business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  National Public Radio's Marketplace has a story about Walmart's continued pricing advantages, writing that "higher prices were good for Walmart Inc. last year, as raging inflation steered shoppers toward discounts. Now, lower prices are also good for the retailer, and those prices could fall even further, Piper Sandler analyst Edward Yruma said in upgrading the stock.

"Yruma upgraded shares of the big-box retailer to the firm’s version of a buy rating, saying that Walmart’s ability to undercut rivals on prices — particularly those like Kroger Co., Meijer and Amazon Fresh — would help it draw more customers."

According to the story, "Yruma also said that his team recently conducted an analysis of roughly 390 grocery items at Walmart that were on 'rollback' - the term for when a supplier temporarily cuts the price of an item for a retailer, and the retailer then sells that item at a lower price. The Walmart rollback prices on those items, as measured by the median difference, were 19% lower when compared with the regular prices charged by Kroger and Meijer, and 29% lower when compared with Amazon Fresh."

•  Yahoo! News has a story about a photo posted on Reddit "showing a packaging change at Walmart. The retail giant seems to be swapping out its recyclable cardboard pasta boxes for plastic bags … While switching from cardboard to single-use plastic may make the packaging lighter, it’s still not ideal for the planet for a few reasons."

The story notes that "cardboard boxes are fully recyclable, and most municipalities process cardboard in their recycling programs. Recyclable cardboard is often made from post-consumer materials, and it has a high recyclable success rate of 70%."

One Reddit user wrote, "We are heading in the wrong direction."

Another user wrote, “I work in packaging … There have been intermittent paper shortages since COVID. It’s getting a little better now, but I’ve seen a lot of brands go from paper to cheap overseas plastic, [as] opposed to paying a few cents more per unit to get it made domestically with paper.”

The MNB reader who brought this to my attention made the observation that Walmart's SVP of Sustainability "should be overseeing moves that are not or less favorable to the environment. Great Value the largest store brand in the US, should be a flagship for sustainability and package improvement."  And, the reader wrote, pasta actually "is easier to display, stock and rotate in boxes than in plastic."