Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wal-Mart Gets Gold Medal for Pleasing Consumers

As America's (and the world's) premier entrepreneurial organization, Wal-Mart is engaged in an ongoing process of innovation, experimentation, trial-and-error, "continuous improvement" and discovery, always with the ultimate goal of trying to figure out how to best serve and please consumers. No organization in history has probably better exlempified the concept economists call "consumer sovereignty" than Wal-Mart - consumers are the kings and queens in Wal-Mart's world. And hey, it's not always an easy job figuring out how to best please consumers, whose tastes and preferences are subjective, fickle and ever-changing.

A few recent examples of Wal-Mart's ongoing innovation:

1. From today's WSJ an article "Slow Sales of Designer Line Show Higher-End Clothes Remain a Weak Spot" discusses Wal-Mart's worsening struggles in fashion apparel - a Wal-Mart experiment into higher-end clothing that apparently isn't working so well, which is why it's called "trial" and "error."

2. After being denied entry into the banking industry by federal regulators, Wal-Mart announced last week that it has teamed with discount brokerage ShareBuilder Corp. to offer low-cost investment services, marking the retailer's initial expansion of its financial-services offerings, read the WSJ article here. Wal-Mart is aggressively expanding its financial-services business, which already includes selling money orders, bill payment and check-cashing services.

3. Wal-Mart will contract with local hospitals and other organizations to open as many as 400 in-store health clinics over the next several years, and up to 2,000 health clinics in Wal-Mart stores over the next five to seven years.

4. Wal-Mart customers have saved $300 million on selected generic prescription drugs since 2006, when the company began selling prescriptions for $4 nationwide. The $4 prescriptions now account for 35% of all prescriptions filled at Wal-Mart, and 30% of the $4 prescriptions are filled without insurance.

When it comes to innovation directed toward consumer sovereignty, Wal-Mart gets the Gold Medal.


At 5/22/2007 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I admire many of Wal-Mart’s innovations, but their focus for their customers and stockholders creates a danger for their employees. There’s no reason for a retail establishment to have a safety record worse than unionized heavy industry unless safety is not a top priority of the business. They get the Lead Medal for employee safety.

Unions have a bad reputation sometimes, but the reason they are primarily formed is for health and safety reasons. Unions have representative who do not allow body parts to be quantified by business.

Unions don’t care if takes a million dollars or more to guard machinery to save one arm of an employee that may possibly only cost the business $100,000 in a workman’s compensation case. Businesses oftentimes do not see a positive cost/benefit return for such an investment: Unions do. Unions’ primary concern is for the worker: Companies’ primary concern is for the stockholders. Lawsuit payouts are just a cost of doing business to many establishments that are struggling to thrive or survive, so it’s difficult to lay all the blame on them. They just need to get pushed sometimes to do the right thing.

You don’t have to take my word about Wal-Mart’s and Sam’s Club safety records go here and type in Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club to see for yourself:



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