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• The Wall Street Journal reports that as Wal-Mart prepares to announce its four quarter results today, the retailer “is going back to basics. At the company's annual gathering of managers two weeks ago, Wal-Mart gave store managers marching orders to present customers with cleaner stores, faster checkouts and friendlier employees. That the company -- which has some 4,000 U.S. stores and 2,700 internationally – needs to lure customers back is a sign that it has a lot more work left to do. It continues to overhaul management, appointing a new chief marketing officer and head of U.S. business strategy in recent days.”

Making life even more difficult than usual for Wal-Mart – this year’s first quarter has eight fewer days prior to Easter than last year, which reduces important selling time; home décor and clothing sales continue to be a drag on the company; and analysts believe that it could start facing negative judgments in the class action gender discrimination suit later this year.

• Wal-Mart announced yesterday that it plans to open nine stores in areas of the country where unemployment is high and there is a strong need for economic revitalization, and will work with local business leaders and even smaller retailers and minority-owned companies to help build an economic infrastructure.

The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Wal-Mart will provide supply chain management and technology services in the joint venture that it has established in India with Bharti Enterprises, which itself will invest $2.5 billion (US) in new stores over the next eight years.
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