Monday, November 27, 2006

Tardiness not tolerated at Wal-Mart

November 27, 2006
Tardiness not tolerated at Wal-Mart
Staff Writer

If it's true that everything we ever needed to know we learned in kindergarten, then we know it is bad to be tardy.

In school, if you get to class after the bell rings, you have to go to the principal's office for a pass. In the grown-up world, if you're late for work, you need a "pass" from your boss.

Lately, some employees have come to regard Wal-Mart as the stern schoolmarm of the corporate world.

At Wal-Mart, snowy weather is no longer an excuse for lateness. It had better be a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or blizzard. And being 10 minutes or more tardy for work four times will earn you a demerit. Too many of those could get you fired.

It's all part of an attendance policy implemented this fall by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and already drawing fire from critics, who claim the rules are the latest attempt by the nation's largest private employer to weed out long-term workers to cut labor costs.

Now, employees must call an 800 number to report absences and tardiness instead of talking to their store managers. The policy treats employees "like children while penalizing them if, God forbid, they face a child or friend with a medical emergency," said Chris Kofinis at

John Simley, spokesman for Wal-Mart, said the changes are "designed to produce a better work environment and a better shopping environment."

Wal-Mart isn't the only corporation grappling with how to cut down on no-shows; unscheduled absenteeism has climbed, according to a recent survey of 326 human resource executives. The survey, conducted for CCH Inc. by Harris Interactive, put the absenteeism rate at 2.5 percent in 2006, up from 2.3 percent last year.

But Nick Maddox, a management professor at Stetson University, said Wal-Mart's policy seems to be bucking the trend among major corporations.

"There is a real movement in the corporate world to build employee-friendly programs," he said. "If employees are getting the job done, why do I have to meddle with how and when? Today, people are extended to the max with all kinds of challenges. The more companies can do to accommodate the challenges, the more they will retain employees and a sense of loyalty and commitment."

Maddox said it bothers him when companies adopt policies instead of practicing good management. "If someone has a recognizable pattern of tardiness, it is not a policy issue, but a supervisory one," he said. "The supervisor has a responsibility to talk to the employee, find out what is causing the problem and then help the person deal with it."

Larry Bucholz of Vision HR Inc., a human resources firm in Daytona Beach, said policies vary. "I see policies that are equally as strict as Wal-Mart's in the retail and restaurant industries," he said. "In the professional world, I don't see that."

Bucholz said policies also differ for hourly and salaried employees. With hourly workers, who get paid overtime, "you don't want them coming in late, but you also don't want them around after they are supposed to clock out," he said.

-- The Associated Press

contributed to this report.

© 2006 News-Journal Corporation

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wal-Mart sees weak sales as holiday season starts

Wal-Mart sees weak sales as holiday season starts
Sat Nov 25, 2006 11:55am ET
By Emily Kaiser

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. predicted a rare decline in monthly sales on Saturday, even as U.S. bargain-hunters jammed stores in search of gifts at the start of the crucial holiday shopping season.

Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, sounded a cautious note for retailers as they began a second day of Thanksgiving weekend sales with deep discounts and early bird specials on items ranging from cashmere sweaters to big-screen plasma televisions.

Wal-Mart estimated that November sales fell 0.1 percent at its U.S. stores open at least a year -- a closely watched retail measure known as same-store sales.

The retailer will provide a final monthly sales report on Thursday, when most other major chain stores report their November figures. This would mark Wal-Mart's first monthly same-store sales decline since April 1996.

Wal-Mart had expected same-store sales to be flat compared with the same period last year, which many Wall Street analysts had viewed as disappointing. Wal-Mart's four-week November sales period ended on Friday.

"We would frankly have expected better," Merrill Lynch retail analyst Virginia Genereux wrote in a note to clients dated Friday, pointing out that Wal-Mart had slashed prices on popular toys, electronics and other gift items to lure customers. The retailer's widely publicized $4 generic drug program should have drawn more shoppers, too.

Investors are watching holiday sales particularly closely this year to gauge how consumers are coping with a slowdown in the housing market that has already hurt home improvement retailers and furniture stores.

Consumer spending accounts for some two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, and the November-December holiday season makes up anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent of retailers' annual sales.

The National Retail Federation trade group expects holiday sales growth of about 5 percent, which would be a slowdown from last year's surprisingly strong 6.1 percent gain.


Department store chain J.C. Penney Co. Inc. said its holiday season was off to a good start, with brisk foot traffic and strong demand for categories such as home entertainment, jewelry, children's clothing and housewares.

Famed toy retailer FAO Schwarz kept its stores open on Thanksgiving Day, and reported strong demand for hand-made wooden toys -- some of which sold for $1,200 apiece.

At its New York flagship store, Thanksgiving Day sales were flat, which the company attributed to bad weather, while its Las Vegas store saw a 45 percent sales increase.

"I see people buying better, what I call 'antiquity', presents that are better made, more durable -- things I view as generational presents," Ed Schmults, chief executive, told Reuters in an interview.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman declined to comment on its Black Friday sales, but said the retailer will provide those details along with its sales report on Thursday.

Wal-Mart began cutting prices as early as October instead of the usual November. The retailer is eager to revive growth after back-to-back months of disappointing sales in September and October, but Saturday's report suggested that the early discounts were not enough to reverse the poor sales trend.

Stores were packed on Friday, the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, and retailers were pushing another round of discounts on Saturday to keep shoppers coming back. The NRF trade group expects some 137 million Americans to go shopping this weekend.

But big crowds don't necessarily mean strong sales.

Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis at MasterCard's SpendingPulse, noted that while hot items such as the PlayStation 3 video game system have generated considerable buzz, they are only a tiny portion of retailers' overall sales.

He said rather than focusing on Black Friday crowds, investors should pay close attention to October sales trends, which showed a dramatic slowdown in growth year-over-year heading into the holiday season.

"You're looking at (sales) growth rates that are about half of what they were last year," he said. "The momentum that we have coming in is definitely down several notches."

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Wal-Mart's data center remains mystery

Wal-Mart's data center remains mystery
The Joplin Globe
— By Max McCoy
Globe Investigative Writer
JANE, Mo. - Call it Area 71.

Behind a fence topped with razor wire just off U.S. Highway 71 is a bunker of a building that Wal-Mart considers so secret that it won't even let the county assessor inside without a nondisclosure agreement.

The 125,000-square-foot building, tucked behind a new Wal-Mart Supercenter, is only a stone's throw from the Arkansas line and about 15 miles from corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

There is nothing about the building to give even a hint that Wal-Mart owns it.
Despite the glimpses through the fence of manicured grass and carefully placed trees, the overall impression is that this is a secure site that could withstand just about anything. Earth is packed against the sides. The green roof - meant, perhaps, to blend into the surrounding Ozarks hills - bristles with dish antennas. On one of the heavy steel gates at the guardhouse is a notice that visitors must use the intercom for assistance.

What the building houses is a mystery.


