More Behind the Scenes at Wal-Mart

Most of you, dear readers, know I have a weird fascination with the retail industry. You may remember
Fastcompany’s excellent article about Wal-Mart from last year
, esp. the part about Vlasic selling pickles in an obscenely
large quantity on the cheap.

Here’s a new item about Wal-Mart from the
Fast Company blog
:

Released by UC Berkeley Labor Center, a research institute, the study estimates that low wages force employees to accept $32 million annually in health-related services and $54 million per year in other assistance, such as subsidized school lunches, food stamps and subsidized housing.

Naturally, Wal-Mart questions the study, saying the authors undervalued the wages and benefits that the chain’s employees receive. The study estimates that Wal-Mart workers earn $9.40 an hour on average compared with $15.31 for unionized grocery workers — a difference of 39 percent. Wal-Mart, however, says its Bay Area workers earn an average of $11.08 an hour, and that statewide its workers earn an average of $10.37 per hour.

. . .

This also stirs up my interest in the effect “maturity” has on a company. For example, Home Depot supposedly has/had existed with home grown store layouts and IT (?), and other types of bottom-up decision making for sometime. Then:

CEO Nardelli and CIO Bob DeRodes, who joined the company in February 2002, assert that the company has outgrown its homegrown systems, that the IT that got it to its first $50 billion won’t get it to its next; new technology is needed to support the company’s expansion improve store operations and customer service (not to mention compete with Lowe’s, the bogeyman across the street). To that end, Home Depot in 2002 announced an almost $1 billion overhaul of its IT infrastructure. The move is part of a massive, $7.7 billion modernization effort that includes remodeling existing stores and opening new ones.
“Home Improvement”

There seems to be some point, in business, where if you want to make The Big Bucks, you have to do away with your old ways and convert from a “good company” to a money making machine of a company. This isn’t to say that “good companies” don’t make money, just that they don’t make enough money for whoever’s the judge of what’s good enough…usually “The Market.”

Along these lines, it’ll be interesting, hopefully not in a sad way, to see what happens to Google.