Wal-Mart: Retailing Good Guy or Bully?
Sam Walton had an amazing vision. He saw that big businesses were buying merchandise and reselling it for huge profits. They would then take those huge profits and live big. The customers with average incomes were unable to afford very much. Sam realized that he could buy merchandise in large quantities at a much lower price per item, and then resell that merchandise with only a slight mark-up. He decided that customers would rather pay as little as possible for products, so that they could afford more. Don Soderquist, retired vice chairman and chief operating officer of Wal-Mart, wrote in his book, The Wal-Mart Way, that Sam Walton “simply wanted to provide a better shopping experience for people living in small towns. He wanted to improve their standard of living by providing quality goods at low prices in a pleasant shopping environment“(page xix). Sam Walton saw this as good, healthy competition, and I have to agree. I see it as pure, American capitalism at its very best.
How does Wal-Mart do it? How do they sell merchandise for the “lowest prices in town”, as their motto says? Besides buying in bulk and selling at low prices, they hire good-hearted, regular people, sometimes based only on their smiles. They implement many programs to keep the associates (as they call their employees) happy with their workplace. For instance, with very few exceptions, they promote from within the company. And, they have a lot of fun. If Wal-Mart associates could not be happy where they work, then maybe they would be better-suited working someplace else. That’s the way Sam saw it. They have fun with their many sales promotions where they try to outdo each other or try to beat last year’s numbers. Through all of it, Sam remained humble and caused the company to grow by “plowing a large percentage of profits back into the company to aggressively expand into new markets and to equally aggressively revitalize...
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