Wal-Mart is one of the largest companies in America, and a driving force with their international domination. However, many people openly dislike Wal-Mart for its somewhat monopolistic practices, such as forcing the competition to either assimilate into their business model or be bought out and replaced entirely. None can dispute the impact Wal-Mart has on the economy, especially within the United States. Wal-Mart employs a total of 2.2 million associates worldwide, with 1.4 million of those just in the U.S. (Whittington, 2012). In addition, Wal-Mart contains 11,000 retail outlets, which operate in a total of 27 countries, including Canada, Mexico, China, India, South Africa, and Chile (Whittington, 2012).
Wal-Mart, despite being a huge corporation, must still operate within the limits of the countries in which it is located. Because Wal-Mart operates in so many countries, it must create unique business and legal plans that adhere to each country's unique economic and legal systems in place. For example, in Germany, Wal-Mart is not allowed to undercut its competitors with its low, low prices, because the German government feels this is unfair to other supermarket chains (Masters, 2004). This creates problems for Wal-Mart and keeps them from being able to operate to their fullest in Germany because Wal-Mart is not able to implement its usual "undercut the competitor" strategy that makes it such a powerful force to be reckoned with in other countries, especially the United States. This has caused Wal-Mart to significantly tone down its operations in Germany and countries with similar legal precedents against its cost-undercutting strategy, which is the cause of most of Wal-Mart's international legal headaches.
In terms of adapting to the political climate of each country, some are much more volatile than others, for better or worse. For example, according to Wal-Mart's 2013 global responsibility report, in Latin-American countries in which it operates, Wal-Mart places more of a focus on women, because many sponsors and even consumers have an extremely pro-women's rights mentality. To this end, Wal-Mart has invested heavily in these areas to support small and medium-sized enterprises led by women. Wal-Mart also implements many pro-women initiatives in the area, such as the First Course for Women Leadership in Honduras, and the Women with Future campaign in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua ( Wal-Mart 2013). In America, Wal-Mart faces a particularly tumultuous political climate because of how many believe Wal-Mart is responsible for the loss of many "mom and pop" businesses, regardless of whether or not Wal-Mart is actually responsible. This political risk simply comes with the territory of a corporation as large as Wal-Mart. A consultant for Wal-Mart would be wise to approach each country that Wal-Mart operates in as its own separate entity, requiring completely different business plans for each. It is impossible to predict the exact effect introducing Wal-Mart will have in any given country, and, for this reason, it is necessary to keep an open mind and make changes to the business model if necessary.
In terms of the stakeholders Wal-Mart must satisfy, there are many, considering Wal-Mart's size. They can be broken down into two categories: internal and external shareholders. Internal shareholders are mainly those within the company, such as the board of directors (Schakett, 2012). The external shareholders are mainly consumers, and those are who Wal-Mart has their primary loyalty toward. In fact, Wal-Mart's mission statement and purpose of statement both focus entirely on the consumer, who make up the majority of their external stockholders (Schakett, 2012). This can make things tricky in international situations because the external shareholders in each country have vastly different needs and styles of business they want to see. Wal-Mart's code of conduct is simple: follow the rules. To this end, Wal-Mart has established a clear code of conduct that focuses chiefly on the consumer and deference to higher authority in order to resolve issues. Wal-Mart's Statement of Ethics says that the company also touts an "open door" communications process that helps to facilitate communication among all else in order to resolve disputes. This helps to ensure that all complaints, especially those leveled in foreign countries, are eventually routed to the proper authority, which inevitably leads to a satisfied customer. In terms of social programs, Wal-Mart has many. In fact, each country that Wal-Mart operates in has its own social programs geared toward the specific demographics of that country. For example, in Chile, where there is a large amount of poverty and hunger, Wal-Mart founded "Corporacion Red de Alimentos," which supplies food to about 34,000 people (Wal-Mart, 2013). This helps to fix some of the social issues in Wal-Mart's countries of operation while cementing Wal-Mart's reputation as an ethical and generous business.
The best way for Wal-Mart to prepare and anticipate for the future is to listen to consumer feedback, especially in domestic locations. Wal-Mart is built upon a foundation of customer service, and to stop doing that now would be detrimental to the company. This means that Wal-Mart must be able to anticipate consumer needs and react to them as quickly as possible. For example, one method Wal-Mart is using to make the shipping process as efficient as possible is called the "continuous-replenishment" process (Treacy and Wiersema, 1997). This means that items, especially those in high demand, will be automatically shipped to the Wal-Mart store in need, with no expensive and time-consuming purchase authorizations or backorder notices (Treacy and Wiersema, 1997). This increases the speed of Wal-Mart's responsiveness to emergency customer needs, like the sudden shortage of a particular item during Black Friday. Steps like these are what will help to keep Wal-Mart at the forefront of customer service and remain one of the giants in the retail industry for many more years to come.
Masters, G. (2004). Wal-Mart's Global Challenge. Retail Merch, 44(5), 26-28.
Schakett, S. (2012) Walmart Mission and Stakeholders 1-7. Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/100325598/Walmart-Mission-and-Stakeholders
Treacy, M., & Wiersema, F. D. (1997). The discipline of market leaders: Choose your customers, narrow your focus, dominate your market. Basic Books.
Wal-Mart (2013) Official Statement of Ethics 1-12. Retrieved from http://cdn.walmartstores.com/statementofethics/pdf/U.S_SOE.pdf
Wal-Mart (2013) 2013 Global Responsibility Report: The Responsibility to Lead. 108-120
Whittington, R. (2012). Big strategy/small strategy. Strategic Organization, 10(3), 263-268.
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