Has Wal-Mart Lost Its Technology Edge?

from the every-day-low...-whoops dept

Chris Lindquist writes "Despite the late Sam Walton's self-proclaimed distrust of computers, Wal-Mart has long seen itself as a technology leader. The company was an early adopter of bar-code scanning and eventually established the gold standard for supply chain efficiency thanks to highly integrated point-of-sale systems, satellite-communicated inventories and even RFID tracking. But Wal-Mart seems recently to have lost some of its tech luster. Questionable business decisions and global economic realities have caused the retail giant's earnings to stumble while aggressive competitors such as Target match Wal-Mart's every tech move--and sell higher-margin products to more affluent customers. Now it's unclear whether the command-and-control, technology-enabled culture that allowed Wal-Mart to flourish will be able to help it maintain its market dominance."


Reader Comments (rss)

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    T. Rowe, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 5:25pm

    Are You Kidding?

    Wal-Mart is in little danger of losing its dominance in the department store biz. They outnumber Target and everyone else in total stores, square footage and total product moved. They are definitely selling to a somewhat different demographic than the Targets of the world, but WM sells just about everything others do and in much greater quantities.

    You'd be a fool to think a small player like Target or any similar are going to beat WM at the game they invented.

     

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      Shay, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 5:37pm

      Re: Are You Kidding?

      "You'd be a fool to think a small player like Target or any similar are going to beat WM at the game they invented."

      I'm sure lots of big companies that are not market leaders any more thought the same thing.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 6:41pm

      Re: Are You Kidding?

      I bet that's what Circuit City thought of Best Buy too.

       

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      !st, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 7:42pm

      Re: Are You Kidding?

      "You'd be a fool to think a small player like Target or any similar are going to beat WM at the game they invented."

      You'd be a fool to think how you do. I find myself going to Target and Miejers rather than wal-mart. I like the short waiting lines and friendly customer service. Walmart has 30+ checkout lanes, and only 10 are open at 1 time. I use to shop at walmart. But since you can get almost everything you need from Target and everything that walmart has you can get at meijers, why shop at walmart? Just think, if all others started to see it the way I do, would walmart still be the leader? I think there use to be a place called K-Mart that was the leader before walmart. What happened to them? The same thing that will happen to every chain at some point.

      http://www.meijer.com

      http://www.target.com

       

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      Vincent Clement (profile), Oct 9th, 2007 @ 5:28am

      Re: Are You Kidding?

      Wal-Mart is in little danger of losing its dominance in the department store biz.

      It's that kind of thinking and arrogance that does large companies in. K-Mart, IBM and GM all used to be dominant. Things change, and they can change quickly.

      You'd be a fool to think a small player like Target or any similar are going to beat WM at the game they invented.

      Really? Last I looked Target reported much better growth numbers than Wal-Mart. Who is the fool?

       

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    B, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 5:46pm

    History

    Isn't that what CompuServe though of AOL?

     

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    Nocturne, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 6:28pm

    also happening now

    isn't that what Microsoft is doing now?

     

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    Overcast, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 6:54pm

    "You'd be a fool to think a small player like Target or any similar are going to beat WM at the game they invented."

    I'm sure lots of big companies that are not market leaders any more thought the same thing.


    *whisper*

    ...IBM...

     

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    Foodman, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 7:25pm

    earlier versions

    You'd be a fool to think a small player like Target or any similar are going to beat WM at the game they invented."


    In the 1970's A&P supermarkets dominated the industry. Now there are few left and who could have seen the demise of a brand like Winn-Dixie (alright, mostly in the south but still very dominant)There is always a "next".

     

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    Chuck, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 7:29pm

    Re: Are You Kidding?

    "You'd be a fool to think a small player like Target or any similar are going to beat WM at the game they invented."

    Hm... what happened to Eatons, The Bay's, Zellers. How about IBM? 3Dfx?

     

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    Michael G., Oct 8th, 2007 @ 7:38pm

    I hate that store anyway.

    The technological supremacy has nothing to do with its eventual decline, that's only helps after the customer is already in the store. Simply enough when their market shares do decline, and this current trend making it obvious that they are losing their dominance, Wal-Mart is going to find its retail business in the same graveyard as K-Mart, or any of the other hundreds of retail outfits that have folded here in America throughput the years. There's not a prominent city left in the United States that doesn't have an empty retail giant's crumbling brick remains in it and Wal-Mart will follow suit, as will Target someday. People just get tired of going there and all the technological wonders of the world can’t fix that.

     

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    Jack, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 12:05am

    Not really low, low prices

    Glad to see their customers are finally noticing that their prices aren't really low.

    The only ones they fool now are news outlets responding to their hokish "green" PR campaign of distraction.

     

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    Iron Chef, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 1:43am

    Barcodes And Cash. Easer than the unseen.

    We're waiting to see how WalMart implements RFID too. Two major projects have been axed in the past year. Big bucks lost, several heads rolled.

    I keep telling my Director to just wait, just wait...

    Everyone wants in on it, but no one seems to know how to make it all come together yet.

    Barcodes seem to work well for now-- To the trained eye, it's easy to tell counterfeits, like cash... But when the computer gets in the way and there's no way to tell a counterfeit, there's the problem...

     

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    Rudy, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 7:00am

    I don't see this as really surprising. Wal-mart would seem to have problems on a different level of scale than its competitors. I think it has ~ as much revenue as its next five or six competitors combined.

     

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    novernetsbandit, Oct 9th, 2007 @ 10:40am

    and who is advertising on this site today of all c

    Target on the upper right hand..

    And now, a word from our Sponsors..

    Target Technology Services

    Its nice to see that some of the other players are nowing competitive. Bestbuy wasnt bestbuy untell a tornado destroyed its only store.. Walmart is so big because there wasnt any real competition for years now that there is.. well we will see in the next 5-10 years

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2007 @ 2:58pm

    Although Walmart was a pioneer and early adopter of computer technology, it's business advantages are the way they use the information they gather, and how they use technology to interact with suppliers. Nobody was doing what they did, and most still don't.

    I got an insight into WM when I worked for National Cash Register Co. in Retail Systems. That was in the 80s, when nobody even knew who WM was.

    That being said, technology can't prevent companies from making bad decisions.

    BTW, I think the book, "The Walmart Effect" should be required reading. It's a great read - fascinating and important.

     

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    jimbo, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 7:20pm

    Wm has not lost their edge

    Nope, on the RFID front, they are plugging away, refining their processes and when they get the bugs worked out they will be years ahead of anyone they compete with. It is amazing and scary at the same time, how they can sustain multi-year R&D

     

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