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What's new in various product categories; monthly update.

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And More Wal-Mart News

Responding to critics, hiring a heavyweight, and more.

compiled by Mike Hartnett (June 20, 2005)

Here's a compilation of highlights of news reports regarding the world's largest retailer

1. Susan Chambers, Exec. VP of Benefits Administration, responded to critics who claim the company's wage/benefit package forces thousands of employees onto tax-supported state Medicaid rolls. She presented the following facts regarding the company's insurance plan.

Wal-Mart offers eight different options within the Associates Medical Plan for full and part-time employees. Premiums start under $40/month for single coverage and less than $155/month for family coverage ... The company plan has no lifetime cap "on most expenses." ... The company estimates it has taken 160,000 people off the list of uninsured. ... A recent survey revealed that 7% hourly employees were on Medicaid three months before being hired, but that dropped to 5% and ater two years of employment, it drops to 3%.

2. Wal-Mart rescinded the retirement agreement with former vice chair Tom Coughlin, which will cause him to forfeit millions of dollars in outstanding stock awards and incentive payments. Coughlin is under investigation for misuse of company funds. He denies the charges.

3. Wal-Mart hired Eugene Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to defend the company in the suit filed by fired VP Jared Bowen. Bowen is suing Wal-Mart under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which Scalia helped implement when he was former lead attorney for the Labor Department between 2001 and 2003. Bowen was fired after reporting alleged fraud conducted by Coughlin. Wal-Mart said Bowen was complicit in Coughlin’s scheme.

4. At the annual shareholders meeting, President/CEO Lee Scott said the company isn't selling enough to higher income customers, the Wall Street Journal reported. Yarn is one example where Wal-Mart execs realized they could sell higher-priced products.

5. Black Enterprise magazine named Wal-Mart as one of the top 30 businesses that promote diversity. Nordstrom was the only other retailer cited. At the annual shareholders meeting, Scott said "all but one" corporate exec met diversity goals the company had laid out last year. Exec bonuses were had tied to the outcome of programs designed to broaden diversity training and reaching out to diversity organizations.

6. Quotation: " ... we believe Wal-Mart will be more sales-focused in coming quarters rather than gross-margin-focused." – Research report issued by Credit Suisse First Boston, which reiterated it's outperform rating.

7. Just about the time Wal-Mart seems to be making headway with its positive public relations campaign, something else happens that damages the image. This is probably inevitable when a company has 1+ million employees.

John Knuckles, the manager of the Wal-Mart in Nitro, WV, announced a new, "open-availability" policy for his 400+ employees, the Associated Press reported. Employees must be available for any shift between 7 am and 11 pm, seven days a week, or they will be fired.

"It shouldn't cause any problem, if [the employees] are concerned about their customers," Knuckles told the AP.

(Note: To read previous Wal-Mart news items, and reports on various product categories, click on the titles in the right-hand column. To comment, email your thoughts – on or off the record – to mike@clnonline.com.)

xxx

 

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