The folks in Bentonville faced a holiday-season disaster — and blinked …. and apparently went further into a thorough reexamination of where they are and what they are all about.
About 24 hours after Don Wildmon’s American Family Association called for a Friday-Saturday boycott of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club (fourth item at “Couldn’t Help But Notice” link earlier this morning), the company formally backed off, with astonishing comprehensiveness:
Respect for the individual is one of the core values that have made us into the company we are today. We take pride in the fact that we treat every customer, every supplier and every member of our individual communities fairly and equally.
….. Wal-Mart will not make corporate contributions to support or oppose highly controversial issues unless they directly relate to our ability to serve our customers.
Wal-Mart does not have a position on same sex marriage and we do not give preference to gay or lesbian suppliers. Wal-Mart does have a strong commitment to diversity among our associates and against discrimination everywhere.
The AFA has called off the boycott, and is urging its members and other to send a note of thanks to Wal-Mart.
Say what you will about the propriety or impropriety of gay-agenda causes, the point that Wal-Mart finally seems to get, after spending a large portion of 2006 losing (and losing, and losing, and losing) its way, is that its primary mission is to be a money-making business enterprise providing a fair return to its shareholders. It finally seems to realize that it will achieve that return by aggressively competing, while in the process pleasing its customers and providing employment and career opportunities for its employees.
Of course, how the company behaves over the long-term is the real test, but if the company’s other announcement yesterday is any indication, all I can say is “That’s more like it!”:
Wal-Mart Slashes Food Prices, Targets Grocers Ahead of Thanksgiving
CHICAGO â€” Two days before Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart (WMT) slashed prices on hundreds of grocery items, a welcome break for consumers but the first shot in what is sure to be a price war between mainstream grocers and the largest seller of food in the United States.
Wal-Mart, also the world’s largest retailer, has already cut prices on toys, appliances, electronics and apparel to attract more holiday shoppers. The retailer also recently initiated a $4 generic prescription drug program that threatens pharmacy chains.
Now, it is trimming prices on hundreds of fresh and dry food items.
The retailer said that the price of many food items would be lowered by as much as 20 percent. Some items were discounted more heavily.
The company appears to have returned to being the “always low prices” retailer (almost) all of us know and love. Milton Friedman, who understood that “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits,” is surely smiling down on all of this.
UPDATE: I have had my differences with Wildmon’s AFA in the past, as I think the boycott weapon is best used more selectively than it is employed by AFA (Wildmon also occasionally makes really dumb choices in backing political candidates). But there’s no denying the Friday-Saturday boycott threat hit the bullseye. I realize this wasn’t AFA’s intent, but with their apparent success at shaking Wal-Mart to its core, Wildmon and his group may have done more to lengthen the economic prosperity we’re in than any other single entity, including the government, has done in all of 2006.
UPDATE 2: How important is it that the Wal-Mart economy-stimulating express keeps running? From today’s OpinionJournal.com, in a column about free trade by Pete DuPont:
A recent Global Insights analysis concludes that Wal-Mart’s 1985-2004 expansion of sales resulted in a 9.1% drop in the price of food at home, a 4.2% drop in the price of other goods and commodities, and a 3.1% decline in consumer prices overall, saving the average working family about $2,329 per year. And with that came a net increase of 210,000 Wal-Mart jobs in 2004 alone.