Corporate public images are usually made, and then maintained.  

Think about corporations like Apple, Boeing, or Disney and what their corporate clothes say to us. It usually doesn’t change much from year to year.

Now think of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., also known simply as Walmart.

It’s been the:

  • Destroyer of Main Street America.
  • Big box store every NIMBY loves to hate
  • Retailer with two million workers without union cards
  • Biggest recipient of corporate welfare
  • Most efficient supply chain for goods originating from China
  • Green builder of enviro-friendly stores
  • Better source of fruits and vegetable than Whole Foods


And now we have Walmart enlisting in the food police, promising First Lady Michelle Obama it will reduce sugar by 10 percent, sodium by 25 percent and eliminate trans fats in its store brands by 2015.

These changing images just keep coming. Each time it changes it clothes, Walmart does keep low prices in place. And the company keeps growing. Last year 8,400 Walmart outlets did $405 billion in retail sales.

Walmart is now offering Mrs. Obama lower-priced fruits and vegetables and the location of specially sized stores for urban food deserts; all as part of the company’s strategy to bust into urban areas. 

Until very recently they’ve been kept out of major cities like Chicago, but are making process through a bundle of strategies up to and including signing project labor agreements with construction unions.

With its ability to change, Walmart must be giving its opponents fits these days. It remains a corporation that can do things on such a scale and with such efficiency that government cannot match it. That’s what it’s done with its low-cost pricing of generic drugs.

As its suppliers know too well, Walmart really knows how to squeeze. It’s a tactic it uses not only up and down its supply lines, but also in building stores. It often will not come into a new community unless the city or town shares in the cost, usually by giving up the new sales tax revenue generated by the store for several years.

Walmart is suited up to go after something else it wants, and carrying some water for the First Lady is just part of the company’s strategy. Rare as it is, “the Chicago way” this time might even be good for nutrition.

Photo of First Lady Michelle Obama courtesy Obama Foodorama

  • Doc Mudd

    Anyone who is offended by reasonable prices is, of course, not forced to shop at Walmart.

  • Alicia

    Walmart may be importing from China but has no union for the employees and that is why they are able to maintain low prices.
    The fact that it allows so many of us, now with less income to buy things, including food we could not otherwise purchase,makes it a good source of goods. As for buying most of their products from China it is true, however, we can thank the unions for driving so many jobs overseas…
    Target and Home Depot and Kmart pay less to their employees, do not promote from the clerk ranks and also import a lot of their goods from China. The sad reality is low priced goods cannot be produced in the US anymore. We can thank the unions for most of this, a lot of the products manufactured here, cars and electrical products in general do not have the quality controls either and employees that could be doing better jobs are discouraged by the bad ones who are protected by unions. They have driven the prices up and the quality down.

  • Ann Quinn, consumer

    Oh, balderdash! Thank corporate America for downsizing
    and outsourcing and globalization to cut their labor
    and supply costs to the cheapest common denominator and
    create workers, including your children and grandchildren,
    who may well have a much lower standard of living – all without any concern for worker welfare, and this includes,
    of course, Walmart.

  • Ben Mark

    I totally agree with Alicia. The best way to get our Country back on track would be to export the Unions to China and import the production back to the States. There is a lot to catch up over there; probably they would hang them as soon as they come up with their stupid ideas anyway, but it would solve a lot of problems here in the meantime.

  • Kim

    Walmart may occasionally promote from its ranks but only male WASPs. Everyone else is SOL. They’re our nation’s largest employer of working poor. I don’t care how low their grocery prices are, we are all paying the cost while their executives take home big fat paychecks.

  • The ultimate question is what’s more important…people or profits?
    Many people see this as a great thing because it will make the food more affordable to people, but at what price?

  • ecofoodologist

    We are all beneficiaries of Wal Mart’s techniques for efficiently delivering cheap consumer goods to people. The problem is that the Waltons and WM Execs have mastered the art of greeting Americans with a favor while carrying their assassin’s knife in the other hand. And we keep paying them to kill us. American (Western) consumer greed, driving us to demand more cheap stuff, hands WM our fortunes dime by dime.
    Given that I am not threatened by a war on American soil, the presence of Michelle Obama promoting WalMart is the most disturbing thing in the news these days. WM now offers credit cards and cell phone plans. For those who seek the cheap, you can hand WM the keys to your food, your communication, and via your credit card they’ll determine what you buy from them or elsewhere and reach for that remaining market share.
    Doc Mudd, such an omniscient and powerful corp. will not keep retail prices down forever. Your 401k manager will not permit it. Our value to WalMart is our dollar/vote for labor oppression and mediocre consumables. Currently the costs are born more by the foreign laborers who make our stuff and the suburban towns whose politicos are afraid to say no to the WalMart propaganda. Now the cities, Chicago and DC can feel the oppression too.
    Sam Walton sold his company to America as American made quality for Americans. Whatever part of that he delivered is severely perverted and supported by the frightened and poorly educated middle class, trying to cling to waning prosperity. Do we really need WalMart to show us how to deliver quality food to people of modest means? Get real! I have not lived more than ten miles from a Walmart in over 30 years and have only been in one twice in the last 20 years. Buy/vote local, buy/vote quality, buy/vote living wage, buy/vote walkable neighborhoods. I am part of that frightened middle class but WalMart’s corporate largess frightens me more than paying an extra $20 per week for groceries.