Saturday, November 08, 2014

No Coupons Required

As goes Wal-Mart, so goes the United States.

Perhaps that’s the best sum-up of last week’s mid-term and gubernatorial elections. 

How do I know?

Wal-Mart stock is trading at nearly $80 a share and its revenues increased more than 16 percent from 2010 to 2014 to just over $476 billion.[i] 

Who knows, maybe they’ll cross the $500 billion mark this year, which is another way of saying half a trillion dollars if you're suffering from innumeracy.

That might not be too surprising because, according to the company’s latest annual report, its nearly 5,000 U.S. stores serve about 140 million customers every week,[ii] nearly half of the country’s population.  More than 70 percent of the company’s revenues – about $279 billion – is made right here, in the good ole’ USA.

If you bought Wal-Mart stock when President Obama was first inaugurated, in January 2009, and you still own it, you’re doing okay.  It’s up about $30 a share since then.[iii] 

So for all of Friday’s news about how the unemployment rate is below 6 percent – another way of saying Americans were so stupid they traded in the Democrats for the Republicans – Wal-Mart’s numbers tell a very different story.

Americans are worried!

They’re shopping Wal-Mart because they fear the paycheck they received last week won't be there next week, next month, even next year.

Even if they’re aware of Wal-Mart’s negative stories, their immediate anxiety is they’ll be nickel and dimed – by their employer.

Plus, as Barron’s Gene Epstein reports, there’s been little wage growth in the United States and there remains a dearth of men working, especially those between the ages of 25 – 54.[iv]

I’m no Wal-Mart fan.  But my travels with Tribune Media Services, peddling comics, columns, crossword puzzles and news services, over the course of 13 years, taking me to 40-odd states and a lot of small towns, showed me its power:  Wal-Mart changes the economic fabric of small towns and cities.[v]

But, you know, I’m not so proud to say I’ve never shopped Wal-Mart either.

It’s had products our household needed that no one else offered, from a particular size drip pan for our stove to diapers that fit my sons when they were babies.
I didn’t like going there.  The place gave me the heebe jeebes.  But I always noted the parking lot was full.

So for all the whining from the liberals, whether they’re friends or commentators in the press, about last Tuesday’s results  – and for all of the celebrations from the conservative ones – everyone missed the boat.

Wal-Mart won the election.

I’m worried.

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