Walmart CEO Says "Fiscal Cliff" Affects U.S. Shoppers

Walmart CEO says By Martinne Geller

NEW YORK, Dec 11 - A large portion of American consumers now know about the "fiscal cliff" and a sizeable number of them expect the debate over it to curb their holiday spending, according to the chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

In the week before last month's U.S. presidential election, only 25 percent of its core U.S. shoppers knew what the term "fiscal cliff" meant, CEO Mike Duke told a gathering on Tuesday in New York.

"One week after the election it was up to 75 percent," said Duke, adding that 15 percent of those customers said the debate in Washington would affect what they spend for Christmas.

Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the United States and the world, polls its shoppers regularly.

The latest poll could bode poorly for retailers like Wal-Mart, which rely on the year-end holiday shopping season for an outsized portion of their annual revenue.

The "fiscal cliff" refers to the automatic steep tax hikes and spending cuts set for Jan. 1 that the White House and members of Congress have been negotiating to avoid. Fears about the cliff stand to weaken consumer spending, which accounts for some two-thirds of U.S. economic activity and is already being hurt by lingering unemployment.

Duke's appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations attracted protesters, many of whom blasted the company's wages and labor practices. Criticism has increased since a factory fire in Bangladesh last month that killed 112 garment workers making clothes to be sold by retailers including Wal-Mart.

ENFORCING STANDARDS

Duke admitted that Wal-Mart still had work to do in terms of enforcing its own standards and discipline on its global supply chain and setting an example for others in the industry.

"It takes work every day. We will never be there completely," Duke said.

Wal-Mart has done extensive work in Bangladesh, he said, to improve the safety of factories. In 2010 he said Wal-Mart stopped doing business with 94 factories that didn't meet the company's standards and helped raise standards in 23 others. Some 3,000 factories went through training, he said.

When asked if Wal-Mart's need for low retail prices and profitability was at odds with safe working conditions, Duke said there was no conflict.

"We will not buy from an unsafe factory. This is not a price discussion," he said. "If a factory is not going to operate with high standards then we would not purchase from that factory. There's no discussion about pricing."

Duke was also asked about an investigation into allegations of bribery being overseen by the audit committee of its board of directors, which is working with U.S. authorities. He said he did not know when it would end.

"I think these things are intended to be very, very thoughtful, deliberate, well-done and very, very complete."

The company became the subject of a probe over potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a U.S. law that forbids bribing foreign officials, earlier this year after a New York Times story alleged that its Mexican unit used a campaign of bribery to grab market dominance.

Duke was responsible for the company's international operations from 2005 to 2009.

The New York Times reported that a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an email from a former executive at the Mexican division in September 2005 describing how the Mexican affiliate had paid bribes to obtain permits to build stores in Mexico.

The paper said senior Wal-Mart officials stymied an internal investigation into the alleged bribery, which involved suspect payments worth $24 million.


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byte000me

all of mine did not show that I posted. The fact is wal mart is not in any trouble as far as losing money!! Yes they count on the Christmas sales because it gives each storemanager biger bonuses, I know a few years ago one got a 500,00.00 dollar year end bonus due to sales. The employees and assistant managers got nothing. Wal Marts mark ups are unbelieveable! They should bring thier jobs back to the states and pay the workers, instead of sending most jobs over seas, that would in turn help our economy. Very few things are actually made i the US.

December 13 2012 at 11:46 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
byte000me

Wal mart doesn't care about thier employees here or overseas, it's all about the money. Before the supercenters opened 24 hours,at night the third shift workers would be locked in the building, most of the lights were shut off ( some areas you had to use a flashlight yet do your job that required both hands, also in the summer when the store closed they shut the air off so it would be extremely hot in there and in the winter they would shut the heat off, you would have to wear your coat and you could see your breath while trying to work all night. So even here they do not care about employees and the treatment is much worse than what I already said. I can just imagine the conditions the employees in other countries are facing and getting so little pay!

December 13 2012 at 11:25 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
THOMAS AND JOYCE

The only customer poll Wal-Mart does is when they count the money in the cash register.

