This very interesting article on Forbes.com yesterday reminds those of us who live and work in the shadow of the Walmart Home Office that there are areas where there is no Walmart store.
New York City is one such area – no Walmart exists within the five boroughs. The mayor and most of the city council oppose Walmart entering NYC.
As the article points out – “25 percent of respondents go to the suburbs to shop Walmart stores. And it is obvious that many New Yorkers go to the burbs to shop other big box stores, discounters and outlet malls.”
The arguments against Walmart remain the same – and each one is Luddite in nature.
- Walmart pays low wages. There is no denying that Walmart pay and benefits are modest by comparison, especially at the part-time and entry levels. However, for people who just want jobs Walmart is the perfect place to start and learn retail. And, Walmart hires from the communities around its stores. Since the retailer appeals to middle to low income shoppers this means that those who need opportunity the most can find it – with the chance to move up the ladder in position and pay. Additionally, those opposed to Walmart based on pay fail to look at the comparison of revenue per associate with other “high paying” companies – Walmart is at the low end of that scale. And the margin of profit is much lower for Walmart, compared to other Fortune 500 companies, so there is a smaller pie to slice. However, lower margins means lower prices – great for the consumers.
- Walmart is anti-union. Walmart has worked actively against unionization of its workforce throughout its history. Advocates of unions fail to demonstrate the benefit to their workforce. By artificially raising the cost of labor unions in private industry have reduced available jobs so fewer people are working. When the best hand-out is a hand-up through job opportunities how is limiting the number of jobs available helping the unemployed find skill training through work?
- Walmart is hurting small, local businesses. On April 1, 1975 Walmart store #85 opened in my hometown. Before then, only small, family-owned stores were available for items like hardware and clothing. My mother drove my sister and I over 30 miles to the state capitol to shop at the large retail chains (primarily JCPenny for school clothes since her first job was as a clerk at JCP). The local department store simply charged prices that were too high for my budget-minded parents. Yes – after Walmart opened those businesses lost revenue and, over time, most eventually went out business. What the critics fail to acknowledge is that Walmart has always offered lower prices for the budget minded. As to the jobs lost through the shutdown of small, local business – Walmart more than made up for that by hiring more people than what was lost – and the part-timer had greater flexibility in the hours worked – the full-timer has opportunity for advancement that were not available through family-owned stores. When was the last time a store owner promoted a talented, ambitious person over his son?
I have never understood the resistance to a retailer like Walmart, which achieved its success through competing for the hearts, minds and wallets of the consumer. And it must still compete today or go the way of Sears. The consumer is always the winner and should always foremost in the minds of the political elite.
Should these elitists have their way and force Walmart to change its model in any or all the points above then the inevitable result will be higher prices to the consumer. Essentially – a hidden tax to protect constituent groups these politicians depend on for power.
Why is this important to category managers and sales analysts? When the retailer you partner with is arbitrarily blocked from entering certain “political zones” you have fewer outlets through which to efficiently distribute your product.
The bottom line is – your brand loses – the retailer loses – and most importantly – the consumer loses through higher prices and fewer choices.
And that’s just my opinion.