Sunday, May 18, 2008

Apologies to Wal-Mart

A year or so ago, I made several posts questioning whether Wal-Mart had lost its way. These were generated by poor revenue and profit figures, as well as the closing of their South Korean and German operations, and the ongoing problems in the UK and Japan. I questioned whether Wal-Mart had taken its eye off the ball and was too distracted by international expansion to deal with the basics.

When they announced they were going upscale on fashion, and then quickly reversed direction, I went so far as to question whether they were suffering from the dread "Sears Disease" -- the frequent strategy changes that marked the decline of the former #1 retailer.

I'm still not convinced that Wal-Mart has totally righted the ship (things in the UK and Japan are looking no better), but credit must be given when things go right, and Wal-Mart's profits were up 6.9% in the first quarter.
Wal-Mart has worked to ensure that checkout lines are shorter and that stores are cleaner, with better layouts and friendlier employees. Those improvements are helping in the short term but should keep customers returning when they have more money, Schoewe said.

"When we turn the corner with the economy, this is a business that should do well," Schoewe said.
We'll see. But for now -- well, done, Wal-Mart.

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