retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• Media attendees at this week's annual meeting of Walmart shareholders in Arkansas got a peek at the company's innovation labs there, CityWire reports, and "items revealed included 3-D digital printers in stores that allow shoppers to replicate their own images for wedding cake toppers and digital watermarks in print circulars that allow shoppers to scan the item on the page into their phone to glean a host of additional product information including reviews."

Walmart said that its innovation lab "has held eight in the past two years which has yielded scalable ideas such as 'Amazing on a Budget' – a shopping tool that allows a shopper to get help stretching a food budget. The innovation came from a real-life situation when a shopper in Chicago asked the store manager to help feed her family of four on a limited budget. She gave the manager the budget and the store gave her list of items. 'Amazing on a Budget' does the same thing in a seamless manner while also allowing the shopper to stay within a budget. It can refer a private label or access a manufacturer coupon if available to help the shopper access savings."

“We are testing lots of things, learning fast and willing to fail fast which is part of the startup mindset, " says Gibu Thomas, senior vice president of mobile and global e-commerce for Wal-Mart.

Fortune reports that Walmart "received $104 million in tax breaks for giving its executives huge bonuses, according to a report released on Wednesday."

The story says that Walmart got the write-offs "for doling out $298 million in performance pay to executives over the last six years," and the study charges that "such loopholes ultimately cost regular taxpayers dearly in terms of government service and higher tax rates."

The report was issued by the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington think tank, and Americans for Tax Fairness, described as "a coalition of 400 national and state organizations for tax reform."

Walmart responded to the study by saying that "this is the same group that put out a similar flawed report last year based on promoting their agenda rather than on the facts,” pointing out that executives are paid for performance, not to take advantage of tax loopholes, and asserting that "unlike some companies, Wal-Mart pays billions of dollars per year in U.S. federal, state, and local taxes, helping to fund education, public safety, and infrastructure improvements in the communities where we operate.”

FYI…there is legislation pending in the US Congress that would prohibit companies from getting tax write-offs for executive bonuses.
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