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  • Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lewis Lazare writes that as Wal-Mart tries to appeal to a more upscale audience while retaining its connection to its core consumer, it will be attempting an advertising trick that is particularly challenging – and he give sits current efforts a D+.

    “To succeed, Wal-Mart is going to have to tweak the rather unadorned image it has cultivated in ad campaigns to date,” he writes. “The first attempts at an image shift can be seen in the new back-to-school advertising from Wal-Mart agency of record GSD&M in Austin and Chicago.

    “Much of what has traditionally passed for Wal-Mart advertising featured in-store shots of merchandise, often accompanied by images of friendly looking Wal-Mart employees in their standard-issue blue jackets with glaringly oversized name tags.” One of its new ads, which he describes as “sleepy,” takes viewers “away from the vast store settings and use vignettes to draw attention to school supplies and back-to-school fashions. But if these early stabs at rethinking Wal-Mart's advertising profile are any indication, the chain still is a long way from matching the pizzazz of Target's trendy and remarkably sophisticated advertising.”

  • Reports in the Japanese media say that Wal-Mart’s affiliate there, Seiyu, plans to open supercenters there that resemble the big box stores run by Wal-Mart in the US.

  • The South Florida Herald Tribune reports that Wal-Mart is running into some trouble with some of its employees in that part of the country because of a headquarters-based computer system that matches customer traffic to work schedules.

    While Wal-Mart management says that this approach really isn’t new, but rather just a more effective application of long-held principles, some employees told the paper that “they were told in individual meetings with management recently that their work hours would change in accordance with the needs that the computer spit out.

    “The results for some have been shrunken schedules and jeopardized benefits. That's left some workers wondering whether they can afford to continue to work for America's low-cost leader.”

    There are reports – unconfirmed by the company – about numerous resignations. And at the very least, the controversy isn’t doing a lot for Wal-Mart’s public image.

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