"A picture tells a thousand words."
"Every picture tells a story."
"The camera doesn't lie."
We've all heard the adages before and largely accepted them. That's what makes it so difficult for stores to address photos of out-of-stocks, racks in disarray and dirty aisles taken by analysts and others. After all, if jpeg after jpeg show a store in chaos, the images must also represent what consumers can expect in other locations.
Retailers including J.C. Penney, Kmart, Sears and Walmart have all been on the receiving end of this special type of photo criticism. In most of these cases, the person taking the photo has used it as further evidence of a chain being mismanaged.
Walmart, for example, has been taking hits for out-of-stocks going back more than a year. The reason behind empty shelves found in stores, notably reported by Bloomberg News, is that locations did not have sufficient staff to keep up with stocking responsibilities. It should be noted that Walmart has denied this explanation and maintained throughout that photographed locations were isolated examples, not representative of the chain as a whole.
A series of recent articles written by TheStreet columnist Rocco Pendola include photos that put some Sears and Walmart stores in a very unflattering light. Mr. Pendola received some criticism for his portrayal of the stores but is standing by his characterizations of the locations as messy and embarrassing. That, he maintains, goes to the management of the businesses overall.
Mr. Pendola specifically addressed retailers' rebuttals that the stores he photographed are out of the norm. To that he writes, "If your stores didn't look this way, guys like me would have nothing to relay to the public. A public, by the way, that often corroborates our reporting by sending us pictures from decrepit stores in areas where they live."
How effectively have retailers responded to stories posted online that contain photos of empty shelves and unkempt stores?