The next king of the world?


Sam Walton’s original Walton’s Five and Dime store i Benton, Arkansas.

Wal-Mart is working on expanding into the world’s two largest markets, China and India.  Of course, Wal-Mart in China only adds to the irony of the Wal-Mart in South Africa story from yesterday.  Wal-Mart buys much of its inventory and raw materials from China, but does not really have a presence there yet; in 15 years it only has 333 stores in China and that includes a chain of 104 it bought in 2007.  One suspects over time, Wal-Mart will succeed in China and possibly that will be the just the final step in its conquest of the world.  Might Wal-Mart some day rule the world – not China or India or the United States, but Wal-Mart?

I had a Wal-Mart experience today,  in a small Eastern Orthodox bookstore; I was skimming a couple of books on the lives of hermit monks, living the “desert-dweller” life, in Russia in the 19th century – a favorite subject of mine and listening to a CD of monks chanting that filled the air.   Another customer came in the store, a woman somewhat younger than I am, but still in the “old” category that is mine by definition.  She was annoying, talked continually and loudly about her life – the loves and various employments that had been hers; both categories contained a long line of failures.  She was babbling on about a particularly stupid job with a stupid management.  The management it seems thought she and the other employees should be concerned generating more sales than on the same day the previous year; it was contemptible and very stupid in her opinion.  That idea brought to Wal-Mart by Sam Walton was one of the key foundations of the success of Wal-Mart.  Sam learned the idea working at Ben Franklin stores in 1940s; it puts the responsibility and the control for much of operations on local store managers.

In Sam Walton’s Wal-Mart, a store manager was expected to make the necessary adjustments to changing conditions, create marking plans and promotions – in short to do what it takes to increase business; but increasing it not quarter over quarter, or month over month, but day over day. Wal-mMart certainly did more than measure sales day over day, but that concept made much of the additional changes possible.  Wal-Mart also created an integrated system of purchase, storage and delivery that is superior to nearly any company or nation in the world.  Given the dramatic rise of Wal-Mart in just 50 years, it makes me wonder just how big and powerful it might become in another 50 years?

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