06 April, 2006

Uncle Sam Walton Is Here To Help

I used to work in the Gift industry. (Think photo albums, handcremes, collectible ornaments....) Because of that, I still subscribe to Gifts & Dec, the industry's leading shelter publication. This week I received "Breaking News", and wondered what it could be. Did Christopher Radko decide to stop making creepy Christmas ornaments? Has the Ty company headquarters been buried under a gargantuan mass of PVC pellets--"beans" to the average folk?

No. Even better! Wal-Mart has announced a program to help small business.

The program is designed to "create more opportunities for small businesses to capitalize on the benefits of having a Wal-Mart store in their community,"

I wonder if the "benefits" include having Wal-Mart buy the exact same product from your vendors at half the cost, undercutting your retail prices by 60%.

The key elements of the initiative's "Opportunity Zone" element include:

working with Wal-Mart store managers to identify up to five local businesses per quarter to be singled out as "Small Business Spotlights";

Which means that store owners give Wal-Mart management carte blanche to scope out their stores' inventories, margins, product promotions and visual merchandising under the guise of "cooperation".

featuring these small businesses in local newspaper advertising and offering to product free radio ads for them, which will then be broadcast on Wal-Mart's in-store radio network;

It's almost like Macy's in that Christmas movie with Natalie Wood. Ahhh, the big heart of Bentonville just bleeds red, white, and blue.

establishing a "Wal-Mart Business Development Team" to hold seminars for small businesses on best practices and how to thrive with Wal-Mart in their communities;
producing an annual "Wal-Mart Trends Report" that it will share exclusively with the small business community.

These Trends Reports used to be compiled by the vendors and then shared directly with all their customers--Mom&Pops as well as Big Box stores. Now Wal-Mart demands sole access to the vendor trend reports through strong arm tactics, but in this rare show of magnanimousity will drop sloppy-seconds on the ground for the Mom&Pops to fight over. Of course, this in no way means that Wal-Mart won't be buying the same on-trend product from the same vendors at far less, and with guaranteed return priveledges as well.

Additionally, the program will place an emphasis on supporting minority and female-owned businesses through several efforts, including "Working with Wal-Mart" sessions designed to help local, minority and female-owned businesses learn how to do business with Wal-Mart.

This will be the usual help, as in "don't worry about us undercutting your primary retail. You can still buy floor cleaner for your store cheaper from us."

No doubt this is "breaking news". Heartbreaking.


At 2:42 PM, April 06, 2006, Blogger Patrick said...

I see this as WalMart trying to save face with the people who see them putting small-town retail out of business. It's a win-win for them, because it really doesn't cut into their margins too much, and just might result in a little R&D for them on a new product and/or line.

Now all they need to do is televise it. American Wal-ventor, anyone?


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