Monday, November 21, 2005

The OTHER evil empire

I've always has a love/hate relationship with Wal-mart. When they came into my hometown, we saw at least 7 similar stores closed their doors within a couple of years.

But then if you walk into any Rose's store (a discount chain in the south), you'll usually find aisles cluttered with boxes and the shelves in disarray. You are lucky if you find what you are looking for, the surely staff aren't going to help, and the quality is typically poor. Yeah, it's too bad if stores close but they should make themselves more competitive.

Anybody who says that is impossible only has to look to Target's example. They have been masterful in re-branding themselves.

So I've never understood the intense hatred that Wal-Mart inspires in some people. Friends of mine refuse to shop there and have explained their reasons, with no sense of irony, while sipping a $6 shake that somehow passes for coffee at Starbucks.

Here is one story about the debate and another about a filmmaker hoping to take them down a notch.

In my previous life I did happen to find myself in meetings with Wal-Mart execs and their absolute dominance in negotiations is stunning. They are on a different plain when it comes to telling vendors the wholesale price they will pay. Shelf space, end caps and other displays that drive sales are all bargaining chips that Wal-mart uses to get what they want.

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