Actually, I was already somewhat familiar with the Wal-Mart described in Fast Company | The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know. The article is a very interesting discussion of Wal-Mart’s tough tactics in dealing with suppliers and just what it means to be a $240 billion company. One interesting quote: “about 12% of the economy’s productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s could be traced to Wal-Mart alone.” That’s the kicker here. The article is reasonably balanced, but brings up the point that buying at Wal-Mart is moving a lot of jobs overseas.
Economic theory would tell us that in the long term, this is not a bad thing. In the short term, people are losing their jobs. But, the hope is that new industries will emerge in the US that will provide even better jobs. I read an article a few days back (I think it was in Wired) that described how our standard of living has improved quite a bit in the past few decades due to discount stores. Many things that “mere mortals” couldn’t afford have become far more accessible. Partly because those things have become cheaper, but also because we don’t have to spend as much money on necessities, thanks to stores like Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart is squeezing efficiency out of the market, which ultimately should put more money in our hands.