Wal-Mart has announced a new plan for entering the urban market, which has in the past been unreceptive to the retailer. The company plans to build Wal-Mart stores in inner-city areas that historically have been served by smaller “mom and pop” stores with a smaller range of goods. To help cushion the potential impact on existing businesses, Wal-Mart says it will hold workshops with area stores to offer business strategies and with local suppliers to offer advice on doing business with WalMart.
The debate continues on whether the benefits of having a Wal-Mart (e.g., those low, low prices! and service jobs) are offset by the disadvantages (e.g., those low, low wages, anti-union corporate mentality, and Goliath-type competition for smaller businesses).
Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest employer, with 1.8 million employees and $11.2 billion in profits in 2005. Wal-Mart knows it has a public relations problem, and the new urban strategy seems partly a response to that. The company has become such a lightening rod for criticism, however, that it seems unlikely that any single move will transform its image. Still, maybe this heightened awareness can lead to positive changes?
Your Turn: vote in the blogpoll to the right. What do you think about Wal-Mart's new leaf?