Wal-Mart is now the world’s largest retail organization. Wal-Mart employs around 1.2 million people worldwide. In 2000, Wal-Mart had sales of more than $191 billion, with profits of $6.3 billion. Profits increased 16% from the previous year. People have come to expect that Wal-Mart’s profits will increase substantially every year.
Each year more stores are opened, and Wal-Mart expands into new countries. Wal-Mart also enters new areas of business nearly every year. Few people know that Wal-Mart is also a major real estate company. Sam Walton opened his Walton’s Five and Dime in Bentonville, Arkansas, in 1950. Twelve years later he opened the first Wal-Mart in Bentonville. His business philosophy was simple– good prices, great selection and a friendly greeting.
Walton was known for the “Ten Foot Attitude.” This means that any employee should greet any customer who is within ten feet of them. He emphasized that it is important to speak to people before they speak to you. Walton also believed that good deals from suppliers should be passed along to customers. The combination of low prices and friendly service is basic to Wal- Mart’s success. That one store in Bentonville has become 4,203 stores in the U.S.A., plus another 1,000 outside the United States. Walton died in 1992, but his business philosophy continues to be preached at Wal-Marts.
Each store has greeters who meet the customers at the door, and deal with any special needs they have. Having greeters gives the effect of having more service clerks than Wal-Mart really has. Compared to some other department stores, Wal-Mart has relatively fewer employees. Wal-Mart also has the Wal-Mart Foundation, which sponsors numerous good causes. Among their programs are high school scholarship, fundraising for local hospitals and sick children, environmental concerns and community “matching grant’ outreach.
So, what’s not to like about Wal-Mart? The main complaint is that their business style is extremely aggressive. Wal-Mart’s attitudes towards manufacturers and suppliers are: “You do it our way, or we won’t do business with you.” This puts Wal-Mart at an advantage over smaller retailers who don’t have the same retailing power. Wal-Mart has been known to demand that its suppliers provide products at discount for Wal-Mart store openings; levy fines for shipment errors; tell manufacturers what products, styles and colours to make, etc.
Wal-Mart expects product delivery in two days, and expects manufacturers to cooperate with its promotional and retailing strategies. In effect, any company that works with Wal-Mart becomes one of their employees. Any company, which so dominates one area of the market, will have a lot of power. So far, Wal-Mart has been successful in getting what it wants, and providing customers with what they want.