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Bloomberg reports that Bill Simon, Walmart’s new US operations chief, “is shifting away from widening profit margins through inventory reductions to focus on sales growth, according to Cleveland Research Co. Bill Simon is bringing back promotional displays at the front of stores, returning more items that were removed and dialing back price cuts ... the retailer is renewing its focus at some stores on ‘Action Alley,’ the high-traffic area in front near the checkouts, which had earlier been cleared out to reduce clutter.”

The story notes that this seems to be a clear move away from the recent strategy of building margins through SKU rationalization and a greater dependance on private brands.

• The Chicago Tribune reports that “approval for Chicago's third Wal-Mart will follow hard on the heels of the second if Mayor Richard Daley has his way. Daley held a news conference Thursday to call on the City Council's Finance Committee to approve a long-discussed Wal-Mart store at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue in the Chatham neighborhood. The proposal is on the committee's Friday agenda.”

Walmart has earned support for expansion in the city by pledging to pay employees above minimum wage and agreeing to develop $20 million worth of “charitable partnerships” over the next five years, donating as many as 1.2 million meals per year to the under-privileged.
• The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that “Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to roll out sophisticated electronic ID tags to track individual pairs of jeans and underwear, the first step in a system that advocates say better controls inventory but some critics say raises privacy concerns. Starting next month, the retailer will place removable ‘smart tags’ on individual garments that can be read by a hand-held scanner. Wal-Mart workers will be able to quickly learn, for instance, which size of Wrangler jeans is missing, with the aim of ensuring shelves are optimally stocked and inventory tightly watched. If successful, the radio-frequency ID tags will be rolled out on other products at Wal-Mart's more than 3,750 U.S. stores.”
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