Executive SummaryThe majority of Americans have a love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart Stores Inc that at times is difficult to comprehend. The creation of Sam Walton ("Wal-Mart", 2006) has morphed into today's leader of discount retailing. The organization has faced, and is still facing, a significant amount of controversy over a number of different issues. However, none of these have done much more than lightly graze the exterior of this gigantic operation of 1.2 million associates in the US alone. This report will focus on Wal-Mart's staffing practices, namely alleged cases of sexual discrimination. Analyses of the environment, company, competition, as well as related key issues in the company's human resources management will also be given. It will conclude by offering recommendations on future action that should be undertaken by management in order to produce sustainable competitive advantage via its human resources.
Environmental AnalysisWal-Mart's overall strategy is one of cost leadership, evident in its slogan of "Always Low Prices". It seems that Wal-Mart is intent on providing low prices holistically, including the salaries of its employees. According to PBS, "Wal-Mart employs more people than any other company in the United States outside of the Federal government, yet the majority of its employees with children live below the poverty line ("Wal-Mart Wages and Worker Rights", n.d.).
Analysts regard Wal-Mart as a force to be reckoned with; many hypothesizing that life for other retailers looks grim as the empire continues to expand and dominate the retail industry. Wal-Mart's (Brent, 2005) strategic plan includes:Expansion of its SuperCenter format from 1,700 to more than 3,100 storesMoving into non-retail businesses including financial services, telecommunications, publishing and travelRetail experiments such as convenience stores, freestanding drug stores, healthcare superstores, freestanding apparel units and small footprint general merchandise stores.
Its key competitors are Target and Costco, who are both discount variety stores (Anon., n.d.-b).; also deploying a cost leadership strategy but differentiating themselves via the experience customers receive in the respective stores. Target is affiliated with many well-known brands such as Stella McCartney and Proenza Schouler, offering consumers a 'cheap but chic' image whereas Costco charges customers an annual membership fee. Its affiliation with American Express gives them the ability to offer customers a percentage of their money back when dining and traveling ("Costco The True Earnings Consumer Card", 2007).
An unavoidable external force which affects the business practices of Wal-Mart and organizations in the same industry are legislation requirements. Wal-Mart must abide by many...