business news in context, analysis with attitude

  • The Seattle Times reports Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott told a luncheon audience yesterday in Little Rock, Arkansas, that the company's recent image problems are a result of it too often letting "people who don't like us define us." He also said that the company lost a ballot initiative in Inglewood, California, this week because "somehow, we didn't do enough to communicate the benefit (of having) Wal-Mart."

  • Also addressing the Inglewood loss, Wal-Mart spokesman Bob McAdam yesterday said that the company was "disappointed that a small group of Inglewood leaders together with representatives of outside special interests were able to convince a majority of Inglewood voters that they don't deserve the job opportunities and shopping choices that others in the L.A. area enjoy."

    McAdam also said that charges the company was trying to do en end-run around municipal rules were incorrect.

  • Advertising Age reports on what appears to be Wal-Mart's attempt to become "a kinder, gentler behemoth," accepting cost-justified list price increases from manufacturers.

    A Wal-Mart spokeswoman tells Ad Age that there has been no change in company policy. "We remain committed to selling for less," she said.

    The price increases appear to be enabling manufacturers to maintain, or even increase, their marketing budgets, the paper reports.

  • Wal-Mart-s Asda Group in the UK announced this morning that it will cut prices in all product areas by the equivalent of $118 million (US), continuing the trend of competitive price cuts that have been enacted by the UK's major grocery players.

    The company said that it reduced prices by the equivalent of $72 million (US) last month, and by a total of $318 million so far in 2004.

KC's View:
Of course, it wasn't all "outside interests" that generated opposition to Wal-Mart in Inglewood.

There was a great story in the press yesterday about how the co-owners of Randy's Donuts, on the corner of Manchester and La Cienega, put doorknob hangers on residents' doors offering six free donuts if they voted in the election. They opposed the measure, they said, because they believed that Wal-Mart was trying to circumvent the system by avoiding environmental and traffic studies.

We do have a suggestion for Wal-Mart. We've met a number of people who work there, and they strike us as decent, committed people who believe passionately in their company and its mission. That's admirable…but we're willing to bet that there's nobody down in Bentonville who serves as a kind of B.S. detector…who is paid to have a less generous view of the company. Somebody down there ought to be less passionate about the company…because that would be the one person who might be able to help Wal-Mart avoid some of these pitfalls.