Hallelujah!!!! Wal-Mart’s goin’ DOWN!!!

OK,sure, they employ a lot of people. And make it so poor people can afford to buy cheap crap and food. But the social (and environmental and health) cost of doing that is enormous. So now they are finally losing market share for real:

http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB119135657404946747.html

Some choice excerpts, for those of you who think WSJ is just a tool of the conservative elite. It’s not, even under Murdoch’s ownership, so maybe you should subscribe:

Wal-Mart’s shares trade about where they were at the start of the decade, when the company produced less than half its current revenue. Shares closed yesterday up 40 cents at $44.87, and down 9.3% from the stock’s year-earlier price. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart took the extraordinary step of ratcheting down its U.S. expansion plans because its new stores were stealing too much revenue from existing ones. That wasn’t a concern in the 1980s and 1990s when Wal-Mart was regularly flattening competitors.

In some ways, Wal-Mart’s loss of clout is a reflection of a more fragmented world. Retailing is a mirror to how we live and work. Big-box stores thrived by selling highly recognizable national brands, which themselves were fed by two phenomena: the growth of mass media and freeways, which encouraged large stores in remote areas. Stores and brands together achieved scale efficiencies that allowed them to overwhelm local chain stores and regional brands.

But the Internet is transforming the retail definition of scale. The once-stunning compilation of 142,000 items found in a Wal-Mart supercenter doesn’t seem so vast alongside the millions of products available on the Internet. At the same time, the cost of creating and sustaining a national brand is rising because of media fragmentation. Niche brands, created by Internet word of mouth, are winning shelf space and sapping profits required to fund big brands’ advertising. Manufacturers such as Apple Inc. and Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., lacking the retail distribution or presentation they crave, are opening their own stores. One result is that retail giants hold less sway over their customers — and over their suppliers.

Wal-Mart wasn’t able to demand big suppliers continue investing in a technology that was raising their operating costs, says Ken Rohleder, president of Rohleder Group, a Louisville, Ky., supply-chain consulting firm. “There was a time when they could have dictated anything,” he says.