Sunday, April 22, 2007

Wal Mart Effect—Review

Genre: Business book.
Why I read it: It was one of the editor's picks for the best business books of 2006 over at amazon.
What's the deal? Wal Mart, as the biggest non-oil company in the world, has moved to a place where the rules simply don't apply. There are two sides to the Wal Mart effect, the good (low low prices, every day and making it's suppliers more efficient) and the bad (Wal Mart forces it's suppliers to be so "efficient" that some of them decide to cheat to maintain their end of the bargain). This means mistreating employees, lowering the quality of their product, or firing employees to accommodate a move to China.
Something I didn't know: How shadowy and mysterious Wal Mart is as a corporation. Also, I had no idea of their size or influence on so many other companies and the economy itself.
Fun Facts: - 90 % of Americans live within 15 miles of a WM.
- WM is the largest retailer in the US, Canada, Mexico, and 2nd largest in the UK.
- How many people went to WM last year: 7.2 billion. Earth's population: 6.5 billion.
- WM is as big as Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Costco, Sears, and K-Mart combined.
- WM sells more by St Patrick's day than Target does all year.
You have to hand it to: Sam Walton, much respekt, yo.
My favorite parts: The first one on how, thanks to WM deodorant no longer comes in boxes. The Makin Bacon story, Snapper lawnmowers, and the Salmon part.
What it all comes down to: "That kind of dominance at both ends of the spectrum—dominance across a huge range of merchandise and dominance of geographic consumer markets—means that market capitalism is being strangled with the slow inexorability of a boa constrictor. Choice is an illusion."
Says a lot: Even people who get laid off because of WM's low prices go back to shot there. Why? Prices are so low.
You can tell: This was originally an article—probably a really good one. You can tell because it looks very drawn out, very deliberate. Some of it isn't very well organized, he starts spouting facts with very little context. Informative, for sure, but a little disorienting.
Verdict: Eye opening, for sure, and very interesting. The writing could be better, especially when he has to explain complicated business stuff. But it's pretty clear and above all informative, if not longer than it needs to be.
What's next: Suite Française


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