Monday, May 23

The spinning is slow in Bentonville

It appears as though Wal-Mart's 180-degree shift on speaking to the media will pay off -- but that hasn't yet popped up on the bottom line.

Despite strong retail numbers, Wal-Mart missed Wall Street projections recently.
"Management distractions can have a tremendous effect on a company," said Craig Johnson, retail analyst with Customer Growth Partners. "The good news is that Wal-Mart took some action and they're putting more effort into their public relations."

For starters, Wal-Mart invited the members of the media for a first-ever two-day meet-and-greet with senior executives in early April.

But that's not likely to be enough to help pull the world's largest retailer out of its funk.

"Wal-Mart has to redefine itself to consumers," said Johnson. "If the lowest price pitch is its only value proposition, that's yesterday's news." In other words, it needs to come up with something new and fresh instead of just rocking along like it's the 1980s.
By contrast, Target exceeded expectations.

Even though the CNN reporter touched on a good bit of Wal-Mart's problem, there's another theory floating that gets greater play. The notion is that Wal-Mart does better in a bad economy, because shoppers are more interested in value. (Rather ironic for those politicos and experts who tout this as "the worst economy ever.")

We'll see if the economists change their tune in a year or so, when we can quantify coverage as good hits and bad hits, and compare it to the stock performace. (Which has been for the most part flat since long before Wal-Mart's first news conference in Bentonville.)

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