Wal-Mart's ability to crunch numbers is a favorite of conspiracy theorists, and its data centers are the corporate counterpart to Area 51 at Groom Lake in the state of Nevada. According to one consumer activist, Katherine Albrecht, even the wildest conspiracy buff might be surprised at just how much Wal-Mart knows about its customers - and how much more it would like to know.

"We were contacted about two years ago by somebody who runs a security company that had been asked in a request for proposals for ways they could link video footage with customers paying for their purchases," Albrecht said. "Wal-Mart would actually be able to view photos and video of customers paying, say, for a pack of gum. At the time, it struck me as unbelievably outlandish because of the amount of data storage required."

But Wal-Mart, according to a 2004 New York Times article, had enough storage capacity to contain twice the amount of all the information available on the Internet. For the technically minded, the exact amount was for 460 terabytes of data. The prefix tera comes from the Greek word for monster, and a terabyte is a trillion bytes, the basic unit of computer storage.

Albrecht, founder of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, said she never could confirm the contractor's story. That is not surprising, since Wal-Mart seldom comments on its data capabilities and operations.

A Globe request for information about the Jane data center was referred at Wal-Mart headquarters to Carrie Thum, a senior information officer and former lobbyist for the retailer.

"This is not something that we discuss publicly," Thum said. "We have no comment. And that's off the record."

Skeleton crew

The Jane data center is an enigmatic icon to the power of data, which has helped Wal-Mart become the largest retailer in the world, and to the corporation's growing secrecy since founder Sam Walton's death in 1992. When Wal-Mart constructed its primary data center at corporate headquarters in 1989, it wasn't much of a secret: It was the largest poured concrete structure in Arkansas at the time, and Walton himself ordered a third story.

"Not only had we completely designed it, we were under construction," said Bill Ferguson, a founder of Askew Nixon Ferguson Architects in Memphis, Tenn. "They were pouring foundations, and Sam walked across the parking lot one Friday at the end of the day and said, 'You know, let's add a third floor and put some people up there.'"

Ferguson said the Bentonville data center is built on bedrock and is designed to withstand most natural and man-made disasters, but is not impregnable. The biggest danger, he said, is the area's frequently violent thunderstorms.

"We studied making it tornado-proof, which is difficult," he said. "We calculated the probability of a category 5 tornado hitting it, which was less likely than an airplane crashing into it head-on. At the time, they decided not to."

Since then, Ferguson said, changes have been made to increase the integrity of the structure. The data center was designed with backup generators, fuel on site, and room and board for a skeleton crew in the event an emergency required an extended stay.

Ferguson said his firm learned to design data centers by working with FedEx, which also is based in Memphis, and that the 1989 Wal-Mart data center was built so that it could communicate via any means available - including copper wire, fiber optics and satellites.

The firm no longer works with Wal-Mart, and Ferguson said he had no knowledge of the design or purpose of the data center in Jane. But he suggested that Jim Liles, a Memphis engineer, might know.

Liles said he was a consultant on the Jane project, and that Crossland Construction was the contractor, but he was reluctant to say much else. "As far as what its purpose is, all that has to come from Wal-Mart," Liles said.

Crossland Construction, based in Columbus, Kan., said Tim Oelke of the company's Rogers, Ark., office had been in charge. Oelke did not return a phone call seeking comment.

'Never saw a plan'

The data center was completed in 2004 and was part of a project that included the Supercenter, which opened early last year, and a warehouse. The resulting economic impact on McDonald County, known for its rolling hills and lazy rivers, is difficult to underestimate, said Rusty Enlow.

"Just a few years ago, one new store would have been a big deal," Enlow said. "And I'm not talking about a Supercenter. Just a gas station would have generated excitement."

Now, Enlow said, the county's tax base has doubled, and land is going for about $2,100 an acre, about twice what it was before the project was announced in 2001.

Enlow is chairman of the county planning commission, a body created by popular vote in 1964 but which had not met until this month. Enlow said he doesn't know why the commission never met, but he believes it was because whatever problem prompted its creation was solved before the board was appointed. He also said he's not sure the planning commission has any real authority, or would want any (there is no zoning in the county), but that he and the other 18 members are eager to bring even more business into the county.

"It seems with the opening of that store there has just been a lot of activity," he said. "McDonald County has always been a poor county, but we are in an excellent position now. We're a friendly place, and we're open to things."

Wal-Mart, Enlow said, had created a business synergy that was helping the county of 22,000 shed its hillbilly stereotype.

Enlow was director of the McDonald County Economic Development Council when Wal-Mart quietly began scouting for land. Only after the land had been bought south of the then-unincorporated community of Jane was it announced that the project was Wal-Mart's, and even then, plans for the data center were closely held.

"I never even saw a plan on it," Enlow said.

But Enlow said he watched during the construction of the data center, and that it appeared to be a single-story building that was built "like a bunker," with mounds of earth piled against the sides. He later was told that it would employ 15 to 20 people, and that the building was for data storage.

To facilitate the project, the Missouri Department of Transportation agreed to widen Highway 71 to four lanes from Jane to the Arkansas line; a grant was used to expand the public water district; and the Army Corps of Engineers approved a request to fill in a small portion of wetland along Bear Hollow Road.

Meanwhile, the village of Jane incorporated.

In April 2005, Wal-Mart used the 160,000-square-foot Supercenter to demonstrate its micro-merchandising capabilities as part of a media conference. Employees demonstrated hand-held Telxon (pronounced Tel-zon) computers, which resemble hand scanners but hold a year's worth of a particular store's sales history on every item. The devices help store managers decide what to stock.

Bananas are Wal-Mart's best-selling produce product nationwide, but at Jane, the top seller was lettuce, Supermarket News reported after the event.


Bill Wilson, McDonald County presiding commissioner, said he has never been inside the green-roofed data center, and that to his knowledge, only one county official has: Assessor Laura Pope.

"I had to sign a document saying that I wouldn't talk about what's in there," Pope said. "I've never been in a situation to tour anything like that before. I don't want to be secretive about it. Basically, it houses computer equipment."

Pope said she had never been asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement before in her job as assessor, and that she didn't keep a copy. She said she didn't appraise the building and equipment, but rather came to an agreement with Wal-Mart on what it was worth.

They agreed that the data center would be worth $10.7 million at fair market value, she said. The equipment inside the center was judged to be worth nearly three times as much: $31.7 million.

The taxes that Wal-Mart paid last year on the data center totaled just more than $500,000: $128,091 for the real estate and $373,091 for the equipment.

Pope said she did not place a value on the data stored at the building. At an estimated worth of $42.4 million, is the Wal-Mart data center at Jane important enough to the infrastructure of the state - or the country - to be on Missouri's list of critical assets?

Paul Fennewald, Missouri Homeland Security coordinator, said the list is confidential, and that he could neither confirm nor deny that the Jane building is on it. He did say that the list includes 4,000 to 4,500 sites across the state.

'Retail surveillance'

Albrecht, the consumer activist, said that when the contractor came to her with the story about Wal-Mart wanting to biometrically identify customers through video, one of the reasons given was to help law enforcement.

"You could search for all sales of a particular kind of rope and get a photo of who bought it," she said. "On the other end, you could research all of the purchases of a particular individual, even if they paid in cash."

