retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Washington Post reports that repercussions persist from the mass shootings in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart that resulted in the deaths of 22 people at the hands of a man described as a white nationalist domestic terrorist.

This week, the story says, “Walmart employee Thomas Marshall sent a petition to chief executive Doug McMillon calling on the retailer to stop all sales of firearms and ammunition, ban the public from carrying firearms into stores and end all donations to politicians backed by the National Rifle Association. The petition had grown by Wednesday morning to more than 129,160 signatures, signaling sustained pressure on one of the nation’s largest retailers of firearms and ammunition.”

“Customers no longer feel as safe as they once did in our stores,” Marshall wrote in a note to McMillon. “We must do more. We have the power to do more.”

The Post writes that “McMillon responded to Marshall’s note Wednesday morning, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said, to reiterate that the company is listening to a wide variety of perspectives and considering how it might respond. The retailer also is ‘encouraging others’ to consider what actions they could take on gun issues, though Hargrove wouldn’t specify whom he meant.”

The El Paso killings were actually the third gun-related event to take place at a Walmart in a matter of weeks, and there have been what appear to have been a number of copycat gun-related threats at its stores since.

• Meanwhile, CNN writes that while Walmart has long been a seller of guns and a supporter of gun rights, the current situation and the El Paso events mean that “it has begun to take on a more activist role in the gun debate and, for the first time, it has detailed how big a role it plays in the firearms industry.”

Walmart has said that it generates about two percent of total US gun sales and 20 percent of US ammunition sales. The story says that “Burt Flickinger III, a veteran retail analyst with Strategic Resource Group, estimates that US retail gun sales total around $11 billion a year. That would mean Walmart makes about $220 million a year on guns. The company earned $331 billion in US sales in its latest fiscal year. By that measure, US gun sales represent less than a tenth of a percent of Walmart's business in the United States, and an even smaller percentage of its $514 billion in global sales.

“Flickinger said firearms are becoming less important to Walmart's bottom line and estimates that sales have fallen 6% to 8% annually in recent years.”

"Gun sales is the fastest declining big category in the US and, just based on sales, is reaching a point of retail irrelevancy," Flickinger tells CNN.
KC's View:
Could Walmart doing with guns what CVS did with tobacco?

The big problem, it sounds like, is not the lost revenue, but the loss of face among folks who may not buy their guns at Walmart but who would find that such a decision by the company a unacceptable capitulation to political correctness.