business news in context, analysis with attitude

  • UK trade magazine The Grocer has named Wal-Mart’s Asda Group as the nation’s least expensive retailer for the eighth year in a row.

    Asda was judged to be 1.8 percent cheaper than Tesco, which, according to the magazine, disputes the results. But Tesco can take some solace in the fact that despite the conclusions of the Grocer survey, its UK market share is growing, and Asda’s is not.

    Equally interesting, according to Reuters is the fact that Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury all are cutting prices to such an extent that they are getting into new businesses, such as financial services, in order to bolster their profitability.

  • Published reports say that lawyers representing hourly employees at some Kentucky Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores have asked a judge there to grant class action status to a lawsuit charging that store management did not allow them to take breaks and forced them to work off the clock.

    The judge has not yet ruled on the request.

    The case is similar to other suits that have been filed around the country against Wal-Mart.

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that “Wal-Mart has been completely underestimated when it comes to the Web, and its low profile is by design. The company refuses to break out any financial data on its Web operations, so there's no easy way to really compare its online revenue with Web-based retailers such as Amazon and eBay. Nonetheless, it's bigger than you think. And getting bigger.”

    According to the WSJ, Wal-Mart looks “at the Web less as a way to attract new customers than as a tool to better serve its existing base.” John Fleming, the president/CEO of, tells the paper that the goal was to "give Wal-Mart customers more choices for how they want to shop at Wal-Mart. A lot of stuff in our stores now requires more information than you can get from an aisle end-cap display."

    So, the WSJ notes, “the Web site contains buyers' guides for pricey goods such as digital cameras and plasma televisions. It also offers a greater amount of choice, with more than one million items for sale on the Web, compared with 125,000 at the retailer's stores.

    “Wal-Mart has taken some innovative steps to leverage the Web to drive people to its stores. For example, Mr. Fleming explains, you can buy tires online, then pick them up and have them mounted at a Wal-Mart tire center near your home. You can order prescription refills for delivery by mail or collect them in person at the in-store pharmacy. Using the online photo service, you can send digital pictures to be printed in a Wal-Mart store of your choice, with a one-hour turnaround.”

    Some of the impetus for this on-line aggression, according to the paper, came when’s founder/CEO, Jeff Bezos, started saying that he wanted his company to the Wal-Mart of the Internet…which led Wal-Mart management to decide that if any company was going to be the Wal-Mart of the Internet, it ought to be Wal-Mart.

  • The Sunday Business Post in Ireland reports that Wal-Mart’s Asda Group in the UK, having already purchased 12 Safeway Plc stores in Northern Ireland, plans a broader assault on the Irish market – it already has made an unsuccessful offer to buy one unnamed Irish chain, and reportedly plans to expand there sooner rather than later.

  • America apparently has a love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart.

    Advertising Age reports on the curiously diverse results of a new survey done by the American Demographics Perception Study, saying that “Wal-Mart has the most believable advertising of any company in America,” scoring first in retail customer service and ranking as the second-most trustworthy corporation in the nation (behind only General Electric), and that Wal-Mart simultaneously “has the least believable advertising of any company in America,” scoring worst in customer service and ranking “as the second least-trustworthy company in America -- right behind Enron.”

KC's View:
We suspect that Wal-Mart doesn’t care whether you love it or hate it, as long as you shop there.