business news in context, analysis with attitude

  • CNN reports on an interview with Retail Forward’s Sandy Skrovan, who speculates that over the next five years, Wal-Mart is likely to start conquering a number of new consumer fields, including banking, travel services, healthcare, fuel refining and publishing.

    “While the world waits for Wal-Mart to collapse under its own weight,” CNN reports, “Wal-Mart waits for no one, demonstrating a remarkable capacity to manage the retail life cycle and keep right on rolling.”

    And Skrovan says that “Wal-Mart will continue to push the boundaries to meet any consumer need.”

  • The Kansas City Star reports that as “more than 6,000 Wal-Mart managers today wrap up their annual meeting in Kansas City,” dozens of area residents, many of them union members, “protested Wal-Mart's practices and policies.”

    “Wal-Mart is emblematic of the thinking that operational efficiency works best for everybody,” Mary Lindsay, who helped organize the protest, told the paper. “But there's a downside to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart hurts people, communities and democracy. It's about more than just low prices.”

    Lindsay represents, a recently formed group that thinks corporations need to be more accountable to citizens.

    The Star notes that Wal-Mart’s response is that such critics are out of touch with the needs of average Americans who thrive on Wal-Mart’s discounts, and quotes CEO Lee Scott’s recent open letter to Americans: “The truth is Wal-Mart provides great value for customers, opportunities for our work force, economic support for communities and a helping hand for charities across America. We work hard to make life better for all Americans. Can our critics say the same?”

  • CBS MarketWatch reports that as Tom Coughlin departs Wal-Mart following his tenure as vice-chairman, his retirement agreement has some fairly strict stipulations.

    “Among the provisions is the threat of immediate forfeiture of unvested shares and other compensation if Coughlin so much as talks to a competitor,” the report says. “He has a five-year vesting period for a total of 186,405 shares that begins Jan. 24, 2008.”

    “Competitor” is defined in the agreement as “any general or specialty retail, wholesale or merchandising business that sells goods or merchandise of the types sold by Wal-Mart at retail or wholesale to consumers or businesses that are located in the U.S. or any other country in which Wal-Mart operates." There are 31 of them listed in the agreement.

    Wal-Mart has to approve any participation by Coughlin on the board of directors of another company, and he isn’t even allowed to comment publicly about Wal-Mart without those comments being coordinated through the company’s PR department.

KC's View:
Actually, someone else once said it better:

What does it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world but lose his own soul?

Not that we think that Coughlin’s soul is at risk here. That would be presumptuous.

It’ll probably surprise you to hear this, but we sort of have a problem with corporate muzzles.