Posts Tagged ‘Wal-Mart’

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SCRIBBLINGS

June 11, 2013

My desk looks like a POST IT NOTE advertisement – filled with notes and reminders – so this morning before I head off to a riverfront meeting at Dunn’s on University/5th… I am DETERMINED to clean it up – sharing some thoughts and sending the rest to the trash!

A PEAK AT THE TRUTH

Sunday, Cub tried to diffuse the impact of the latest gimmick from Wal-Mart by hinting in their own ad about the practice and then trying to redirect buying decisions away from lowest price to best value….

It’s a start, but the fact is, no single concerned individual  has time or knowledge to accurately weight and judge this issue in a vacume.  It takes time, money, and global comparisons to gather data and assess the issue. Add to that, environmental impact studies, a review of net contribution or drain on your community, and of course, the staffing practices to get the clear picture. 

So instead, we make decisions based on location, convenience, or a favorite employee to guide us.  That’s okay, I guess…just don’t kid yourself that you are shopping at Wal-Mart because of good price.

I’ve talked before about Wal-Mart practices and my feelings about them so I won’t bore you again; I will just lament one more time how corporate size and/or profitability often trump good citizenship in our world….and that makes me sad.

But I did perk up at this morning’s news that Amazon is getting into the grocery business and including home delivery.  Yes, even though I don’t like what that did to Barnes and Noble and the book industry, Wal-Mart could not be a better target in the big box, grocery model.  This might be fun to watch.

SIDEWALKS IN ST LOUIS PARK

The push to add sidewalks in SLP is a good sign!  The suburb “dream world” of the last 40 years is being revisited and found to be “wanting” at last!

It’s good to see the beginnings of change…that perhaps our emerging world of the future is moving away from the “car is king” mentality and walking and communicating with neighbors is being encouraged.

R.I.P. Jim Sandquist

The obituary told the story of this Fendermen member, the Mule Skinner Blues, and garage rock of the ’60s…along with something I did not know about another locally-based legend – Amos Heilicher.  Amos’ success with pop music began with “The Mule Skinner Blues”.

IMMIGRATION AND THE REPUBLICANS

A new twist on the immigration bill – that has nothing to do with the bill itself.  Yesterday, the STRIB front page story had a subtitle:  “Republicans are split over how much to cooperate with Obama.”  The story went on to say “Conservative activists are “dead set against anything associated with Obama”…EVEN IF it could prove to be the answer to their own party’s erosion AND help the country. 

In my  past life in the corporate world so admired by the Republicans, that attitude would be cause to encourage an employee to leave or be fired…perhaps it is time for the American people to do the same!

Meanwhile, kudos to Kelly Ayotte, NH Republican for having the courage to tell it like it is: “the broken immigration system we have now” is “unworthy of a great nation”.  Good for her.

BLAZING A NEW TRAIL

Obama and Xi…both men of the 21st century searching for common ground on world problems by talking and listening to each other. 

We know well the limitations of 20th century diplomacy…so perhaps the time has come to end the posturing of angry old birds who know best and unite to address world issues through interaction, engagement, conversations and collaboration.

WE ARE OUR OWN WORST ENEMY

In terms of good skin and good hair.  Last night, someone, once again, complimented me on “aging well” and  “good hair” and although I stopped myself before ranting, it did start me thinking:. 

It is nothing I do.  Think about that.  It is nothing I do because I do nothing- include worry and fret about wrinkles or hair color.  Ok, I admit, I do my best to tame my curls – although I have tried to go au natural in my past and my hair caregiver of the last 45 years is once again trying to convince me to just go short and let it wave.  That aside, I have not put chemicals on my hair after ONE TIME in my 20s of letting someone “give me highlights”.  My hair is healthy, that’s all. 

I do not now, and never have, use a lot of make up; I do not worry about sunscreens- I stay out of the sun because I am allergic to too much-again, a lesson learned in my 20s. Yesterday’s news that up to now, sunscreens may have protected you from skin cancer…but….they and the sun itself have contributed to early-aging wrinkles and skin damage should be a wake up call to everyone. In fact, I do not even use facial soap.  Frequent use of plain ole water does the trick!

