Shoppers Say "What Anti-Walmart Campaign?"

Here is an interesting local story about holiday shoppers, and what effect some anti-Walmart campaigns had on them. Some quotes from Louisvillians about Wal-Mart:

"I thought they paid well, but I really don't know," she said. "They've got a lot of employees, and they're really nice. I don't know about their wages or their health benefits."

"Any disputes, that's got to be between the employees and the corporation."

"I approve wholeheartedly, if somebody's mistreated by Wal-Mart, file a lawsuit against them," Kistler said. "But as far as me keeping out of the store, no."

This country is capitalist at it's core. If an anti-company campaign is going to work here, it has to be more than "low prices are bad, suppliers and employees are squeezed." That translates to the capitalist as "Wal-Mart should be upheld as a model of efficiency and supply chain excellence." To get Americans to stop shopping there, Wal-Mart opponents need to attack something deeper, something will cause people to be disgusted with the practices of the company, and ultimately, an argument that isn't so… economic. Or, they need to feel like Wal-Mart impacts their lives in a negative way.

If I were running an anti-WalMart campaign (which will never happen), I would focus on the lack of selection. I would talk about how Wal-Mart's retail dominance minimizes consumer choice. Instead of telling people not to shop there because they pay low wages or put small stores out of business, I would make consumers feel like shopping there made their lives boring and mass-market. Clear Channel Radio suffered because the mass market approach to radio came to be viewed in a negative light. There was a movement that created new radio stations with the "one big company can't tell me what to listen to" attitude. Anti-Walmarters should adopt the "one big company can't tell me what to buy" attitude.

  • Why even bother running a campaign?

    Wal-Mart is shooting itself in the foot long-term by focusing on price to the exclusion of everything else, including quality, selection, and intangible value.

    They are gradually, inexorably making themselves synonymous with “cheap junk.”

    In fact, because of Wal-Mart’s unrelenting price pressure, some companies have two different versions of the same brand: the regular version, and a cheaper Wal-Mart version. That might not be the wisest strategy either, but meanwhile consumers are gradually figuring out that the ACME Widget they bought at Wal-Mart isn’t as good as the (seemingly identical) ACME Widget they bought at Target for just a few cents more.

    Sooner or later that strategy will come back to bite them. Look what happened to K-Mart.

  • Good point about differing quality. A few years ago, after buying a new house, I decided to invest in carpentry hand and power tools. Before making the purchase at Home Depot, I went to check out the prices at Wal-mart. Yes, it had cheaper tools but it looked like stuff that would fall apart after a single use. Needless to say, I went to HD for all of my purchases.

  • The thing is that Wal-Mart can’t win on price point alone. Anyplace urban that you find a Wal-Mart you are likely to find a Big Lots and/or a Dollar Tree opening up nearby.

    Family Dollar, also operating on price, has a completely different strategy. Here in the inner city of Milwaukee I have two of them within walking distance (east and west of me) and three within 5 minutes drive (north and south).

  • JohnDewey

    “Wal-Mart is shooting itself in the foot long-term by focusing on price to the exclusion of everything else”

    I’m not so sure they totally ignore quality. But their emphasis on price has been working for about five decades. I wouldn’t call that shooting themselves in the foot.

    “The thing is that Wal-Mart can’t win on price point alone.”

    I think they already did win. And they’re still winning. How many empty WalMart parking lots have you seen lately? WalMart now has about a 30% share of the grocery market here in Dallas-Fort Worth. I think its share was 8% five years ago. WalMart is now number two in consumer electronics sales, and will not be satisfied until it overtakes Best Buy.

    Argue all you want about the flaws in WalMart’s strategy. The evidence says they’re doing just fine.