Albrecht is the co-author of "Spychips," about the use of RFID, or radio frequency identification devices, by the government and corporations to track individuals. She lives in Nashua, N.H., and is getting ready to receive a doctorate of education in consumer education.

"To the best of our knowledge, the only consumer-level item that is (RFID) tagged at Wal-Mart are Hewlett-Packard products and some Sanyo television sets," she said. "Now, the privacy implications of that are fairly trivial, because you're not going to be walking down the street carrying your printer box in your back pocket."

But in 2003, she said, Wal-Mart did two experiments using RFID on smaller items: razor blades and lipstick.

At Brockton, Mass., Albrecht said, the company used a surveillance camera on a shelf that was linked to chips in packages of razor blades. When someone picked up a package, she said, the shelf camera would be activated. Another camera would take a mug shot of the customer at the checkout stand.

At Broken Arrow, Okla., she said, the company linked devices in packages of lipstick that triggered a camera that allowed the lipstick manufacturer to watch consumers on live video.

The experiments apparently were aimed at decreasing theft or for use in merchandise research, she said. "Since 1999, I've been working on a phenomenon called retail surveillance, which is a whole panoply of technologies that are being secretly deployed," she said. "I think most people, when they learn about these technologies, are quite disturbed. There's a sense that when you enter a retail space, you should retain some degree of privacy."

But, Albrecht said, there's a push among retailers to collect as much information about their customers as possible - and to keep the lower-profit individuals, known as "barnacles" and "bottom-feeders," away.

"There's a lot of hand-wringing about how we can find out even more about our customers," she said. "And to the extent that Wal-Mart may be creating the ability to monitor consumers by RFID and identify them by video, I'm extremely concerned. ... If that's the case, they would need that kind of data storage."

Wal-Mart's stand on RFID

"Electronic product codes (EPCs) can best be described as the next generation of bar codes. Unlike current bar codes, which only share that a carton contains product XYZ, EPCs can identify one box of product XYZ from another box of product XYZ.

"This is possible because EPCs are powered by radio frequency identification or RFID. EPCs do not track customers. ... EPCs assist retailers in more closely monitoring where products are as they move from manufacturers to warehouses to a store's backroom.

"This helps us do a better job of having the right products on the shelves when you come to buy them."


Copyright © 1999-2006 cnhi, inc.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Toxic apparel discovered at Wal-Mart, other retailers

Toxic apparel discovered at Wal-Mart, other retailers
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-16 07:02

Investigators are looking into how clothing containing cancer-causing agents found its way onto shelves at Wal-Mart, Carrefour and several local leading chain stores, according to a report posted yesterday on the website of the Beijing Administration For Industry and Commerce (BAIC).

Certain apparel made by 28 clothing brands sold in these stores failed quality inspections earlier this month because they contained unsafe materials, the administration found.

The BAIC ordered the substandard apparel off all shelves in all stores in Beijing. Both the sellers and producers of the clothing may face prosecution, while the producers have been ordered out of the Beijing market.

Of the 28 brands listed, certain apparel made by four companies was found to contain excessive levels of chemicals like aromatic ammine or formaldehyde, which are both carcinogenic substances.

Many countries have banned the use of the former as a dye, while the latter is generally not allowed in consumer products.

Apparel from the four unsafe brands were: Ming-Langdike skirts (size 11), made by the Guangzhou Disheng company; Pusheng blouses (155/80A), made by Shanghai Pusheng; Jeanberger trousers (170/80A), made by Shenzhen Zhonghang; and Hafulu trousers (size 23), made by the Guangdong Hafulu.

The BAIC inspectors also found that apparel made by four brands exceeded the allowable pH values for clothing. The use of materials with excessive acidity or alkalinity could irritate people's skin.

The other brands on the list either failed to correctly list the materials used in the production of their apparel or were found to change shape and colour after washing.

The full list of substandard items has been published on the BAIC's website,

BAIC officials said there would be penalties for the involved parties.

"They could face fines worth up to three times the revenue they got from selling the goods and will be forced to exit the market," Wang Xiaojing, of the administration's information department, told China Daily.

"Buyers may return substandard goods if they have kept the receipt. They should first make sure their purchases are included on the list published on our website," Wang added.

In addition to Wal-Mart and Carrefour, substandard clothing was found on shelves at nine other chains, including Lotus Liuliqiao, Wangfujing Women's Collection and a Beijing Hualian Group branch.

An official at Wal-Mart said the retailer no longer carried the offending brands.

"The problematic trousers are no longer sold in our stores," a Wal-Mart representative told Xinhua, adding that he was unaware of the investigation.

This is at least the second report of unsafe clothes being sold in the capital city's leading chain stores to appear in the second half of this year.

Earlier in September, Beijing's municipal government suspended the sale of 79 children's products deemed substandard by officials. The products included clothing, stationery, eyeglasses, shoes, toothbrushes and toys.

Copyright 1995-2006. All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

New Internal Documents Show Wal-Mart Forced to Change Attendance Policy

New Internal Documents Show Wal-Mart Forced to Change Attendance Policy
Immediate Release
Contact: Chris Kofinis 202-486-6422




Washington, D.C. - Today, in the first response to’s Thanksgiving Day Challenge, Wal-Mart is announcing minor changes to its company wide attendance policy. In a series of documents provided to, Wal-Mart outlines small changes that the company was forced to make because of the outpouring of concern and pressure brought from Associates and our campaign.

Among the changes outlined, Wal-Mart has added two additional reasons that Associates can use to obtain an authorized absence. Specifically, “Public Evacuation” and “Extraordinary Circumstances Approved by MHRM (i.e. managers)” will now be considered reasons for authorized absences. Based on these changes, according to Wal-Mart, “Extraordinary Circumstances” are defined as: Community and/or School emergency situations (i.e. terrorist threats/acts/epidemics, fires/explosions, etc); Associate funerals; Severe weather which leads to school closings due to dangerous driving conditions; and, Associate has damage to property that requires immediate attention, such as from fire, flood, break-in, etc.

In addition, although Wal-Mart will still only allow Associates 3 unauthorized absences in a 6-month period, Wal-Mart has said it will not take disciplinary action until the fourth unauthorized absence. Under the previous Attendance announcement, Wal-Mart said it would take disciplinary action on the third unauthorized absence.

Wal-Mart still seems to consider an Associate who is absent for personal emergencies, such as taking care of a sick child or personal need, an unauthorized absence, and will penalize workers who may be a few minutes late for work due to traffic, congestion, or personal matters. Additional changes, which are discussed in the documents, are available by contacting

“Unfortunately, while we believe Wal-Mart’s decision to give in to both public and internal pressure is a big deal, these changes are small and Wal-Mart has cruelly failed to address the fact that employees should not be penalized for taking care of a sick child or a relative,” said Paul Blank, campaign director for

Based on the timing of these changes, it is clear that Wal-Mart’s decision is a direct response to petition demands by Wal-Mart’s Associates and a letter by sent to Lee Scott on November 3rd calling on Wal-Mart to change its anti-family policies by Thanksgiving Day.

“Wal-Mart’s decision to change its anti-family attendance policy proves the tremendous power employees have to join together and improve their lives,” said Paul Blank, campaign director for, “Now, we are empowered to move forward and reiterate our call for Wal-Mart to reverse its other anti-family decisions like salary caps, open availability scheduling, cutting hours, shifting employees to part-time, not providing affordable health care and paying poverty wages,” Blank continued.

On November 22, 2006, will be holding a second conference call for all Wal-Mart Associates to update Associates on Wal-Mart’s changes and discuss plans to continue to pressure Wal-Mart to finally put America’s families first.

Copies of Wal-Mart’s new attendance policy are available by contacting’s communications director at 202-486-6422.


Over the last year, Wal-Mart has announced several policy changes which abandon Sam Walton’s vision and are the most anti-family changes in this company’s history. The changes include: salary caps, plans to shift 200,000 full-time employees to part-time, the elimination of low-deductible standard health care plans for new hires, open availability scheduling and a draconian attendance policy which made it impossible for an Associate to take care of a sick child.

Following the first-ever walk-out by 200 Wal-Mart Associates in Hialeah Gardens, Florida, organized the first-ever national conference call for Wal-Mart Associates. On the call, released a letter to Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott calling on Wal-Mart to end its anti-family policies by Thanksgiving Day. Since the call, Associates, on their own, have started circulating petitions calling on Wal-Mart to end its anti-family policies by Thanksgiving Day.

A copy of the Nov.3rd letter by to Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott is attached below.

Share your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners. In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations.

Rule #2, Sam Walton’s 10 Rules for Success

Mr. Lee Scott
Wal-Mart, Inc.
Bentonville, AR

Dear Mr. Scott,

Sam Walton, Wal-Mart’s founder and visionary, understood that Wal-Mart’s success would rise and fall based on how well, or poorly, Wal-Mart treated its employees and their families. While some folks would call this “smart business,” we call it “family values.”

Respecting your workers, treating them with fairness and dignity, paying a decent wage, providing truly affordable health care, and creating a workplace that values families first is what Wal-Mart should be all about. Unfortunately, though, under your leadership and with the assistance of Eduardo Castro-Wright, we believe today’s Wal-Mart no longer reflects Sam’s values and has abandoned the family values that made Wal-Mart such a success.

Here are the facts, Mr. Scott.

In just the last 11 months, Wal-Mart has cut the percentage of full-time workers, cut management and Associate positions across the board, cut hours, imposed salary caps, shifted to open availability scheduling, eliminated low-deductible health care plans, and imposed a draconian attendance policy.

Wal-Mart’s recent policy changes are the most anti-Associate, anti-family changes in the company’s history and do not reflect a company that values its Associates. While we understand Wal-Mart’s desire to increase its profitability, it should not be done on the backs of the Associates who help Wal-Mart earn those profits.

As you witnessed, hopefully, with the dramatic rebellion by over 200 Wal-Mart Associates at a Wal-Mart store in Hialeah Gardens, Florida, Wal-Mart Associates and their families all across this country have had enough and are not going to take it anymore.

The many terrible changes Wal-Mart has made, and the many more that Associates are being told “are on the way,” are not only bad for Associates and their families, but will be disastrous for the long-term health and success of Wal-Mart. You and your top executives at the Home Office must understand that Wal-Mart Associates have a right to be paid a decent wage, offered family friendly scheduling and full-time work, provided with a fair attendance policy and affordable health care, and ensured that they are treated with dignity, respect and fairness in the workplace.

Put another way, it’s time for Wal-Mart to stop its anti-family policies and start giving thanks to its Associates and their families whose hard-work and sacrifice make Wal-Mart a success. In that spirit, we call on Wal-Mart, by Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2006, to implement the following changes and reverse a series of anti-family policies:

• End Wal-Mart’s “Open Availability” Policy [also known as peak-time or demand scheduling] that has caused chaos in the lives of Wal-Mart’s 1.39 million Associates and their families

• Institute “Family Friendly Scheduling” that provides stable work schedules and permits Associates to have normal lives and spend time with their children

• Reverse Wal-Mart’s “New Attendance Policy” that punishes Associates who need to take a day off to care for a sick child or family member

• End Wal-Mart’s “New Salary Caps” and allow hard-working Associates to be rewarded for their loyalty, not punished

We are calling on you to make these changes by Thanksgiving because we believe these are the immediate changes that are necessary to restore employee morale, honor Sam Walton’s vision, increase Wal-Mart’s profitability, and improve the lives of Wal-Mart’s 1.39 million Associates and their families.

In the hopes that you will do what is right, we will be holding another conference call on November 22nd, 2006 where we will announce what Wal-Mart’s response has been.

By working together and making these changes, we believe Wal-Mart will be taking an important first step to begin a positive dialogue where we can continue to work together to address the serious challenges of better wages, more affordable health care, and creating a just and fair workplace that will forever ensure not only the success of Wal-Mart, but a good and decent life for all Wal-Mart Associates and their families.


© 2005 United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
This site is in no way connected with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. or any affiliate of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Lawsuit filed in Fargo against Wal-Mart over wages, hours

Lawsuit filed in Fargo against Wal-Mart over wages, hours
The Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. — A lawsuit filed here against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. alleges the retailer has tried to avoid state wage and hour laws and forced workers to work off the clock and through breaks.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court this week, seeks class action status, as well as lost wages, interest, attorney's fees and other expenses.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Lori Kraemer, a former worker at Sam's Club in Grand Forks, who claims Wal-Mart manipulates time and wage records and uses other methods to try to hold down employee wages. Kraemer worked at the Grand Forks store from 1993 to June 2002.

Wal-Mart owns and operates 10 stores, including Sam's Club stores, in North Dakota. The 20-page lawsuit accuses the retailer of "systematically understaffing its stores and setting impossible profit standards for each department" to skirt state wage laws.

John Simley, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said he could not comment specifically about the case. In generalk, he said, "We have very clear policies on meal and rest breaks. It's our policy to pay every associate for every hour they have worked."

The lawsuit says thousands of people, with losses of more than $5 million, may have claims against Wal-Mart.

Managers earn financial bonuses by holding down expenses and overhead costs, the lawsuit contends.

"Wal-Mart's nefarious policy of failing to pay its hourly employees for all time worked is, in part, facilitated through its corporate culture," it says.

"Wal-Mart convinces its employees that they are part of its 'family,' where they will be rewarded for being a team player," the lawsuit says.

"Having instructed and conditioned its employees to be team players or lose their jobs, Wal-Mart gives them assignments that typically can't be completed within their scheduled hours," it says.

Wal-Mart has faced lawsuits in other states over wages. A California jury last year ordered the company to pay $172 million to thousands of current or former workers who said they were denied lunch breaks. Wal-Mart has said it will appeal.

"Plaintiffs have had some success but we have been successful at the appellate levels," Simley said. "Broadly, suits of this nature aren't appropriate for class treatment."


