UCSB Prof’s Book Scrutinizes Wal-Mart

Examines Mega-Company’s Policy, Future, International Standing

In his new book, The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business, UCSB history professor Nelson Lichtenstein analyzes the structure of the corporate giant and how it came to be the ultimate merchandising company.

Now the largest company in the world, Wal-Mart soared to the top with mass retailing and its own personal business model for massive financial gain. Before the industry shifted in the direction of Wal-Mart’s success, manufacturing companies held more power than retailers. According to Lichtenstein, the writing of his book was fueled by the desire to know exactly how Wal-Mart began a so-called retail revolution.

In a four-year period, Lichtenstein did research in China, England, and throughout the United States, focusing on Arkansas, where Wal-Mart headquarters are located. Although the company itself declined to assist him in his research, Lichtenstein found other ways to gain crucial information. The many lawsuits against Wal-Mart provided internal documents, such as transcripts from interviews. One of Lichtenstein’s more unique sources was a film company that had previously worked for Wal-Mart. When dismissed, the company opened its archives, providing previously unreleased details.

While Wal-Mart has comfortably maintained a place high up on the corporate food chain, Lichtenstein found a few flaws in their plans for future profit. Wal-Mart is counting on expansion internationally, however, it has already failed in Germany, South Korea, and Hong Kong. Furthermore, expansion into China has proved to be very slow. In addition to this speed bump, the Obama administration’s proposed health, labor, and wage reforms are predicted to have an adverse effect on Wal-Mart, or at the very least more of an impact on Wal-Mart than its unionized competitors.

The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business will be available for purchase on July 21, 2009.

Susannah Lopez is an Independent intern.

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