business news in context, analysis with attitude covers a story that has been told over and over here on MNB: that Wal-Mart seems like a company in search of itself, which seems like a particularly dicey proposition at a time of year when big sales should be bringing smiles to the folks down in Bentonville.

“It's turning into a blue Christmas for Wal-Mart,” Newsweek writes. “While many of its rivals ring up healthy holiday sales, Wal-Mart is struggling,” despite the fact that it “is spending billions sprucing up its stores and injecting some hipness into its dowdy image by selling items like skinny jeans, chandeliers and plasma-screen TVs. It's also moved away from its simple smiley face advertising that touted low prices, to ads that highlight its new stylish approach.” This latter shift, of course, has been problematic, as illustrated when its new marketing guru left the company last week and then Wal-Mart fired a new ad agency that had been hired just weeks ago.

“Instead of attracting more upscale shoppers, though, Wal-Mart is losing business at the time of year when it needs it most,” Newsweek writes, and it asks the question on the mind of every retail analyst: “What's wrong with Wal-Mart?”

Some say the problem is over-saturation, which leads to inevitable same-store sales declines. Others say that by expanding into urban markets and trying to attract new customers, Wal-Mart has alienated its traditional shopper base by losing touch with the foundations on which it built its business.
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