Information from: The Forum,

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Wal-Mart Charged with Selling Nonorganic Food as Organic

Wal-Mart Charged with Selling Nonorganic Food as Organic
Group Asks USDA to Fully Investigate
Organic Product Misrepresentation

For more information, contact: Mark Kastel, 608-625-2042

Cornucopia, WI: The Cornucopia Institute, the nation’s most aggressive organic farming watchdog, has filed a formal legal complaint with the USDA asking them to investigate allegations of illegal “organic” food distribution by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Cornucopia has documented cases of nonorganic food products being sold as organic in Wal-Mart’s grocery departments.

“We first noticed that Wal-Mart was using in-store signage to misidentify conventional, nonorganic food as organic in their upscale-market test store in Plano, Texas,” said Mark Kastel of The Cornucopia Institute. Subsequently, Cornucopia staff visited a number of other Wal-Mart stores in the Midwest and documented similar improprieties in both produce and dairy sections.

Cornucopia notified Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott in a letter on September 13, 2006 alerting the company to the problem and asking that it address and correct the situation on an immediate basis. But the same product misrepresentations were again observed weeks later, throughout October, at separate Wal-Mart stores in other states.

“This is disturbing and a serious problem,” Kastel said. “Organic farmers adopt and follow a rigorous range of management practices, with audit trails, to ensure that the food they sell to processors and retailers is organic and produced in accordance with federal organic regulations. Consumers, who are paying premium prices in the marketplace for organic food, deserve to get what they are paying for.”

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart announced a sweeping organic foods initiative and declared that they would greatly increase the number of organic offerings for sale in their stores—at dramatically lower prices than the competition. The move by the giant retailer has been under close scrutiny from members of the organic community seeking to assess what impact Wal-Mart’s decision will have on organic food and farming concerns.

A number of other organic food retailers throughout the country, including Whole Foods Markets and many of the nations member-owned grocery cooperatives, have gone to the effort to become certified organic in terms of the handling of their products and have invested heavily in staff training to help them understand organic food production and sale concerns.

“Our management and our employees know what organic means,” said Lindy Bannister, General Manager at The Wedge Cooperative in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “If Wal-Mart intends to get into organics, they can’t be allowed to misidentify ‘natural’ foods as organic to unsuspecting consumers.” The Wedge, the largest single store member-owned food cooperative in the nation, was one of the first retailers to go through the USDA organic certification process.

“One can question whether Wal-Mart has the management and staff expertise necessary to fully understand organics and the marketing requirements essential to selling organic food,” observed Kastel. “At this point, it seems they are attracted by the profits generated from the booming organic food sector but are not fully invested in organic integrity. Given their size, market power, and market clout, this is very troubling.”

Cornucopia’s complaint asks the USDA to fully investigate the allegations of organic food misrepresentation. The farm policy organization has indicated that they will share their evidence, including photographs and notes, with the agency’s investigators. Fines of up to $10,000 per violation for proven incidents of organic food misrepresentation are provided for in federal organic regulations.

This past September, The Cornucopia Institute also accused Wal-Mart of cheapening the value of the organic label by sourcing products from industrial-scale factory-farms and Third World countries, such as China.

The Institute released a white paper, Wal-Mart Rolls Out Organic Products—Market Expansion or Market Delusion?, that made the argument that Wal-Mart is poised to drive down the price of organic food in the marketplace by inventing a “new” organic—food from corporate agribusiness, factory-farms, and cheap imports of questionable quality.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

.S., Mexico Activists Fight Wal-Mart

U.S., Mexico Activists Fight Wal-Mart

MEXICO CITY - U.S. and local activists formed a common front on Sunday to fight the expansion of Wal-Mart stores in Mexico, saying small stores and the national culture are under threat from what is already the world's biggest retailer.

Activists from several U.S. groups and 10 Mexican labor, community and commercial organizations wrapped up a two-day meeting dubbed the First Binational U.S.-Mexico Meeting Against Wal-Mart.

In a statement Sunday, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said that it had opened four more discount outlets, a Sam's Club, two restaurants and a clothing store in Mexico in recent days, bringing the chain's total number of stores under various nameplates in the country to 870.

But company officials were not immediately available to respond to the activists' claims that the chain's boxy stores are a blight on the landscape and are changing Mexicans' work, shopping and eating habits.

"We think Mexico should mount a defense of its cultural and historical legacy," said Ruben Garcia of Global Exchange, an activist group based in San Francisco, Calif.

"They (Wal-Mart) want to open stores in Comitan, Juchitan, in Oaxaca, in Patzcuaro, in many places we consider historic," Garcia said, referring to several picturesque, largely Indian cities in southern Mexico.

"If Wal-Mart could open a store in the Zocalo (Mexico City's historic main plaza), they would," said Garcia, who was accompanied at the meeting and subsequent news conference by activists from U.S.-based groups like ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and the International Labor Rights Fund.

In October Wal-Mart won preliminary approval to build a store in Cabo San Lucas, in Baja California Sur _ the only one of Mexico's 31 states where it currently does not have an outlet.

Responding to fears expressed by small business owners there, Antonio Ocarranza, a spokesman for Wal-Mart de Mexico, said at the time that the company would contribute positively to the community.

"We not only generate benefits for our customers, but also for businesses, who benefit from the traffic generated by our firm," he said.

Juan Salazar, the outreach secretary of Mexico's Democratic Association of Public Markets, called on Mexicans to shop instead at the country's many public marketplaces, where small vendors sell meat, produce and other goods.

"Our country's culture is precisely that of the public market, because it is the bastion of nutrition for our people," Salazar said. "That's where we should go, and buy products from our own producers."

Garcia said Wal-Mart benefits from the business brought in by grocery vouchers _ which the government hands out to low-income families and public employees _ that are for the most part only redeemable in supermarkets. The activists called on officials to allow shoppers to use them at public markets.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)

Copyright © 2006 Bismarck Tribune, a division of Lee Enterprises.
Copyright © 2006 Bismarck Tribune, a division of Lee Enterprises.

Friday, November 10, 2006

CVS, Wal-Mart pull acetaminophen

CVS, Wal-Mart pull acetaminophen
By Jen Haberkorn
November 9, 2006

2:07 p.m.
A major drug manufacturer has voluntarily recalled 11 million bottles of acetaminophen that is sold as store-brand products at stores such as CVS/pharmacy, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Sav-A-Lot, Eckerd and Food Lion.
CVS/pharmacy and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have recalled all of their private-label acetaminophen, which was supplied by Perrigo Co. Other retailers have not replied to press inquiries.
Acetaminophen is used to relieve pain and fever.
Some of the pills may have small pieces of metal -- from "microdots" to pieces that measure up to one-third of an inch, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Perrigo said it found them during a quality-control check.
There have been no immediate reports of injury or illness.
"Although the frequency of occurrence is very low, the probability of health risk is remote, and there have been no reports of injuries or illness related to this incident, we are taking this measure to maintain the highest possible product quality standards for our retail customers and their store-brand consumers," said John Hendrickson, executive vice president and general manager of Perrigo Consumer Healthcare.
Both CVS and Wal-Mart said they are pulling the products from the shelves and blocking the products when they're scanned at registers.
At Wal-Mart, the product is sold as Equate Extra Strength Pain Reliever, 500-milligram acetaminophen non-coated white caplets. At CVS, it's sold as CVS brand 500-milligram acetaminophen caplets.
Both retailers said customers can return the products to stores for full refunds.
Contrary to published reports, Perrigo does not supply acetaminophen to Costco or Walgreens.
The Allegan, Mich., company calls itself the world's largest manufacturer of store-brand nonprescription drugs.
To see if a bottle is subject to the recall, consumers can go to and insert the batch number on the product's label.
Consumers with questions can call Perrigo toll-free at 877/546-0454.

