SWOT Analysis: Wal-Mart Inc.
A. Internal Environment
I. Management Infrastructure
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Wal-Mart has been able to install and maintain a management team that is performing superiorly over its entire existence. This is foremost a consequence of the remarkable leadership abilities of its founder Sam Walton. He is often described as having been a very charismatic figure. The challenge that lies ahead is to perpetuate this spirit and not to become an ordinary organization like many of its competitors servicing top level management more than the customer. For that task it will need an equally outstanding and humble leader on its own. 1. Corporate Level Management
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The credo of "always low prices" is the corporate mission and is had proved to be successful. In fulfilling this mission, Wal-Mart always emphasized not to increase margins but to pass on its benefits and advantages received to its customers in order to offer them the best price. Because the war over the retail customer is mainly a price war, this should be the route to success in the future, as well. 2. Business Level Management
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Wal-Mart operations are split into Wal-Mart Stores, Sam's Clubs and International Wal-Mart. As of mid 2005, the Company had 1,289 Wal-Mart stores, 1,816 Super centers, 555 Sam's Club and 92 Neighborhood Markets' in the United States of America. Internationally, the Company operated 11 units in Argentina, 152 in Brazil, 261 in Canada, 47 in China, 89 in Germany, 16 in South Korea, 706 in Mexico, 54 in Puerto Rico and 291 in Great Britain. These are stocked by 110 distribution centers around the world. Wal-Mart's success is based on its concentration of a single-business strategy, namely low prices, service, and "a smile". This strategy has achieved superior performance over the last three decades without relying upon diversification in other fields to sustain its growth and competitive advantages. The inherent risk is that all eggs are put in one basket. This risk is mitigated by diversifying internationally, which Wal-Mart is now emphasizing. Thereby it can profit from its strong domestic base. As in the US, Wal-Mart tries to utilize its superior supply chain management and their superior logistics. With its computer system Wal-Mart can track how much of one item has been sold on any given day, and if an item is not selling well, they will ship it out to another store where it might be sold faster. Contrary to common industry standard and as Wal-Mart has done in the past in the US, it will, if possible, build the warehouse first, preferably in a free trade zone, and then group the retail outlets accordingly. Opportunistic buying of merchandise is equally important to deliver on the right price. Service from when the customer walks in the store to when he/she leaves rounds up the picture. All of these strategies are not proprietary, they are even common sense, and may easily be copied. However, as opposed to many of their competitors Wal-Mart's management was able to actually implement these policies, which principally seems to be the result of a high morale in its workforce and accordingly good work ethics. It appears to be essential to hold this spirit up in the future and not to rest on the laurels of the past. The enormous size of Wal-Mart is believed to its biggest asset as it gives Wal-Mart leverage over its suppliers and envied economies of scope and scale, however such economies are not endless and the bigger they are the less they will increase significantly. The key to success for management is not to be overwhelmed by the bureaucracy that inevitably comes with any large organization. One may not remember well but General Motors seemed invincible in the past, too. 3. Functional Level Management
Wal-Mart refers to its employees as "associates", and encourages managers to think of themselves as "servants". Each shift at every store starts with a store-wide meeting at...
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