retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that the National Retail Federation (NRF) plans to launch an aggressive attack on Walmart – which is not a member of the group – because of the retailer’s support of an employer health care mandate, which is one of the proposals currently being considered by the US Congress as it wrestles with the Obama administration’s call for significant health care reform.

According to the story, Tracy Mullin, NRF’s CEO, is sending a letter to membership calling on them to fight Walmart on the issue: “We could stand idly by and allow Wal-Mart to tip the scales on the health care debate, cower and release an innocuous statement...or stand up for all retailers and come out swinging.”

Earlier this month, Walmart CEO Mike Duke co-authored a letter to President Barack Obama supporting a federal mandate, an initiative that analysts say could give the company a big advantage over smaller rivals. In addition, critics say that Walmart believes that current proposals could be a lot worse, and it would rather support proposals that it can live with rather than deal with programs that it would find to be onerous.

Mullin tells the Journal that “companies ranging from multi-billion-dollar chains to small stores have been complaining about the giant discounter's political gambit. ‘They really don't want Wal-Mart to define the health-care debate’,” she tells the paper.
KC's View:
The Journal doesn’t get into this, but it is interesting to note that it was just a month or so ago that NRF and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) called off their merger…and that Walmart is a member of RILA.

Perhaps the chasm separating the two sides is in evidence here – the priorities are just too different.

Maybe it is just a case where there is Walmart, and then there is everybody else.

Everybody is entitled to their opinion, and I can understand why a lot of retailers may not want to support programs that they believe give their biggest and baddest competitor an advantage.

As it is, the proposals being circulated in Congress are a scramble of priorities and preferences and approaches…and who knows at this point whether any of them will be in a final bill, or if a final bill will even make it to the White House. It’s way beyond my ability to prognosticate.