in Consulting Firms

Wal-Mart enters the consulting biz

This is interesting…

Wal-Mart Stores, whose all-in-one retailing model has forced scores of competitors to close their doors over the last 40 years, is turning to an unusual business plan: helping its rivals.

The giant discount retailer, under increasing assault by critics, announced a wide-ranging effort yesterday to support small businesses near its new urban stores, including the hardware stores, dress shops and bakeries with which it competes.

Wal-Mart said it would offer those businesses financial grants, training on how to survive with Wal-Mart in town and even free advertising within a Wal-Mart store.

Wal-Mart will hold seminars to coach the businesses on how to compete with the giant discount stores — by, for example, intensifying customer service, for which Wal-Mart often receives low marks. An annual report on trends in Wal-Mart’s business will be distributed exclusively to those companies.

Setting cynical PR claims aside, this plan both makes a lot of sense and very little sense. Teaching businesses unfamiliar with differentiation is great, and just what they need to compete with Wal-Mart. But who wants customer service advice from a company that sucks at customer service? I’d bet the best form of training would be a collection of video case studies (no classrooms, no books) of small businesses that continued to succeed even after Wal-Mart came to town. Simply amplifying messages from managers of successful small businesses will be more valuable — and more authentic — than anything Wal-Mart itself could say.

  1. Come now, they’re making efforts, here’s a recent job ad for a “Director of Global Ethic”…. for Walmart.

    Make of it what you will…

  2. Interesting. What would a simple aggregator of services look like? Where Wal-Mart provides logistical support, more efficient sourcing, etc? Basically, local merchants source from Wal-Mart [Jimmy’s Bakery is just Wal-Mart items], or source into Wal-Mart [local products touted @ Wal-Marts].

    Or is that just a mall? Sorry, I’m a Jersey boy…

  3. Yeah, there’s a lot of opportunity for cooperation here, but probably not a lot of trust. So my point is, do things that establish trust: show what has worked in reality in the past, begin by being a facilitator rather than a player, create vendor opportunities for local suppliers, etc. PR and a few classes won’t carry the day.

  4. …and walmart probably thinks it’s just a PR problem they have.

Comments are closed.