The key to my success?  Accepting what I was given instead of trying to achieve some beauty portrait image in a magazine.  Of course, in the beginning, that was not a conscious decision – I had no money to waste on beauty; I had very little time to spend in my first 25 years of my career on beauty “treatments; I had that sun allergy and the scars from infected sun “bumps” to discourage me; and I had bad “first experiences” to discourage me.

So, for me, my “good hair and skin” was an accident….but based on what we know now, doesn’t this obsession with beauty set bad examples for  those that follow? 

OUR MINNESOTA SENATORS

It was refreshing to read this morning that both concur they knew about the NSA programs.  Franken agrees with Obama that a general conversation about balance between privacy and safety would be worth it.

Whether you agree or not with the current status, as Minnesotans, we can be proud that our Senators admit they have knowledge when other legislators looking for the next scandal are screaming they were uninformed.  Hmmm.  Makes me proud of MN – no matter what comes of all this.

AND FINALLY, A GOOD CHUCKLE 

One can only laugh sometimes at what is considered important news!  Why just this morning I learned shoppers in wealth category of $5 mill or more will change their spending habits in the second half of 2013.

It seems that high-end purses and jewelry “have lost some of their appeal” so 33% of these folks are rethinking and will be doing more “traveling” while another 20% plan to “eat out more”.  Whatever.

HAVE A GOOD DAY

 

 

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A SUNNY SUNDAY MORNING

June 2, 2013

A little respite, we hope, in the rain and I am motivated to try the BIG walk  today-adding Nicollet/Boom Island loops to the Heritage Trail…we’ll see if blue skies prevail long enough to get all the way around without getting a second shower of the day!

AFFORDABLE  HEALTH CARE AND UNITED HEALTH

I’m sorry, but United Health earned a big black mark this past week in terms of the Affordable Healthcare Act.  Expecting initial signups to represent the most needy, they have determined there will be too many sick people taking of advantage of the first signups.

So supposed “core values” will be trumped by protecting investors as United Health will participate for the first year or so in only ten states – taking a low risk attitude before they “jump in”.

Add one more consideration to any “tweeking” needed for Obamacare…too bad this was not anticipated.  A regulation demanding “in at the beginning or you must wait until the seventh year” may have skewed the odds enough to ensure this openly despicable move would not happen.  Hindsight is 20-20, of course.

And speaking of healthcare, WHY are Americans content to pay four times more on average for drugs, scans, and health procedures in all 21 major categories of health costs than people in other countries NO MATTER if those  who we are compared to operate a private or national health care system?  Yes, I know the standard argument…better medical education, cost of research  have to be paid by someone but one can’t help but ask…would this topic of disparity benefit from at little 21st century collaborative thinking instead of simply accepting the 20th century precedent?

NEWS OF MY FAVORITE RETAIL VILLIAN

Yup, my suspicions about Wal-Mart’s new marketing campaign seem well-founded.

Costco, the largest wholesale/club chain in the US experienced a 19% quarterly increase in profits.  Revenue using similar measurements FELL 1.4% at Wal-Mart Stores in the US and .06% at Target.

Looks like Costco captured most of the gains based on improving economy, as well as losses by the other two major players.

So Wal-Mart is deluging us with unbelievable ads and Target is trying…one more time…to reinvent itself.

My advice to Wal-Mart – it’s NOT the economy, stupid- it’s your core values and bad reputation around the world.

As for Target-you were great when you knew who you were – so far, the reinvention efforts are not working.  Maybe it is not your fault-you were great when you were part of the larger Dayton’s family; and now you are not.  But then, look what happened to Dayton’s stores when they were sold….that world-known brand  called Macy’s simply does not measure up to what we once had in Minnesota…no matter how you spin it.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Lots of thought-starters in the Science section of the Strib today from a 160 million year old fossil find of a feathered dinosaur (precursor to the bird?); 400 year old living plants under melting Canadian glaciers; and the most provocative for me:  the presence of the pigment gene SLC45A2 in white tigers.  This, by the way, is the same human gene attributed to that which caused the lighter skin color of evolving Europeans.  Apparently, it impacts red and yellow pigments but leaves black untouched-hence the black stripes on tigers.  But does that raise the question whether the same follows in humans as well, and if so, what does that mean?

