Wal-Mart: the best thing since sliced bread.

8 11 2010

Is the world better-off or worse-off because of Wal-Mart?

Surprisingly, you will not find a Wal-Mart at every corner in Toronto but Wal-Mart’s presence is still around. For all our needs, most people turn to Wal-Mart to purchase it, expecting the lowest prices and a convenient one-stop shop. Though this business faces much criticism about being a category-killer, driving out local businesses and enabling poor labour conditions in foreign countries, the world has greatly benefited from the growth of Wal-Mart.

Taking criticism
There is no denying that Wal-Mart holds a large market share. In fact, it exists in an oligopoly along with Zellers and Target. Being the largest, Wal-Mart holds a lot of power in the marketplace, especially concerning pricing of their products. The company’s ability to offer low prices has driven local businesses away because they just could not compete. This has led to many negative views about Wal-Mart, giving the perception that it is a large corporation who does not care about social welfare. However, is it really Wal-Mart’s fault for trying to gain a competitive advantage through pricing strategies? In a free-market economy, businesses should have the freedom to produce and price items as they please, so why is there an exception for Wal-Mart?

Also, the company has been criticized for enabling low wages, not only in their stores, but at the factories of their suppliers. Many reports claim that Wal-Mart gives a low pay to their employees and do not offer any rewards or bonus packages. This means that a Wal-Mart salary is not sufficient to support a family. Let’s think about this for a moment: why would a Wal-Mart worker expect to be paid a high salary? There are no job requirements and most of the work is unskilled labour, meaning, even a high school student could work at Wal-Mart. Logically speaking, there are high volumes of people who would qualify for the position; therefore, when supply of labour is high and demand for the labour is low, wages will be low. The same could be said for the factories in foreign countries. Wal-Mart is China’s largest customer and there is reason to this. China has a large population and thus, large work force. It doesn’t take too much skill to work on an assembly line; therefore, wages are lower in factories. Wal-Mart wants to minimize costs and China can help them do that.

Leading the market
Wal-Mart is a prime example of a successful business model. They take advantage of business opportunities, are consumer-oriented, are continuously changing/adapting, and strive to maximize profits.

They are the leaders in outsourcing. Being one of the first businesses to export labour, Wal-Mart has built a strong foundation on their low fixed-cost business and has inspired other companies to follow their lead. This increases foreign investment in other countries and provides multiple new jobs in those countries that would have otherwise been non-existent.

Wal-Mart’s standards for competitive pricing puts pressure on suppliers to be more efficient. In the featured graph, Wal-Mart’s low prices decreases marginal revenue, therefore, the break-even quantity is higher and profit maximizing quantity is lower. However, if suppliers can find ways to be more efficient and produce under Wal-Mart’s price range, they gain shelf space in one of the largest retailers to exist. The mass volume of traffic alone would increase sales.

Wal-Mart pushes prices (and thus marginal revenue) down putting pressure on suppliers.

At the end of the day, it is a very basic principle: customers like low prices, therefore, businesses should satisfy customer wants and needs. Wal-Mart has done so with their pricing and by offering a wide range of goods and services in one location. They’ve gained such a large and unmatchable competitive advantage that most consumers are willing to overlook any of the company’s faults and suppliers are willing to restructure their organization in order to get their product in stores. Wal-Mart has created such a niche in the marketplace that it cannot be replaced or terminated.

In conclusion, the world is better off with the existence of Wal-Mart. They have increased globalization and trade, brought more inexpensive goods to consumers, created a source of competitive advantage for producers (in product placement), pushes competitors to improve their own operations, and show what it means to be a successful business. Without Wal-Mart, cities would be stuck in an economic plateau that protects local businesses so much that there is minimal room for growth and improvement.

The Wal-Mart Experience That Has Captured Us All.

7 11 2010

“Wal-Mart is a retail planet with a gravitational pull so strong it shapes our economic universe in ways we can barely comprehend.” – Bob Thompson, The Washington Post

The above quote sums up Wal-Mart pretty well.

From a consumer point of view, it certainly seems like a planet. If you need something, Wal-Mart has it. There’s no trouble getting there, since they’re everywhere. And once you get there, there is no problem parking in an endless supply of pavement and white lines. Inside, there is an endless supply of whatever it is you came for – and whatever it is you didn’t come for, but… its so cheap, why the heck not?

“Push” is a strategy in marketing whereby a company  “pushes” the product in customer’s faces, hoping they will buy it. These companies try to attract returning customers to build brand loyalty. Of course, there has to be an incentive for customers to come back – Wal-Mart’s incentive is economic. Wal-Mart is synonymous with the words “rollback” and “low prices”. Its cheap prices combined with our society’s love for material goods keeps customers coming back, under the guise of saving money.

When compared to other retailers, you are technically saving money. Instead of spending $10 on a shovel, you spend $4. How Wal-Mart gets you is when you don’t need a shovel. Economic theory assumes that we are all rational. In reality, that’s not true. Your eye catches the happy face with bright letters that exclaim “ROLLBACK!”, and the bold numbers that seem to yell the price at you. Immediately, you start to rationalize: “well, it’s going to be winter and I’m going to need to shovel. The one I have in the garage is starting to look old. What if I want to buy it later? I might as well buy it now and save myself another trip.” And the same thing happens with ten other items and you walk out of Wal-Mart with ten things you don’t need, and you have no idea what just happened. Read the rest of this entry »