All site contents copyright © 2006 The Washington Times, LLC.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Wal-Mart challenged on trademark bid

Wal-Mart challenged on trademark bid
Eden Prairie-based grocer Supervalu is fighting the huge retailer's attempt to add the acronym associated with "Every Day Low Prices" to its suite of trademark terms.
Chris Serres, Star Tribune
Last update: November 08, 2006 – 11:07 AM

Four letters are causing a stir among some of the country's largest grocery chains.
Eden Prairie-based Supervalu Inc. and the National Grocers Association are fighting efforts by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to trademark "EDLP," an acronym for its "Every Day Low Prices" strategy. Last week they asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reject Wal-Mart's application.

They argued that EDLP is a marketing tool used by retailers throughout the country and that no single company has the right to use it to the exclusion of the rest of the industry, according to filings with the federal agency. Supervalu said it has used the wording "Every Day Low Price" in connection with its grocery stores since 1984.

Granting the trademark would unfairly restrict "everyone else's ability to market and advertise their goods and services," the grocers' group said in a statement.

John Simley, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said the company wanted to trademark the acronym to prevent others from using it. The company already has trademarked hundreds of slogans and images, including "Always Low Prices. Always." and a design for "Ol' Roy," Wal-Mart's store brand of dog food.

"We plan to pursue the application as it's written," Simley said.

Under federal law, generic terms can't be trademarked, no matter how well known the term might be. For instance, a person cannot trademark the phrase "Minnesota Apples," for apples grown in Minnesota; or a restaurant can't claim exclusive right to the phrase "Fast Food Joint."

It's common, however, for retailers to trademark words or phrases that are less common. For instance, Best Buy has obtained sole rights to the phrase "Geek Squad," and Target has trademarked the phrase "See.Spot.Save."

In federal filings, Supervalu argued that the acronym "EDLP" had become the generic name for a strategy of retail pricing, in which prices are set low and kept low every day. As evidence, the retailer cited numerous trade-journal articles written on EDLP pricing strategies.

"If they secure a trademark registration for 'EDLP,' and then someone comes along and uses 'EDLP' in connection with retail store services, even if it is an acronym for 'every day low prices,' they are at risk of being sued by Wal-Mart," said Scott Johnston, a patent and trademark attorney with Merchant and Gould in Minneapolis.

For its application to be approved, Wal-Mart must prove that the acronym is associated with Wal-Mart and is not commonly used by other companies, added Jim Nikolai, an intellectual property attorney in Minneapolis. "It's possible that, through a lot of promotions and advertising, the consuming public can associate a particular term with a particular company," he said.

This would not be the first time that Wal-Mart has found itself in a trademark fight. In April, the retailer filed a lawsuit accusing an Atlanta man of tarnishing its reputation for marketing T-shirts with a smiley face and the phrase "Wal-ocaust" -- an attempt to compare the retail giant to the horrors of Nazi Germany. Wal-Mart also is locked in a legal dispute with a London-based company, Smiley World, which claims to own rights to the yellow smiley face in more than 80 countries.

Chris Serres • 612-673-4308 •

Copyright 2006 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Wal-Mart's Attendance Policy Criticized

Wal-Mart's Attendance Policy Criticized
AP Business Writer

NEW YORK At Wal-Mart these days, snowy weather is no longer an excuse for lateness. It had better be a natural disaster like a hurricane or blizzard. And being 10 minutes or more tardy for work three times will earn you a demerit. Too many of those could get you fired.

It's all part of a revised attendance policy implemented earlier this fall that makes Wal-Mart Stores Inc. hourly workers more accountable for excessive unexcused absences and formalizes such penalties.

The new rules already are drawing fire from critics who claim they are the latest attempt by the nation's largest private employer to weed out unhealthy and costly long-term workers as it seeks to cut labor costs.

John Simley, spokesman for Wal-Mart, calls the charges by labor-backed groups "invalid" and said the changes are an enhancement of the company's prior policy.

"We are formalizing and enforcing the policy to ensure greater consistency and to minimize subjectivity," he said.

"It is designed to produce a better work environment and a better shopping environment. The result is better communication and a better shopping experience," he said.

Documents furnished to The Associated Press by union-backed show that employees must call an 800 number to report all absences and tardiness by an hour before the scheduled start time. They also have to call their manager with the confirmation code they received when calling the hot line number. In the past, employees got permission directly from their store managers.

"After a year of adopting antifamily policy after antifamily policy, Wal-Mart adds further insult to injury by adopting a new restrictive attendance policy that treats hard-working associates like children while penalizing them if, God forbid, they face a child or friend with a medical emergency," said Chris Kofinis, a spokesman at

The group is set to hold its first-ever national conference call with Wal-Mart employees and civil rights leaders Thursday to discuss the latest move as well as other recent labor changes.

In September, Wal-Mart said it will stop offering traditional low-deductible health plans for new hires next year in favor of low-premium plans with higher deductibles. Wal-Mart has maintained that the move will put more health care money and choices in the hands of its more than 1.3 million U.S. workers, but union-backed Wal-Mart critics claim it is pushing the rising costs of health care onto its workers.

Wal-Mart has also received heat from critics for implementing caps on its seven hourly pay grades. Employees who are at or above the cap will not have their pay cut, but they can only get a raise by moving to a higher-paid category.

Wal-Mart isn't the only major corporation grappling with how to cut down on no-shows; unscheduled absenteeism has climbed to its highest level since 1999, according to results released last week of an annual nationwide survey of 326 human resource executives in U.S. companies and organizations.

The survey, conducted for CCH Inc. by the Harris Interactive consulting firm, put the U.S. absenteeism rate at 2.5 percent in 2006, up from 2.3 percent a year ago and the highest since seven years ago when it was 2.7 percent. The survey found that personal illness makes up for only 35 percent of unscheduled absences, with the rest due to family issues, personal needs, stress and an entitlement mentality.

But Pamela Wolf, a workplace analyst at CCH, believes that Wal-Mart's absentee control program seems to be bucking the trend among major corporations to embrace work-life programs that are "designed to recruit and retain workers."

"This doesn't seem to be introducing flexibility to its employees," Wolf said, after being briefed on Wal-Mart's new policy.

Dan Butler, vice president of operations at the National Retail Federation, defended stricter attendance policies like Wal-Mart's, saying "if you don't have controls in place to hold employees accountable, you can't guarantee a certain level of service."

But some Wal-Mart employees, whose names were furnished by, said in interviews that the new policy is too rigid.