December 13 2012 at 11:25 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Mac

Who really cares about what a cheap azz says about anything. How many hamburgers can a man eat?

December 13 2012 at 10:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
monza866

Buyers remorse will be more evident to the Obama voters as many will finally realize they also will be the target of new taxes. All the talk of the 2%ers can be seen to be a diversion. The truth is that there are not enough "rich" people to offset the Obama debt. Great job people.

December 13 2012 at 8:22 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to monza866's comment
Mac

Im sure you voted for the man that hid earnings offshore so he wouldn't have to pay taxes. Clean up your own house first.

December 13 2012 at 10:24 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mac's comment
t.j.

Mac, you should get you're facts straight first. If they are hidden in off shore accounts you wouldn't know about them. What you may want to know is Obummer has some too, you just don't know about them because the media didn't want you to know.

December 13 2012 at 12:30 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down
falcon38a

Funny how all the bad news about the fiscal cliff did not start until after the election. Obama is crooked as a dog's hind leg. We should have voted him out while we had the chance.

December 13 2012 at 7:53 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to falcon38a's comment
Mac

Yea darn it I wished I had voted to the rich guyb that sent jobs overseas to increase his already full bank accounts offshore.

December 13 2012 at 10:25 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
rruffier

Is his comment pertaining to his profits or is he actuyally concerned for America. It's not America.....and their actions and comments about competitive wages and the taking care of their employees supports my argument.

December 13 2012 at 6:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
stvhndyman

I just wish the entire Congress would jump off the fiscal cliff.

December 13 2012 at 4:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to stvhndyman's comment
Mac

Now that I could agree with!

December 13 2012 at 10:26 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
jmg62

Well, Mr. Duke - I don't know who YOU'VE been asking but - all those who work at your stores and depend on food stamps still have known about this "FISCAL - "F"-ING - CLIFF" since last time it came around. What used to take a "YES" or "NO" vote now becomes THE DEBATE, DISCUSSION AND THE COMMITTEE renderings of an all out FEDERAL BUDGET WAR where CONGRESS get's PAID and the rest of America has to shoot Paul, collect the insurance - only to poison Peter - get that money - and TRY LIKE HELL to pay their bills! Is THAT a wee-bit bass-ackwards? Perhaps HOLDING CONGRESS's pay up would be a tad more motivational? Meanwhile,....back in DC - the GOP have a stick in their Zoits about the 8 year tax holiday their most aggressive money givers have to STRUGGLE with while less and less go to Middle Class and Poor folks - malingerer's or not - THEY QUALIFIED! - and not EVERY person get's the Middle Class cut in their paychecks! But all WEALTHY folks get theirs! Congress and Bush signed off on the Tax Laws - so? How'bout it? If the Jobs that were CREATED are those at WalMart - ah,...keep on goin' 'cause you haven't a CLUE! No longer is Congress any part of the Microcosm which is their CONSTITUENTS! (Anyone look at THEIR perks lately? WHO's PAYING for those again? And Whyyyy?) Take a good look at the short term assets and CASH in the top 100 firms in America and wages haven't budged in HOW long? Yeah, and Unions and those "getting so rich" off everyone else's taxes are living the good life are to blame for it all - them and Obama!? Who? Let's Name names! ~~ What Color is the Sky in Your World? WAKE-UP ALREADY! 'cause you're still sleeping and that piss hard on better wake you up from that dream real soon!

December 13 2012 at 4:36 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
qaqs9000

They are doing a super job to make Wally World a safe place to work and given a few more years those 5 and 6 year olds in China will have booming wages (maybe up to $1.25 and hour) and they are anticipating a massive program that will provide death benefits in case another plant burns down on the kids. It will pay the familys of the little tots as much a a weeks salary and give the employees that lost love ones a half day off for the funeral. This is a truly progressive company and they have promised the youngest kids will have a 5 minute break and another 5 minutes to eat a bowl of rice.

December 13 2012 at 4:07 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to qaqs9000's comment
byte000me

I agree with your post, only one thing,walmart will match you death benefits, the problem is they don't go to you they go to the company, the only benefits you get are what you pay for, so the decieve thier workers in that area too

December 13 2012 at 11:51 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply