retail news in context, analysis with attitude

  • Retail Forward’s June 2004 ShopperScape newsletter reports that “in the past four weeks two-thirds of primary shoppers visited a Wal-Mart versus 43% for Target and 29% for Kmart.”

  • As part of its 2004 plans that will have it opening between 320 and 345 new stores, Wal-Mart Stores announced it will hire 83,000 new employees during the coming year.

    Wal-Mart says 4,800 of the new jobs will be management positions and 66,000 will be full-time.

  • CNN reports that the majority of employees at a Wal-Mart in
    British Columbia have applied for union representation with the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW Canada).

    An official vote among the employees now will be conducted by the Labour Relations Board (BCLRB) of British Columbia.

    Wal-Mart, of course, has managed to this point to avoid unionization at its stores.

  • Press reports out of Israel say that Wal-Mart Stores has placed a $1.5 million order for 50,000 units of SheAgra, which is described as “a natural herbal sexual stimulant for women” manufactured by an Israeli company. A five-capsule package of SheAgra reportedly retails for about $70.

    The $1.5 million, 50,000 unit order is described as a “trial order” by Wal-Mart.

  • Meanwhile, Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club division is planning to aggressively market Mel Gibson’s controversial film “The Passion of the Christ” when it comes out on DVD on August 31. The warehouse club chain reportedly will be selling “church bulk packs” – 50 DVDs for $898, or 50 VHS tapes for $795 – that it feels have appeal for the same church groups that made the film a financial success when it opened in theaters earlier this year.

  • In Leominster, Massachusetts, northwest of Boston, a battle is being waged over a proposal that would have a Wal-Mart Supercenter built there. And Arthur "Jay" DiGeronimo Jr., president of Victory Super Markets there, reportedly has contributed more than $15,000 to a group opposing the development proposal.

    Several members of the opposition – but not DiGeronimo – reportedly have filed a suit to stop the building, while the mayor say they are looking after their own interests, not that of the community.

KC's View:
A couple of points about the Leominster situation.

One has to do with the role of competing retailers in such situations. While we’ve been fairly vocal about the rights of residents to determine the kinds of retail that come into their communities, we’ve always been a little uneasy about retailers being active in anti-Wal-Mart crusades. It isn’t that they don’t have the right to be active, but that by saying ‘we don’t want Wal-Mart” they may be perceived as actually saying that “we cannot compete with Wal-Mart.” And that is a dangerous admission to make.

It always has seemed to us (and we debated this point at an industry event with self-described “sprawl buster” Al Norman a few years ago) that retailers are better off just competing…being tough and unpredictable and aggressive in their pursuit of customers.

And this leads us to our other point. It is ironic that Leominster is just 20 miles or so from Acton, Massachusetts – a community written up in MNB just last Friday as being “a hotbed of supermarket competition, with three retailers – Stop & Shop, Roche Bros., and Donelan’s – all playing hardball.” Two of those players are independents, and they are all working overtime now to compete with Wal-Mart, which hasn’t opened a store there. Yet.

We’ve said it before. “Compete” is a verb.

As for the SheAgra story…well, we couldn’t help ourselves. Three reasons. One, only Wal-Mart could place an order so large and call it a trial. Second, it just seemed like a product category that Wal-Mart might not ordinarily seem to be associated with. And third, we kept thinking how this category created a while new context for the smiley face that Wal-Mart uses in its ads…