The new policy reduces the number of unapproved absences allowed to three from the previous four during a rolling six-month period. Employees who have more than three unapproved absences will be disciplined; seven will result in termination, according to the documents. Simley said under the old policy, employees were terminated after six unapproved absences.

The new policy appears more rigid when it comes to authorized absences. In the past, general bad weather would suffice as an authorized excuse; now it has to be a natural disaster like a hurricane or blizzard. Wal-Mart is now defining tardiness more rigidly as beginning work 10 minutes or more after the scheduled start time, which results in an incomplete shift. Three incomplete shifts add up to one unauthorized absence.

Simley argued that the new policy is more flexible. Before, employees could have been marked down as tardy for being a just few minutes late for work, he said.

Under the revised policy, Wal-Mart is encouraging employees who are sick for more than three days to apply for unpaid leave of absence under the Family Medical Leave Act.

"They always said family comes first; now, are they coming last?" asked Cynthia Murray,a Hyattsville, Md., resident, who works in the fitting room of a Wal-Mart store in Laurel, Md.

One of the changes that Murray is upset about is that Wal-Mart now counts leaving work early to pick up a sick child as a strike against you. Simley argued that Wal-Mart always counted that as an unauthorized absence.

Mike Turner, who resigned three weeks ago as assistant manager of a Wal-Mart store in Crosby, Tex., said he was briefed about the changes by his bosses earlier this fall. He said that under the old policy, managers would approve excuses on a case-by-case basis, but the 800 number eliminates such "human interaction."

"I believe in being fair," he said, noting he personally approved plenty of situations that made a worker late like flooding or a car breaking down. "What can you tell a good associate that you are going to discipline because of a system that goes against human interaction?" he asked. is the Web site of the Star-News. Located in Wilmington, N.C., the Star-News is a 55,000 circulation daily newspaper serving New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick, Duplin, Onslow and Columbus counties.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Former city manager tells Wal-Mart woes

Former city manager tells Wal-Mart woes
Spooner Advocate
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 31st, 2006 11:51:02 AM

Nancy Shipley, former city manager for Nowata, Okla., said when Wal-Mart proposed a small store in the city of 4,000 and built one in 1982, the people in the community greeted the store with open arms, even excitement.

However, she said, the perception of Wal-Mart began to change as 18 longtime existing business closed their doors within three years of Wal-mart’s arrival.
Shipley was in Spooner Tuesday afternoon at the invitation of Washburn County First, a grassroots organization opposing Wal-Mart’s development plans for the northwest corner of Cty. Hwy. H and Hwy. 53 in Spooner.

Steve Carlson of Trego, chairman of Washburn County First said he read about the situation in Nowata and called the Nowata City Hall to find out more. He was put in touch with Shipley, the city manager through the Wal-Mart’s opening in the community and after it left. She changed jobs in 2005.

She intended to relay what happened in her city to the Spooner City Council Tuesday night during an open hearing on the proposed Wal-Mart Development.

“It didn’t take me very long to figure out it wasn’t a good deal when my shoe store and my dress store and everything else I bought [from] in town were closed,” Shipley said earlier on Tuesday. “The only thing that was left was the Wal-Mart, so you didn’t get the good shoes, the good dresses. You took what they had.”

But Shipley alleged the community really soured on Wal-Mart when the Fortune 100 retailer closed the Nowata store suddenly in 1994 and two other small Wal-Marts near the city, and moved operations to a newly constructed Supercenter 25 miles away in Bartelsville.

She said when Wal-Mart left, the downtown was literally boarded up and the citizens were left without local options for shopping other than driving 25 miles away to the Supercenter.

“The question you need to ask Wal-Mart is ‘How long do you intend to stay?’” said Shipley.

The story of Nowata has been chronicled in books opposing Wal-Mart expansion across the country. Shipley herself was featured in a New York Times article titled, “When Wal-Mart pulls out, what’s left?” She also has been interviewed by the BBC about Wal-Mart’s impact on communities.

“I think I am up here to show how Wal-Mart devastated Nowata when it left,” she said. “Actually it devastated when it came in. Within 1 1/2 years, half the businesses [of the 18] were closed; within three years they were all closed.”
She said the Spooner City Council needs to ask some serious questions of Wal-Mart before the city gives the green light.

“Before I’d agreed for them to come into this town, I would want to know if they are going to stay forever. If they will stay and help you,” said Shipley.

She said Wal-Marts will build at the end of a town, and other businesses will tend to move in that direction, and downtowns will be affected.

“I think people should support the stores that are here,” she said. “Even if you have to pay a higher price, it is better to keep your mom and pop stores, rather than having one giant Wal-Mart coming in and everything else closing down.”

She said a drug store survived downtown because Nowata Wal-Mart did not have a pharmacy and because the drug store owners purposely carried inventory Wal-Mart did not sell.

She said the town’s grocery stores also managed to survive because the Nowata store, because it was not a Supercenter, did not sell groceries.

The Supercenter Wal-Mart plans to build in Spooner besides selling commercial products will also sell groceries and have a pharmacy.

“It was really a sad situation when they left,” she said. “That is probably my message, how it affected the town when it left. There was not places to go to shop.”
Shipley said she has no idea why Wal-Mart left. She said a local banker she knows who collected the Nowata’s Wal-Mart’s receipts said the store was doing a “very good business” with “huge profits.”

Shipley said when she first heard of the Wal-Mart leaving she went to the store’s manager who told her, “We will be here always.”

“The had a sign on the building that said, ‘We will be here always,’” she said “and within another month they said they were going to close.”

Shipley said the manager was a nice man and she tends to believe he did not know himself of the closing.

She said them most affected people by Wal-Mart’s leaving is elderly people who can not drive to Bartlesville and 70 employees of the store who lost their jobs.

“I can tell you this, they had no sympathy for our town for the citizens who lived there,” she said. “Besides that they took the tax base with them. It left the city with no money to maintain the sanitry, aiport, all the mowing that has to be done. We laid off seven employees in our maintence department when they left town.”

Brayn Lee, president of the First National Bank of Nowata, interviewed in the New York Times article was also crtical of Wal-Mart. “They came in and ravaged all the small businesses, and when it came to the point where they were not satisfied, they left,” he said.

Also interviewd in the New York Times artle was the mayor who was in office, Armel Richardson, when Wal-Mart came into the city in 1982.

“Wal-Mart has proven this: They’re big and greedy; they have no compassion for the community or the individual,” said the former mayor.

In the New York Times Article Don E. Shinkle, Wal-Mart’s vice president of coroporate affairs refered to the closing of the Nowata and two other stores in the area as consolidations and a “win-win-win situation for everybody,” he said.
“He said the supercenters, withthe jobs they offer and wider selected of goods generated more sales and taxes, help everyone mor than the smaller stores,” wrote the article’s author Peter Kilborn.

Signs of recovery have slowly appeared since Wal-Mart has left, she said, with the arrival of Family Dollar store and department store called Bud’s, a division of Wal-Mart selling production-damage, refurbished and discounted goods.

Copyright © 1998-2006 MultiMedia Interactive. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

PR firm admits it's behind Wal-Mart blogs

PR firm admits it's behind Wal-Mart blogs
Sites that appeared to be grass-roots support for retailer revealed to be backed by Edelman employees.
October 20 2006: 11:44 AM EDT

NEW YORK ( -- A public relations firm has revealed that it is behind two blogs that previously appeared to be created by independent supporters of Wal-Mart.

The blogs Working Families for Wal-mart and subsidiary site Paid Critics are written by three employees of PR firm Edelman, for whom Wal-Mart is a paid client, according to information posted on the sites Thursday.

Before Thursday, the authors of the blogs were not disclosed. But Web critics had been skeptical of claims that the blogs were grass-roots efforts, and pushed for greater transparency.

"In response to comments and emails, we've added author bylines to blog posts here at," said a recent post to the site.

Recent entries on Working Families for Wal-Mart are now attributed to "Miranda," and a click reveals that this is Miranda Gill, an Edelman employee.

Recent entries on Paid Critics, a site dedicated to drawing links between Wal-mart critics and groups, such as unions, with vested interests are written by Brian and Kate. These are Edelman employees Brian McNeill and Kate Marshall.

Last week a blog called "Wal-Marting Across America," which appeared to be created by a man and a woman traveling the country in an RV and staying in Wal-Mart parking lots, also turned out to be underwritten by Working Families for Wal-Mart.

Shares of Wal-Mart (up $0.93 to $49.42, Charts) rose 1.5 percent on the New York Stock Exchange Friday.

Major corporations such as Sun Microsystems (Charts) and General Motors (Charts) have begun using blogs in recent years, although the practice is still relatively rare.

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP. A Time Warner Company

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wal-Mart: 'Cheap' better than 'chic'?

Wal-Mart: 'Cheap' better than 'chic'?
Discounter says Oct. sales rose a dismal 0.5%;

sees unexpected setback with its trendy 'Metro 7' clothing line
By Parija B. Kavilanz, staff writer
October 30 2006: 12:46 PM EST

NEW YORK ( -- Is Wal-Mart, the king of "cheap," shooting itself in the foot by straying from its low-priced strategy in favor of more upscale offerings?

In its weekly sales update on Saturday, the world's largest retailer reported that October sales at its U.S. stores open at least a year -- a key retail metric known as same-store sales -- rose a much weaker-than-expected 0.5 percent.

This figure is even lower than Wal-Mart's recently reduced guidance of a 1 percent increase. It initially saw a 2 to 4 percent rise.

Wal-Mart and other chain store merchants will report their final October sales results on Thursday.

Upscale fashion to blame?
In his presentation to a group of Wall Street analyst last week, Wal-Mart (Charts) CEO Lee Scott admitted the world's biggest retailer has seen at least one big setback to its attempts to boost sales by offering fancier, higher-priced merchandise.

"We have to understand why Metro 7 does well in 600 stores but [doesn't] do well when you expand it [into more stores]," Scott said. Scott was referring to Wal-Mart's fashionable private-label clothing brand called "Metro 7" that the company launched last year.

Compared to the basic T-shirts, sweatshirts and jeans Wal-Mart typically sells, Metro 7 was a step up in fashion - and price.

Moreover, Wal-Mart supported the brand's launch with a splashy and expensive marketing campaign.

The strategy worked, at first. Wal-Mart couldn't get the product into stores fast enough. The retailer expanded Metro 7 into 600 stores quickly, hoping to leverage the brand's early success.

Then the unexpected happened. Metro 7 failed to take off in some markets. Wal-Mart had planned to roll out the line in more than 1,000 locations but has since scaled back that target to between 700 to 800 stores.

"We overexpanded it. We had a pretty good idea. I think what happened is we didn't follow the strategy. We overloaded the fashion part. We need to remember who we are," Scott said.

"We need to have a little bit of fashion so our customers know we have a sense of what's happening in the world. If we try to do more [with fashion], we're not going to do well," he added.

With Wall Street breathing down its neck over sluggish sales and a stock price that's been stagnant for five years, Wal-Mart is under intense pressure to rev up growth and fight growing competition from archrival Target (Charts), other "big-box" retailers like Costco (Charts), and value-priced department store chains like J.C. Penney (Charts).

To that end, Wal-Mart in recent months set in motion a plan to court wealthier shoppers and boost profits and sales by introducing more upscale items that generate fatter profits.

For instance, in addition to Metro 7 Wal-Mart has added other fashion labels like the trendy urban line for men called "Exsto" and a clothing line from designer Mark Eisen. It's introduced organic baby clothing under its "George" label, expanded its higher-priced organic food offering and added more brand-name flat screen TVs and personal computers in electronics.

It would appear that Wal-Mart is trying to emulate Target's tremendous success with its "cheap-chic" merchandise approach. But some industry watchers warn that Wal-Mart is no Target.

"Wal-Mart is not cool. It's impossible for Wal-Mart to be cool because they would have to discredit their entire business to do that," said veteran retail consultant Howard Davidowitz.

For its part, Target created the "cheap-chic" market by being the first to enter into collaborations with high-profile designers like Mossimo, Isaac Mizrahi and Todd Oldham to market affordable clothing, home furnishing and kitchen products.

Target, the No. 2 discounter, is now among the leaders in the "cheap-chic" space. Despite its roots as Wal-Mart-like discounter, Target's become synonymous with the term "trendy." Many consumers say it's "cool" to pay just a bit more, and walk out carrying Target's well-known bull's-eye logo on their shopping bags.

But retail experts said Wal-Mart simply isn't there yet in terms of changing its image.

"Any time that Wal-Mart tries change, it's tricky because of who they are," Davidowitz said."There are very few retailers with such a solid established image as Wal-Mart. To consumers Wal-Mart means every-day low prices. In apparel, Wal-Mart sells body covering. It's what its customers expect."

Not that there's anything wrong with that. "Wal-Mart's been very successful selling basic apparel," he added.

Davidowitz, for one, hopes the Metro 7 setback doesn't scare Wal-Mart away from pushing ahead with tinkering with its merchandise mix, especially in organics and electronics, two areas where it's already luring wealthier shoppers.

"Wal-Mart has to seek out new customers in order to grow. That's a given. But the Metro 7 issues show they can't do a blanket upscale push," he said.

Doing it on a region by region basis makes more sense. "Store profiling is key. Look at your customer base in each market and target the merchandise accordingly," Davidowitz said.

Wal-Mart's Scott told analysts that the company has to become better at the "idea of customer segmentation " and "which stores to put which merchandise."

Richard Hastings, senior retail analysts with Bernard Sands, agreed the chain has work to do.

"Going upscale in clothing is not the solution for Wal-Mart. It won't work because of Wal-Mart's discount store experience and layout," he said. "You can't put clothing 20 feet away from groceries and create the same ambience that consumers have shopping for clothes in a specialty or department store."

He, too, suggested that Wal-Mart go more upscale in food, beverages and other household products. "Wal-Mart can get really competitive in these areas and get a good payout."

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP. A Time Warner Company