Case analysis: Wal*Mart

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Introduction In the 1950s, Wal-Mart started with few discount stores situated only in small and rural towns. From the beginning, Sam Walton has built a culture with “low-cost” products, a unique value culture where value are preferential to luxury. Nowadays, Wal-Mart is the most valuable firm in the world. According to the 2008 Fortune 500 index, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the number one retailer. In 2008, Wal-Mart stores, Inc. possessed 971 discount stores, 2447 supercenters, 591 Sam’s Clubs, and 132 Neighborhood Markets in America. Wal-Mart in addition operates overseas, in 12 countries that include Canada, Mexico, UK and China. No other company has been growing to achieve such rapid growth as Wal-Mart due to its specific management, high technology and superior logistics. Everywhere, Wal-Mart is admired like a giant. The following paper outlines four main questions in order to understand why and how Wal-Mart became a superpower. The first part will define the attractiveness of the business in the 1950s, followed by a description of Wal-Mart’s competitive advantage. Then, the RBV model (Resource Based View) will be applied to explain the competitive advantage and end with an explanation of sustainability. QUESTION 1  How attractive was the discount retailing industry in the USA when Wal-Mart first began operations in the 1950s ? During the 1950s, Wal-Mart possessed only small supermarkets, located in rural and small towns. Sam Walton focused on a unique niche, where no other American discounters were located. People did not need to travel up three hours to do shopping. It was a very simple business with no information technology, no computer, and unluxurious fixtures. Moreover, ancillary services, for example delivery and in-store selling were scarce. In addition, discount stores charged gross margins 10-15%

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