Featured Column
Week of 6.27.2005
          I should know better than to go shopping on a Saturday. The mall parking lots are filled with aggressive drivers looking for a rare, vacant parking spot. Half the parking slots are taken up by enormous SUV’s and it seems that every other shopper is jamming a cell phone in their ear and absent-mindedly babbling as they walk.
          First stop was at the open house of the newly decorated and named “Sears-Essentials” store, which used to be a K-Mart. Our local K-Mart store had been going downhill for a few years, but with the merger of Sears and K-Mart and with the switch from a K-Mart to a Sears store things are looking up for our local shoppers, and hopefully for Sears too.
          Following a tour of the new Sears store I thought that a refreshing decaf coffee would be nice. Down the walkway from Sears is a brand new rival to Starbuck’s – “The Coffee Bean.” After taking 10-minutes to decide from a confusing array of various coffees from different continents and countries I ordered a cup of Ethiopian decaf coffee, then grabbed the only vacant chair and watched as dozens of customers filed in and walked out carrying a paper cup of the popular elixir. Nothing like a steaming cup of Ethiopian decaf I always say.
           Last stop on my Saturday shopping adventure was a trip to Wal-Mart. I doubt if there’s anyone in America, or, for that matter, many countries of the world, who haven’t seen the inside of a Wal-Mart store. First thing that happens at a Wal-Mart store is you’re greeted by a Wal-Mart “Associate” wearing a blue vest, with large letters on the back spelling out “How may I help you?” The greeter will offer you a cart or a shopping basket. You’ll usually hear a pleasant, “Hi there, welcome to Wal-Mart.”
           There has never been anything on our planet like Wal-Mart. To start with, Wal-Mart is the largest retailer and largest company in the world based on revenue. If Wal-Mart were a country it would rank 23rd in the world. It’s the largest private employer in the world with 1.3 million employees in the United States. Wal-Mart employs over 410,000 internationally.
           If you’ve shopped in a Wal-Mart (c’mon, admit that you have) you may have noticed those television sets hanging from the tops of display cabinets. No big deal, you say. I say big deal! The Wal-Mart TV Network shows commercials for products sold in their stores. Over 130,000,000 people watch these programs every month, ranking Wal-Mart TV Network behind only NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox.
          If you’re interested in numbers, here are some more startling facts about the top business in the world.
          Wal-Mart imports over 15 billion dollars worth of goods from China yearly. 7.5 billion direct and 7.5 billion from suppliers. Wal-Mart is China’s 8th largest trading partner, ahead of Russian and England. 70% of products sold in Wal-Mart have at least a component made in China.
          The 5240 Wal-Mart stores in fiscal 2005 had revenues of $285.2 billion. U.S. stores alone had revenues of 209 billion dollars. It has been estimated that Wal-Mart pockets 7 billion dollars a year in profits.
          There is a down-side to being as big as Wal-Mart – it is the most frequently sued corporation in the United States.
          If all of Sam Walton’s kin combined their pocketbooks the contents would be over 100 billion dollars, or significantly ahead of Bill Gates. Of the 10 richest people in the world 5 are Waltons!
          Wal-Mart stores are the largest corporate contributors to charity in America, with each Wal-Mart Super Center giving $30,000 to $50,000 a year to local charities. Cash donations to charity by Wal-Mart, its employees and its customers made through Wal-Mart total more than $170 million a year.
          Employer turnover at Wal-Mart stores is 50% every year.
          You may be one of those that hate Wal-Mart or you may be among the millions who shop at a Wal-Mart store every week and pocket the savings, but either way you have to admit that there’s a behemoth out there.
          So, whether you’re shopping for videos or DVD’s, cat litter or detergent, clothing or toothpaste, make-up or gardening supplies, crackers or candy – you’ll find it at Wal-Mart. And chances are when you walk in the front door you’ll find a friendly person in a blue vest welcoming you with a “Hi, welcome to Wal-Mart.”
          As for me, I’m tired from fighting the crowds, I’m heading back to “The Coffee Bean” and another cup of Ethiopian decaf.
The story of Wal-Mart
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger