On Blast: 29 Disturbing Pics that Portray a Rotting Wal-Mart

Paging the spirit of Sam Walton.

“Each Wal-Mart store should reflect the values of its customers and support the vision they hold for their community.” –Sam Walton

Hmm, pretty powerful stuff their by Mr. Sam. Well, here is some pretty powerful stuff by Mr. Soz: “Wal-Mart U.S. stores are devoid of the retailing principles and social values set forth by legend of the aisles Sam Walton. In fact, have you EVER seen a picture of Sam Walton in a Wal-Mart store? Better still while we are going all out here, approach a Wal-Mart associate (they are not “employees”) and ask for “3 Things to Know” about Mr. Sam; likely you will get an awkward pause, and then an “I am not too sure.” I think the disconnect of the rapidly growing Wal-Mart U.S. store base from the founding values of the company and ongoing initiatives, which are trumpeted by executives at HQ, could be readily seen by those interested in looking. I was interested in looking, so I took it to the street!

What spurred this investigation? On Wal-Mart’s recent analyst day, it was shared that the bottom 10% of its U.S. stores (300 or so) were producing a same-store sales result of -7.5%. Umm, wow?! “There has to be a series of fundamental reasons for such an alarming stat”, I thought. Now, I have no clue if the stores I visited are part of this bottom 10%, there isn’t a red asterisk on the electronically sliding entrance doors. But, I fancy that it’s safe to say that the 29 photos I snapped below are more common across the U.S. chain than outliers (as Wal-Mart will tell you and I after reading this).  Enjoy!

Quick Background

For Wal-Mart to be supremely successful each quarter and each year financially, which then leads to a bounty for shareholders, it has to execute on its “productivity loop.” The diagram below is often shown by Wal-Mart executives in the hopes of reassuring investors and analysts that it remains a highly efficient organization that rarely disappoints its customer base.  If one component of this productivity loop is broken or not delivered upon very strongly, an already slim profit margin business will become slimmer, as will the returns to shareholders.


4 Things these 29 Disturbing Photos Hint At

  1. Store managers are not motivating associates.
  2. Associates are not emotionally connected to Wal-Mart’s brand, meaning an unwillingness to go above and beyond to execute for the benefit of customers.
  3. Associates are not being properly trained.
  4. The innards of the company (systems, processes, etc.) are not keeping pace with Wal-Mart’s desire to end the careers of traditional supermarkets while continuing to aggressively open supercenters.

The Vertical Slideshow

There is no denying Wal-Mart’s aspirations to be a supermarket/convenience store/dollar store all rolled up into a large box.  At every corner of the store, the company is trying to tempt its economically sensitive customer base.  However…

Empty Coolers

To drive an impulse item that could help profit margins don’t you need to have the product in stock to lure in the eye?

Cooler 1

See where my hand is?  That is an empty row where product is supposed to be presented to customers.


When was the last time your local supermarket frozen section was missing something you had a coupon for?

Food, Paper Goods, Basics Out of Stocks

Again, think for a second: when was the last time you went to a supermarket and veggies and frozen meat were not in stock?  Or how about rows of paper goods being MIA?  Exactly.  Supermarkets may not offer everything (not spotted there: oil change bay), but they do what they do quite well: offer customers trust that product will be there when they want it.

Takeaway: can’t log a sale and maintain customer loyalty if you ain’t got the product!


Food 3

Notice it’s the “Great Value” Wal-Mart private label out of stock….there is an economic message here as well.

Food 2

A national brand out of stock in Hanes (stock symbol: HBI) seems weird.


Paper Goods

Paper Goods 1

Food 1


Retail is detail…so why is that cereal box upside down?

Food 5


One golden rule of supermarket retailing: be in stock on spices.


“Rice of Cards”…


Stuff Randomly Sitting in Boxes/Or Out of Place

Merchandise sitting idle on hand pull machines while the store is open?  Every good collecting dust in a box by the millisecond is a lost sales opportunity today (transaction) and possibly in the future (customer is disappointed in the experience) for Wal-Mart.  These photos, to me, suggest unmotivated associates that are not being trained correctly. Have you ever seen this at Target? Specialty apparel retailers set their merchandise in the wee hours in the morning.

Online is very important to Wal-Mart nowadays, so why is this relevant piece of marketing being buried in the FRONT of the store, may want to pull the sign out…

Online Promo


Boxes 2

Shopping Basket

Kinda creepy photo to be honest.

Baby clothes

Basket 3

Yes, HQ, look closely at the box numbers… you may be able to see where I visited.


Basket 4

Spiderman can hurdle these boxes with no prob.

Boxes 5

Clothes 3

Boxes 9

Not only are these apples sitting in the water section, but they were soft to the touch (look at the dent in the middle one)…suggesting they have been sitting for a while. No associate noticed this? If they did, couldn’t walk it back to the grocery section?  These apples = a wasted investment.


Basket 6

Wal-Mart’s old school motto: “stack it high and watch it fly!” Apparent new motto: “drop it low so it sells slow.”

Box on Floor

How I felt upon leaving the store.