Poll: Wal-Mart’s Still Popular But Less So

Discussion
Dec 01, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


A new poll conducted by Zogby for the anti-Wal-Mart group, Wake Up Wal-Mart, shows a majority of Americans still have a favorable view of the retail giant but that the number of those is down from an earlier poll asking the same question in January.


The first poll reported that 76 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Wal-Mart while the most recent findings showed 58 percent felt that way.


As would be expected, Wake Up Wal-Mart and the retailer had different views on the research findings.


Paul Blank, campaign director at Wake Up Wal-Mart, told The Associated Press, “What this polling indicates is that Wal-Mart’s reputation is in a tailspin.”


“It would be hard for anyone to believe that a poll paid for by the UFCW was more accurate than the fact that our estimated November store sales were up 4.3 percent and that 10 million people shopped at our stores during the first six hours of sales last Friday,” Wal-Mart spokesperson Sarah Clark said. 


Moderator’s Comment: Is Wal-Mart’s public relations program to address the criticism of groups such as Wake Up Wal-Mart reaching and being accepted by
American consumers? What else, if anything, does it need to do to win over the American public?

George Anderson – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Poll: Wal-Mart’s Still Popular But Less So"


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Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 2 months ago
I think that there is a combination of events going on that makes the case against Wal-Mart (for the anti-Wal-Mart groups) much more tangible. What’s real is real and what is tangible is tangible. In growing numbers (albeit slow growth), but real growth in numbers, many are beginning to understand the consequences of Wal-Mart. Personally, I think Wal-Mart even understands the consequences of Wal-Mart. Yet, at this point, the lure of the price is greater than the pain of the consequences. The entire irony is that those harmed the most are those who can’t help themselves from the lure of the prices. That is likely part of the strategy. In the early 1900’s, Henry Ford understood that if he was going to have consumers, workers needed to be able to afford the product. Thus, wages grew until the average worker could afford the product (while at the same time there was downward pressure on the product price through innovation, control of production and resources, etc.). In order for Wal-Mart to continue its growth, they must… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

I do know what else Wal-Mart can do. There are always going to be groups of people who believe in a dependency society where businesses are responsible for personal responsibility issues such as income and healthcare. In a way, Wal-Mart sort of has their hands tied. We all know that Wal-Mart is not going to announce publicly that they hire less than ordinary people who would stand no chance of ever being hired by the poster child retailers who provide good wages and healthcare. Even Wal-Mart employees realize this and know if not for the grace of Wal-Mart they would otherwise be unemployable. These radical anti-Wal-Mart zealot extremists are trying to send out a message that all retail workers are of equal class. Wal-Mart’s best weapon against these radicals would be to have their own employees turn against the zealots. As long as Wal-Mart can demonstrate to their workforce that these zealots are hurting the employees more than helping them, Wal-Mart has little to worry about.

Ron Margulis
Guest
15 years 2 months ago
The PR business is all about accentuating the positive and downplaying the negative. The challenge for Wal-Mart has been that there is currently more negative than positive to “spin.” This hampers the PR effort, which is on the defensive putting out fires created by poor planning or poor execution at both the HQ and store levels. What PR should be spending its time doing is digging up stories on the positive aspects of the company’s operations, anecdotes that can be sent to journalists to recreate the reputation the retailer had under Sam Walton. (Hey, maybe I should be charging Bentonville for this stuff!) PR managers often only work with the situation they are given by senior management, and so their impact on the company’s reputation is reactive. Smart companies bring in PR strategists to engineer overall business policy, so decisions on products and services as well as marketing and operational tactics are not made in a vacuum devoid of consideration for reputation management. This is the path Wal-Mart is now taking, and it will improve… Read more »
Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
15 years 2 months ago

Having studied Wal-Mart statistically for many years, I agree with you, Mark. Wal-Mart has changed, and it is not the all-wonderful place it claims to be. Or even the very-wonderful place it used to be. Our own studies show significant problems in Wal-Mart, and it has yet to address these issues effectively. I may raise quite a few hackles here, but our statistical data seems to suggest that Wal-Mart’s PR problems are largely deserved. (Don’t shoot! I’m unarmed!) I’ve seen that I’m terrible at predicting the future, but I do feel that Wal-Mart could quite possibly lose a third of its market share in the next 15 years, not because of poor publicity, but because of real problems in the organization that the poor publicity merely is a sign of.

Anyone care to answer this question: What do you see are Wal-Mart’s real problems?

Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Wal-Mart has new leadership and is clearly moving in different directions than in years past. This most recent Black Friday’s sales and positioning by Wal-Mart demonstrate this. Add to this their concerted effort to better treat all of their employees on the same level, and offer the same opportunities and you have a new and different organization. It is still too early to see if some of the more recent changes (including having Wal-Mart lobby for a rise in the minimum wage) will produce the PR growth that Wal-Mart executives would like to see, however, it does at least signal the desired changes necessary for Wal-Mart to develop a more favorable retail following. At the end of the day, consumers like the products and prices which Wal-Mart offers as part of their shopping experience. This is still the greatest overriding factor in their shopping decisions.

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Call me short-sighted if you will, but I think Wal-Mart’s response to the opinion poll numbers was entirely appropriate. They are in business to be the world’s best retailer — not the world’s most benevolent employer.

The impact an “anti” campaign can have on actual behavior is a function of how much importance the public places on the issue and how tangible it is. The “anti-war” campaign is gaining traction because the public feels the importance of not losing more American lives is high and the tangibility of war (i.e., is it on our soil now) is low. PETA has more trouble because the importance of not killing animals is low relative to the tangibility of not having steak for dinner tonight.

What consumers are saying regarding Wal-Mart is that the importance (and perhaps the credibility?) of the anti Wal-Mart claims is low relative to the tangible shopping experience of best selection at lowest price. If Wal-Mart stays focused on being the world’s best retailer, they will be just fine.

Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
15 years 2 months ago

Yes, they are vulnerable and should continue to push on the PR front but this needs to be backed up with truly fixing some of the issues they have. My experiences are good of late and they are doing a better job of being more responsive and talking to suppliers and consultants more than they have in the past. I am concerned that they no longer have a clear strategy and that could mean more trouble ahead. Having good PR is important but if you don’t know where you are going – that means trouble ahead!

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

They should stay the course and keep their nose clean. Answering every ridiculous charge just brings them down in the gutter with the ignorant and irresponsible screamers who don’t know what reality is, and don’t care. The PR effort is essential, and must remain ongoing. Wal-Mart’s far from perfect, but it’s also a far cry from the beast some of these critics make it out to be. I sense, in some circles, backlash against the anti-Wal-Mart groups. Some of the charges being made are so far out that credibility is finally being strained.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Everyone knows that, just because you’re the biggest today, doesn’t mean you’ll be the biggest forever. In the 1950’s, great American corporations like AT&T, Sears, and General Motors were considered tops in each of their fields. Great businesses think beyond today or the next quarter. Procter & Gamble, General Electric, and Exxon (then called Esso) were also tops in their fields, and 50 years later, they are still tops! Wal-Mart has to work every day, every minute, to stay on top. That includes taking advantage of every opportunity to improve their image. And sometimes they will have to do more than improve the “spin.” They will have to take real action. What they did after Katrina was real action. How about starting legitimate, frequent, unannounced factory inspections in Asia?

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