Blog: Leonie BarrieWal-Mart’s charm offensive

Leonie Barrie | 14 January 2005

Wal-Mart and its workers are “tired” of others having a free rein to “say things about our company that just aren’t true.” So tired, in fact, that it yesterday took out full-page colour ads in more than 100 US newspapers to address criticism about its hiring and promotion practices, salaries, and for driving small-town shops out of business. There’s no doubt that Wal-Mart’s image problems have hurt its expansion into some communities, but will this attempt to silence its critics really work?

Not surprisingly, the decision to take out the adverts has itself sparked a lively debate. Wal-Mart has 1.2 million employees in the US, making it the nation’s largest private employer, and Scott said it gives communities stable jobs, and benefits workers. This is also the first time the company has mounted a public defence against its detractors.

As far as its customers are concerned, though, the majority are more likely to be concerned with selection and good prices rather that the charges made against the retailer. And there’s also a very real danger that the campaign actually draws attention to Wal-Mart’s problems.


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