December 1, 2005

Majority says Wal-Mart bad for America: poll

By Emily Kaiser

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Some 56 percent of U.S. consumers think
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is bad for America, according to a Zogby
International poll released on Thursday by one of the
retailer's most vocal critics.

The national poll -- commissioned by, a
union-funded group that has been pressuring Wal-Mart to raise
employee wages and benefits -- surveyed 1,012 randomly chosen
adults on their attitudes toward the world biggest retailer.

Respondents were asked to choose which of two statements
more closely fit their personal opinions.

The majority, or 56 percent, picked: "I believe that
Wal-Mart is bad for America. It may provide low prices, but
these prices come with a high moral and economic cost for
consumers." Thirty-nine percent agreed that "Wal-Mart is good
for America. It provides low prices and saves consumers money
every day."

Wal-Mart questioned the timing of the poll, which was
conducted from November 15 to 18 -- a week when many of the
retailer's critics organized events to highlight their concerns
about the company, and screened a widely publicized documentary
that cast Wal-Mart in a negative light.

"This poll is another way for them (WakeUpWalMart) to reach
out for something to try to validate their efforts because they
don't have anything else to hang their hat on," Wal-Mart
spokeswoman Sarah Clark said.

The poll was released on the same day that Wal-Mart
reported a 4.3 percent increase in November sales at its U.S.
stores open at least a year -- a key retail measure known as
same-store sales. Wal-Mart has about 3,700 U.S. stores and
2,400 international locations, and is expected to generate more
than $300 billion in revenues in the current fiscal year.

Wal-Mart, the largest U.S. private-sector employer, faces
intense pressure at home from unions, environmental groups and
others who say the company pays poverty-level wages, offers
poor health-care benefits and gobbles up green space with its
massive big-box stores.

At the same time, Wal-Mart is defending a record-large
class-action lawsuit that charges it with discriminating
against women in pay and promotions.

Wal-Mart denies those claims, and points out that it often
receives thousands of applications for a few hundred jobs when
it opens new stores.

Wal-Mart, which hired a team of public relations experts to
help polish its image, said critics' efforts to discredit the
company have had little success, judging from the more than 100
million U.S. customers who shop its stores every week.

But WakeUpWalMart lauded the poll as evidence that
consumers are increasingly aware of the concerns the group has
worked to spotlight.

"Despite two high-priced image make-overs, Wal-Mart's
public image is in a tailspin," Paul Blank, campaign director
for WakeUpWalMart, said in a statement.

The Zogby poll also questioned consumers on whether they
thought that Wal-Mart was becoming too powerful an economic
force in America. Some 33 percent were very concerned, while 20
percent said they were not at all concerned.

Thirty-three percent strongly agreed that Wal-Mart was a
retail monopoly that threatened the future health of the U.S.
economy, but 35 percent did not agree at all.