In Sam We Trust

Work Study

ISSN: 0043-8022

Article publication date: 1 February 2000




(2000), "In Sam We Trust", Work Study, Vol. 49 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

In Sam We Trust

Bob OrtegaKogan PageISBN 0749431776£12.99

Keywords Retail trade, United Kingdom, USA, Supermarkets

With the recent publicity surrounding the takeover/merger of Wal-Mart, the giant US retailer, and Asda, the UK supermarket chain forged in Wal-Mart's likeness, we are all aware of the size and importance of the mighty Wal-Mart. The move into the UK is only part of their bid for world domination. For instance, within seven years of Wal-Mart invading Canada and Mexico it became the largest retailer in both countries. It took less than two years for it to become the fourth largest retailer in Germany, while France and several Scandinavian countries now look destined for Wal-Mart's shopping basket. Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world, the biggest private-sector employer in North America, and one of the most dominant and influential corporations anywhere.

In this new paperback edition, Bob Ortega moves from a telling of the story of founder Sam Walton's life via the detailing of some of the controversial business practices employed to an up-to-date look at Wal-Mart's world-wide shopping spree and a unique look behind the doors of the Asda deal and its likely impact on British retailing.

Sam Walton built the greatest retail empire in history by steadfastly holding true to his vision of making profits by bringing low prices to the masses. A flinty workaholic obsessed with his stores at the expense of his personal life, Walton developed a ruthlessly efficient strategy that enabled Wal-Mart to surpass Sears and outsmart Kmart, and, along the way, ruin vast numbers of small-town "mom-and-pop" stores.

Of course, this was not just ruthlessness: he revolutionized retailing by creating innovative information and distribution systems that were many years ahead of the competition. By encouraging his employees to become shareholders in his company, and through the sheer force of his charismatic personality, Walton created a corporate culture unlike any other. Wal-Mart workers still pledge to work harder and better by uttering the phrase, "So help me Sam".

Meanwhile, back on Main Street, Wal-Mart's unmatched success has raised troubling questions about the company's impact on communities and its treatment of workers. Activists have been waging increasingly impassioned campaigns to keep the colossus from invading towns and suburbs and threatening local businesses. Thousands of miles away, some of Wal-Mart's suppliers have been caught using both child and cheap labour.

Bob Ortega is a veteran Wall Street Journal reporter and he shows how the company's relentless bottom-line mentality has been both a boon and a bane to workers and their communities. In this balanced work, he tells a remarkable success story that illustrates both the good and the bad of US capitalism. As Wal-Mart now heads out across the globe, this book raises important questions about the social responsibility of powerful organisations and their effect on countries, communities and cultures.

Related articles