 

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CHARLES LANDREY ON WAL-MART

June 6, 2012

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a Wal-Mart fan.  Originally, the look and feel of the shopping experience kept me away. Then rumblings from vendors of business practices not to be emulated or encouraged reinforced my opinion.  But it was “Nickeled and Dimed” and its story of attitude and treatment towards employees that moved me to commit to singularly supporting its main competitor and a “home town” business rather than ever contribute even a dollar to the support the Wal-Mart practice I view as practice of profit over principles.  I simply cannot place the value of a “deal” over the value good business ethics. So I boycott the place.

Yes, I know, that’s business.  Yes, even today I remain a bit of a Pollyanna about values and ethics in the business world, and so I still believe one can make money without sacrificing the “soul” of the seller and the buyer.  And yes, I know, that the spin at least, touts a new Wal-Mart philosophy– one that recognized the error of its ways (or the pain of business lost) and initiated a renaissance within their organization.  It included an initiative to make them “hip”; a PR campaign to dispel the rumors of poor treatment of vendors and employees; and the implementation of a practice of routinely doing select item cost comparisons between its #1 competitor and Wal-Mart to point out to a naïve public that Walmart is more cost effective.  But still, I hold to my commitment to boycott.

And so, of course you can imagine the glee with which I read about their recent Shareholders Meeting.  

Entertainment included Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake, Zac Brown, Taylor Swift, Victoria Matlock and Juanes…a little something for everyone and some pretty incredible fees and production costs, including talent riders.  Yes, they all do it to some degree, and since I am often on the delivery side of this practice with other corporations, I had best not be too critical so I will leave it to the reader to form their own conclusions on that one.

“The Curse of Convenience

But it did remind me of something I stumbled across when reading the ART OF CITY-MAKING by Charles Landry.  Landry uses the big four supermarkets of Britain one of which is Wal-Mart, to demonstrate how their practices hurt cities…draining life out of the streets, cleansing a city of its diversity, and are “space eaters”.   He points out that looking at their activities through a broader food miles and sustainability perspective, they are pretty inefficient.  They use a wealth of expertise and resources at their fingertips to lobby, to change minds, and to get their way.  They exert immense power and “in sum, they pull the wool over our eyes so we do not understand the underlying dynamics of their operations and their impact on real life.”

And then he supports his comments with factoids (most date back to 2006 for Wal-Mart) as follows:

Not only do the big four including Walmart control 75% of food retailing in Britain, consumers spend  about 13% of net income in supermarkets.  But, a research experiment showed consumers spent the SAME AMOUNT whether they shopped at a big box or frequented and supported local stores!

The PERCEPTION that the big four are good value stems from a concept referred to as KVI   (comparison of known value items).  It relies on fact that we, the consumer, know the cost of only a small number of goods and these are the very items the big four price check against their competitors and keep as low as possible… then are frequently higher than local stores on other items to make up the difference.

Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer and the world’s largest corporation, employing 1.4 million workers worldwide and with over 1 million employees in the US, it is the largest private employer here. And yet:

  • More than half of Wal-Mart US employees leave the company each year
  • Average earnings of $19,000 are well-below poverty level for average family of four
  •  There is no defined benefit pensions and still has inadequate healthcare
  •  660,000 employees  are without company-provided health insurance, forcing workers to  seek taxpayer-funded public assistance
  •  A US Congressional study found Wal-Mart costs the Am. taxpayer up to $2.5 billion in public assistance to subsidize its $10 billion in profits
  •  Wal-Mart is sued once every two hours, every day of the year and consistently list 9400 of those cases as “open”

 

But change may be coming.  Despite their early 21century “re-invention” a film you may recall entitled “Wal-Mart:  The High Price of Low Cost” seems to disprove the PR campaign.   It focused on and reflected those same old issues….”conditions of workers, the company’s intimidation of employees, its power over supply chains and the culture of fear it induces”.  In addition, it showed with clarity what the coming of Wal-Mart to local towns does to the community…with great footage of deserted towns and main streets all across America – much of which can be linked to the arrival Wal-Mart.   Slowly, we are seeing Wal-Mart building proposals carefully reviewed and debated  before permits are approved, or as in Chicago and Vancouver, denied.

We can only hope it is the beginning of a new trend.