What’s Up (Or Not) at Wal-Mart?
By George Anderson
There is something that all those who believe Wal-Mart is predestined to take over the world should consider. The chain, say industry experts, is not doing as well as is generally supposed.
Burt Flickinger, managing director at Strategic Resources, maintains that if you take away newer businesses, such as groceries and gasoline, from Wal-Mart’s final tally, you’ll find that its discount store sales are in decline.
Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard’s Retail Forecasting, told The Associated Press he would not be surprised if that were, in fact, true.
Some believe Wal-Mart came as far as it could under a number of lifers who had been with the company for decades. The departure of some of these executives now offers the company the opportunity to reinvent and reinvigorate itself, according to John Plummer of the retail executive recruiting firm of Plummer & Associates.
“The old operations group at Wal-Mart is probably what caused a lot of the problems they are having now,” said Mr. Plummer. The company’s focus on keeping costs to the bare minimum and rewarding executives for achieving this goal may have been what Mr. Plummer said led to violations of “labor laws and good practices.”
There may be something to this theory, say others. “If a (corporate) culture remains static, loses ground, it loses its right to live, said Mr. Barnard. “That is a reflection of the need to change.”
Wal-Mart spokesman Jay Allen doesn’t find anything particularly unusual or telling in the personnel changes that have taken place at the company’s headquarters. “The make-up has changed, yes. With inordinate speed? I don’t think so,” he said.
Moderator’s Comment: What challenges do you see facing Wal-Mart’s management team? How will (or should) the company meet those challenges?
George Anderson – Moderator