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• Building on stories saying that Wal-Mart is considering creating new formats to energize its US growth curve, the Financial Times reported that the giant retailer is considering possible acquisitions that could jump-start its efforts. And, according to FT, Wal-Mart is looking to hire an executive to assess the strategic implications of making a US acquisition – something that it has not done in its home market.

• The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Pritzker family, which owns the Hyatt hotel chain, has sold a $1 billion minority stake in that company to Madrone Capital Partners, an investment firm affiliated with Wal-Mart Stores and the Walton family.

• The Washington Post reported last week that Wal-Mart has donated $1.5 million “to help establish a sustainability research center at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, part of the company's initiative to become more environmentally friendly.

“The Applied Sustainability Center will work to develop green business practices for the retail and consumer goods industries. Over the next year, the center plans to study ways to reduce carbon in products and identify key sustainability issues in agriculture. The center will also hold a speakers series, help train buyers for Wal-Mart and fund student research.”

• Published reports say that Wal-Mart plans to spend more than $200 million (US) in northeastern Brazil before the end of the year to support the opening of 19 new stores there. Wal-Mart also is said to be spending more than $35 million to upgrade its existing Brazilian fleet of stores.

• What’s wrong with Wal-Mart these days? MSNBC has some thoughts:

“Long after most mainstream department stores eliminated layaway plans, Wal-Mart continued to offer the old-fashioned service, which appeals mainly to consumers who either don’t have credit cards or already are carrying high credit card debt. But that ended last year when Wal-Mart eliminated the layaway program, leaving many customers seething about the change — and fretting about what to do this holiday season.

“The move is especially jarring to some families because it has come amid other changes Wal-Mart has made, including cutting back on fabric departments and stocking more trendy clothes, as the discounting titan tries to appeal to a broader swath of shoppers, including more upscale consumers. Those changes, some longtime shoppers say, has made them feel like the store is less interested in catering to its traditional and loyal market of family shoppers on tight budgets.”
KC's View:
No surprise here, but worth noting nonetheless. It is incredibly difficult for a company like Wal-Mart to attract new customers and new demographics in new locales and not disenfranchise the core consumer base.

In marketing terms, that’s known as a weakness. Or an opportunity.

But competitors shouldn’t expect Wal-Mart not to figure out how to fix the problem.