fast-food outlets in about 700, or one-fourth, of the Wal-Mart Discount Stores and Supercenters in the country, and McDonald's could open as many as 200 units in U.S. Wal-Marts next year. That’s twice the number of domestic stand-alone restaurants expected to be opened in 2003.

KC's View:
If you want to write in commenting on all these stories, feel free. We love to hear from you.

But please don’t complain that we’re writing too much Wal-Mart news. We’re just the messenger, and the Bentonville Behemoth just keeps making news.

As far as we’re concerned, all the bad news is dwarfed by the Neighborhood Market expansion news…because we believe that the growth of this format will eventually have an enormous impact on the mainstream US grocery industry, perhaps even greater than the supercenter. There will be 500 of these babies spread around the country in just a few years, and the competitive landscape will never be the same.